Impeachment, obstruction, and a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad party

Jonathan Riker, Contributing Writer

End the filibuster.

After spending considerable time browsing social media and indulging in shared and justified outrage with my peers after the acquittal of a former President Who I Refuse To Name, I began to wonder if there was any real point in watching the proceedings, aside from a pervasive masochism that’s been driving our approach to the blinding political cruelty and cynicism that has become ever more evident in the last five years. I challenge you, rare Bucknellian reader, to find someone who actually believed there was ever a chance that the Big Bad Cheese-Man would ever actually be convicted in the Senate. Frankly, it is a miracle that seven whole Republicans voted to convict, granting many salivating media outlets the much-awaited opportunity to shower them with praise for manifesting a single shred of decency, or at least shame. This coverage temporarily allowed us to forget moments like when Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voted to confirm Brett “The Ferret” Kavanaugh, and International Man of Mystery Mitt Romney (R-UT) similarly confirmed Amy “Unqualified” Coney Barrett. Don’t praise people for having this miniscule level of integrity; it’s what we should expect and demand in the first place, particularly from elected representatives of our interests. To the seven Republicans who voted to convict: congratulations! Your spine looks slightly more material than Lindsey Graham’s. Good job, I guess?

It was, somehow, the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the United States, which should make it ever more clear that this is less of a great national shame and more of a great national regularity. Akin to other famous and storied traditions of injustice, this trial was rigged from the start. I presume the Republican Senators preemptively prayed for some act of God — or Ronald Reagan — to save the resignation-riddled defense team from their well deserved fate of international embarrassment, but ultimately, their prayers fell on deaf ears. Shall Not Be Named’s pitiful defense was about as flaky as a McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish, although, to be completely fair, it’s not as if they really had to try. Their case had neither credibility nor precedent, instead showcasing all the trappings of an episode of Dr. Oz (“Take this miracle pill, it’ll make you forget the coup faster than you can say ‘I’m a spineless moron!’”). Fear of losing a primary battle is not a legitimate justification for licking the boots of the man who tried to have you murdered, but I would expect nothing less from an invertebrate like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who gleefully ran into the former President’s loving, sweaty arms even after he called Cruz’s wife ugly.

Republicans in the Senate are largely uninterested in bipartisanship. They are equally bored with flighty concepts like objectivity and honor. Countless studies have found that political polarization has been unequal, with the right going much farther right on the spectrum and the left trudging more reluctantly left. While the left’s policy perspectives (as flawed as they are) have remained mostly stable, the right’s have grown increasingly radical and contradictory, all while accusing the left of doing that very thing.

For example, most Republicans in Congress are unwilling to budge on the minimum wage, even though this parameter used to generally increase every five or so years (before financial genius Ronald “I am very very bad at economics” Reagan showed up). Previously, this idea was so universal that the two parties didn’t even debate it, but the obstructionist mentality adopted by the modern Republican party has scandalized the mere suggestion that people shouldn’t starve while living in the richest country in the history of the world. Through clever political messaging and disingenuous rhetoric, we have somehow become convinced that what is logical is absurd and what is absurd is logical.

And yet, even though Democrats have the majority, early signs of the new political paradigm have been less-than-promising. Senate Majority Leader Chuck “I suck” Schumer agreed to a power-sharing compromise with Senate Minority Leader Mitch “grim reaper” McConnell, backing down on calling additional witnesses during the impeachment trial as well. However, Democrats have a real opportunity in these next two years to actually do something. The reality is that the Democratic policy platform, pound for pound, is more popular than the Republican policy platform. Absurd dogmatic austerity politics can only appeal for so long; the Affordable Care Act was “socialism” only until people started to get coverage from it, and now a clear majority (52 percent and growing) of Americans support its continued funding. The only way that Democrats can keep the Senate in 2022 is through such aggressive promotion of bread-and-butter policies; no one’s going to vote for the people who don’t want to raise the minimum wage after they feel that sweet, sweet $15 per hour go into their pockets. No one will want to vote for people who rail against healthcare in this country after they go to the doctor and see, perhaps for the first time in their lives, zero deductible. The xenophobic, demagogue-like rhetoric coming from the modern Republican party can be beaten, but only by policy; it has been ineffectual, cowardly leadership that loses Democrats elections, not policies or rhetoric that is “too radical.” It’s not about unity, it’s about progress, and unity will come once we get into a place where we can better agree on the fundamental issues facing us, and what policies we’ll use to confront them.

The man who said in 2010 that “our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term,” grinning like a kid who peed in the swimming pool, cannot be trusted with a power as unequivocal as the filibuster. Mitch McConnell is not interested in solving problems; he barely even acknowledges that they exist, and it is thereby imperative that we remove the debilitating powers of the obstructionist right. Republicans have proved, once again and hopefully for the last time, that they are just simply not interested in working on behalf of anyone besides themselves, and, of course, the corporations that fund their Washingtonian power trips. The urgent issues facing this country cannot be put off any longer. If they will not be coaxed into the future, they must be dragged.

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