Opinion | Calls for unity won’t matter until Republicans cooperate

By Nithya Achanta, For The Pitt News

The theme of “America United” was dominant throughout the inaugural ceremony and address of our newly elected president, Joe Biden.

While bipartisanship is an essential value for the effective functioning of democracy in our country, bipartisan efforts will not be successful unless both parties commit to doing what is best for the future of our country. This seems like a hard goal to achieve when several GOP senators are actively working against Biden’s call for unity by refusing to cooperate with the Democrats on what should be bipartisan issues.

After losing his bid for reelection this fall, Donald Trump spent the remaining days of his term fighting the results and spreading countless false claims. Although several investigations and lost court cases revealed there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, Trump continued to spread misinformation regarding the election. After being emboldened by Trump’s lies and other conspiracy theories, a mob of his supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Many of the insurrectionists who could be identified were arrested, and Trump was impeached in the House for “inciting an insurrection.” But his involvement in this event is still being debated before the upcoming Senate trial.

Following Trump’s impeachment in the House, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., made a motion to end the impeachment trial on the basis that it is unconstitutional. While the motion was struck down, only five Republican senators voted against it. With 17 Republican senators needed to vote in the trial to convict Trump, we can assume he will most likely be acquitted.

“Impeachment is for removal from office, and the accused here has already left office,” Paul said when explaining the reasoning behind his motion.

What Paul does not discuss is the impact impeachment can have for Trump post-presidency. If Trump is convicted during his impeachment trial, the Senate can then vote to disqualify him from future office. This might open the door for a more moderate GOP candidate to run, who could help lessen the divide between the parties that we saw during the 2020 election. Additionally, convicting Trump is the only way to definitively prevent him from regaining office and the media exposure that comes with it. Limiting his audience would minimize any potential attempts to further undermine our democracy by spreading misinformation.

Overall, Paul and other Republican leaders’ actions — or should I say inaction — in the past few weeks have put their extreme hypocrisy on display. Following the events at the Capitol, several members of the GOP, such as Tennessee Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, voiced their concern with the situation.

“Yesterday was a shocking day of lawlessness. We watched in horror as rioters breached the security of both houses of Congress and inflicted significant property damage upon those historical halls,” Blackburn and Hagerty said in a joint statement.

Blackburn and Hagerty were two of the 45 senators who voted in favor of Paul’s motion, so these words mean nothing if they are not willing to take proper action to back them up. If they can admit that the event consisted of “lawlessness,” it is their duty as elected officials to uphold the law and deliver proper punishment. Hagerty was the same person who called on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act during the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

“We cannot have another night of violence. It has to stop now. If we don’t, it propagates lawlessness,” Haggerty said in a statement last June.

Hagerty felt the BLM protests, which were by and large peaceful, required such extreme action. So, he should be just as passionate about delivering the proper consequences to Trump and the violence that occurred at the Capitol.

Along the same lines of Hagerty’s double standard, recent reports have shown that Trump’s false claims about the left have shifted security attention from the actual threats of the extreme right. Trump’s focus on alienating the left potentially exacerbated the outcome of the insurrection. Additionally, Trump did not tell the mob to stand down until hours after the riot started. This could have helped to calm the insurrectionists down or end the riots earlier. By convicting Trump, the GOP can send a message that they condemn this behavior.

Shortly after the inauguration, Republican leaders and the media started blaming Biden and the Democrats for failing on their promises of unity, despite the fact that many Republicans are not willing to work with Democrats on their bills. It is unfair to expect Democrats to tailor their policies to the party that will not hold Trump responsible. Holding Trump accountable would not only help unite the country, but it would also reestablish respect for the Republican party, which would be extremely beneficial for its future.

Although it was not by much, the 10 Republican House members who voted for impeachment made it the most bipartisan impeachment in history. According to a Politico poll, Trump’s approval ratings dropped down to just 34% following the insurrection at the Capitol, making them the lowest numbers of his presidency. Additionally, a Pew Research poll conducted after Jan. 6 concluded that 40% of Republicans do not want Trump to continue in their party as a major figure. Based on this evidence, if Republicans do not avidly denounce the Capitol riots and domestic terrorism, they may alienate a significant portion of their base.

Once Republican leaders fully condemn and properly punish these actions, we can start to move on as a country and have more meaningful discussions about unity.

Nithya writes about politics for The Pitt News. Write to her at [email protected].