The vote in the US Senate yesterday – failing to convict Trump on the impeachment charge – wasn’t, of course, unexpected. We know the reasons for it. It wasn’t because the Republicans necessarily believed he was innocent – we have the weaselly Mitch McConnell’s post-vote words for that (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/13/mitch-mcconnell-trump-republicans); but because (a) there is a case for saying that it was ‘unconstitutional’ to convict him after he’s left office: the main purpose of the impeachment process, after all, is to remove an official from office; and (b) that Republicans are scared of losing their Trumpian electoral base. That this was a reasonable fear, if not a particularly moral or honourable one, is attested by the machinations that are already going on behind the scenes in their local constituency parties (is that what they’re called in America?) to deselect, or even much worse, those seven brave Republicans who did vote to convict him (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/14/republican-rebels-trump-impeachment-trial).
So Trump is exonerated, by his way of looking at it; and – of more practical import – is free to contest the Presidency again in four years’ time. He’s clearly intending something along those lines: https://www.bostonherald.com/2021/02/13/full-text-of-trumps-statement-on-impeachment-acquittal/. And then of course there were those chilling SF monster-movie words he spoke as he got into his helicopter on his way back home after the election: ‘We’ll be back. In one form or another’ (or something along those lines). So we’ve been warned. We – or rather, my American friends – haven’t killed the vampire yet.
The best hopes of doing so would appear to be the slew of criminal cases – mostly relating to his financial affairs – that are waiting to be brought against him in State courts now that he’s an ‘ordinary citizen’ again; and, secondly, the effect of the mountain of evidence against him presented in the impeachment trial, and broadcast to the four corners of the republic by at least three TV channels, quite irrespective of the ultimate verdict. In normal circumstances all this would be enough to sink him, either as a Republican candidate in 2004 (or 2002, if he tries for the Senate), or as the leader of a new populist party – ‘in one form or another‘. (‘Shape-shifting’ is another SF trope.)
But of course these aren’t ‘normal’ circumstances, even for America; or for the world at large. Proto- or Neo-fascism – or whatever you like to call it – is a global phenomenon, just as it was in the 1930s. We Europeans must learn lessons from the US’s flirtation with the creature over the last four years; and begin to erect better barriers against it. In my view that would involve taming late-stage capitalism, which Trump personified to a T, and underlies all this mess. But that might just be my theoretical Marxism peeping out.