Before I lay into the Democrats for missed opportunities at the House impeachment hearing, let’s review a few facts from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection:
President Trump told his crowd of his supporters that he would walk with them to the Capitol to disrupt the election certification. He said, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
So, they walked to the Capitol and they fought.
They brought pipe bombs, metal pipes, bear spray, sledgehammers, baseball bats, knives, flex cuffs, tasers, riot gear, Confederate battle flags, Nazi paraphernalia, Trump merch, and a noose.
Trump bailed on walking to the Capitol with his supporters. Instead, he went home, watched TV, and trolled Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump’s supporters, per his urging to fight, overwhelmed Capitol police. They dragged three police face-first down the Capitol steps. They stomped on cops and beat them with Trump banners, clubs, crutches, and American flags. They menaced black cops with racial epithets (and attacked the press). They called out to shoot a cop with his own gun. They injured 50 cops. They crushed a cop’s arm between two doors while he screamed in agony. They blinded a cop in one eye. They beat Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick to death with a fire extinguisher.
These well-equipped, cop-killing Trumpists incited by the President, smashed their way into the Capitol and looted it. They shit on the floor and smeared their own shit on the walls. They set up their noose. They broke into both chambers of Congress. They chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” In the midst of internet chatter about assassinating Nancy Pelosi, they broke down her door and occupied her office.
Trump watched the insurrection on TV for almost three hours before going on TV himself – to lie some more about the election being stolen and then tell the insurrectionists to go home. There are tons more but this is already more than enough for immediate impeachment.
Years from now, it will seem crazy that Republicans were able to cast any doubt on impeaching Trump. Yet, here we are.
During the House impeachment debate, the Democrats gave cogent speeches that anyone would recognize in a high school civics class. Stirring.
Republicans on the other hand, almost to a man, repeated the RNC’s absurd messaging issued the day before: “After the abhorrent violence we saw last week, our country desperately needs to heal and unify. I have concerns, that impeachment proceedings will only divide us further.”
Each Republican member of Congress riffed on the words “heal,” “unify,” and “further divide.” They repeated these cuddly sentiments over and over without even trying much to defend Trump’s treason. No need. They were not talking to their colleagues; they were talking to the public and the message was as simple and palatable as comfort food: doing nothing is the temperate choice. Trumpists are unprincipled, dangerous, disciplined and always on message.
What was the Democrats’ message? See, you don’t know, do you? Of course, not. The Democrats had all kinds of messages— all true, all urgent and all over the place.
A simple, repeated message molds public sentiment. “Public sentiment is everything,” Abraham Lincoln said. “With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed.”
Good political messages are like catchy tunes: a stripped down melody with emotional resonance and an extra chorus so everyone can sing along. Now that song owns you, defines you.
House Democrats failed to deploy this messaging structure where the republicans played theirs note for note. Though the Dems won every argument, they still ceded ground. There are many imperatives for impeaching Trump. Pick one. Repeat it. Make it simple, and make it sing.
Public revulsion has dried up corporate donations to House and Senate Trump supporters. The panic to get that corporate money faucet turned back on is what will compel the 17 Republicans needed to impeach.
It’s clear that Trump incited an insurrection that led to the falling of the US Capitol and the death of five people, including a police officer. As Sarah Kendzior put it on the Gaslit Nation podcast, “If accountability is not enforced, atrocity is normalized.” He must be impeached. No matter how heinous the facts are though, 17 Republican Senators won’t vote to impeach Trump unless public sentiment and corporate money force their hand.
In a few days, the impeachment trial will begin and Senate Democrats will have their moment on the mic. Let’s hope they make their message sing.