Capitol calamity yields Trump’s second impeachment
Insurrection, impeachment and inauguration. In U.S. history, these three events are seldom found in the same year, nevermind the same month. Yet, in the first weeks of 2021, they have collided spectacularly.
The audience for this spectacle is not only American; the entire world watches intently. The U.S.’s allies do so in shock as if they were viewing a political drama show. Enemies of the U.S. such as Iran and China are watching with a sense of schadenfreude. Regardless, it’s good entertainment for all.
For the second time in President Donald Trump’s term, he has been impeached by the House, this time for inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol building Jan. 6.
Made up largely of Trump supporters, the mob forced their way into the Capitol building, ransacked offices, and in some cases attempted to inflict violence on lawmakers and their staff. Five people, including a police officer, were killed in the attack.
As dramatic and shocking as the incident was, it came after Trump and his allies in Congress and in the media have cast doubt over the validity of the 2020 election results. Trump’s legal team filed more than 60 lawsuits in various different states in an attempt to overturn the election in his favor – every single case was thrown out.
Yet, even as Trump’s legal team’s challenges were consistently dismissed, with little to no evidence being uncovered or cited, Trump continued to push his claims on Twitter in remarks to the election. His supporters followed his lead, perpetuating conspiracies and false information on social media, which propagated even more unrest and agitation among his base. This, in part, contributed to just 61% of Americans accepting the election results, per an NPR report.
Though storming the halls of Congress was indeed shocking, looking back at the breadcrumbs laid by Trump, it’s hard to classify this situation as something entirely out of the blue. Just days before the attack, the FBI warned of a massive, potentially violent event taking place at the rally.
To this day, Trump has still failed to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, even after the states, the courts and now Congress have certified his loss.
A year ago, Republicans were united in their defense of Trump as he faced impeachment proceedings sparked by Democrats in the House. Now, a year later, facing a second round of allegations, the political landscape and the loyalties that shape it have changed dramatically.
It was a rough 2020 for the GOP. It lost control of the White House, Senate and failed in its attempts in flipping the House of Representatives. The president hinged the party’s political future by failing at containing a pandemic, stumbling in providing relief to Americans, and failing to pass any meaningful legislation for the party’s candidates to run on. Trump repeatedly berated Republicans who didn’t fall in line with him, rarely campaigning for vulnerable candidates, largely in favor of his own campaign rallies.
Now a lame-duck President, Trump’s grip on the Republican Party has drastically weakened. As he attempted to overturn the election results in key states, Republicans in the Senate only gave watered down support. Instead, they sought to work across the aisle to pass a coronavirus relief bill opposed by the president.
Then, as Trump called on Senators to vote to overturn the election results during the certification vote, outgoing majority leader Mitch McConnell delivered a scathing rebuke of the president and his supporters in the Senate. He called his vote in favor of certifying the election results, “The most important vote I have ever cast.”
After Congress was overrun with protestors, McConnell’s tone hardened, and other Republicans spoke up in defiance of the president. Liz Cheney, a top House Republican, voted in favor of impeachment, as did 10 others in her caucus. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, two Senators in support of the president, were condemned by the majority of their party.
Now, as the impeachment vote heads to the Senate, McConnell has publicly admitted that he is considering voting to convict the president. Should he choose to do so, it will likely give other Republican Senators the political protection to follow suit, and remove Trump from office.
McConnell will take his party’s future into consideration. Trump will be gone Jan. 20, with or without impeachment. It’s likely that a trial would take place after the president is out of office, given the extended timeline of the process. Whether McConnell wants to ostracize the president and by extension his supporters from the party, or let the president leave on his own terms, is a decision that the former majority leader will grapple with as we approach the trial.
A German and European goodbye to Merkel
In the 21st century, various leaders have come and gone in the sphere of European politics. But one figure has always remained: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her time as a world leader has made her friends, enemies and even brought the occasional viral moment. But it will all come to an end this year; she will not run for a fifth term as Germany’s top politician this September.
Merkel has already stepped down from duties as the leader of her party, the Christian Democratic Union. The CDU is holding an election Jan. 16 to determine her successor. Merkel’s footprints are all over Germany – and Europe for that matter too. Whoever wins, they will have big shoes to fill.
Perhaps the most lasting aspect of Merkel’s legacy is that she is arguably the most distinguishable woman in politics. The social impact of being such a symbol for women’s rights will potentially outlive any political or economic accomplishments of her time as German chancellor.
Domestically, Merkel’s biggest brag is the German economy, which ranks fourth in the world and first in Europe by measure of GDP. She has cut government spending and unemployment has fallen under her tenure. It’s quite straightforward: her leadership was like a steroid for the German economy.
On the contrary, her greatest blowback has come from her action on immigration. During the refugee crisis, she opened Germany to the most asylum seekers of any nation in Europe, an action which did not go down well with some, and bred the rise of far right opposition such as the Alternative for Deutschland.
Much of Merkel’s legacy will be determined by the work she did in the EU. At the heart of the EU, she helped pioneer the movement towards collective government in Europe. In many cases, the EU’s achievements are Merkel’s achievements, just as its failures are. But the Union will now have to go on without her, and it is already showing signs of splintering.
Perhaps the most notable instance of Merkel’s EU leadership was during the Euro crisis. As Greece’s failing economy devalued the Euro, Merkel skillfully negotiated the Union out of a tricky situation. Even recently, Merkel has been at the forefront of tackling the pressing issues that the EU faces, such as navigating the Union’s future without the U.K. If Merkel is no longer there to take up the mantle, to which European leader should Merkel’s responsibilities be delegated?
The candidates in the leadership election are three men with very similar backgrounds and political outlooks, but would not necessarily be the same leader. Friedrich Merz, Armin Laschet and Norbert Röttgen are vying for the position, but there is no clear favorite.