With its bipartisan vote to impeach President Donald Trump, the House of Representatives this week lived up to the oath each member makes to defend the Constitution.

The Senate should waste no time doing the same. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should agree to the Democrats’ plan for an immediate emergency session, and senators should vote to convict the president and remove him from office, regardless of how little time he has left.

This moment in American history deserves no less. Saying it’s too late in the president’s term or too divisive for the country is just a way to avoid accountability for a president who has repeatedly struck at the heart of our democracy — and for everyone in power who has cheered or looked the other way while it happened.

Making Trump the first person convicted at an impeachment trial won’t solve all the problems that have been laid bare by last week’s insurrection at the Capitol.

But it would send the clear message that inciting violence against our democratic institutions is unacceptable. It will show present and future public figures that demagoguery is a path to irrelevancy and disgrace, not power.

Democracy is built on the wide acceptance of the results of free and fair elections. It is bad enough when a trusted figure pushed to their supporters the fantasy of a stolen election.

But Trump did more than that. Fully aware of the sway he holds over his supporters, Trump told them that the country was under attack from within, that their votes were being thrown away, and that their country would be taken from them, too, unless they fought to keep it.

Trump told them, falsely, that Vice President Mike Pence had the power to make it all right by refusing to validate the Electoral College vote. Trump said he wondered if Pence and other Republicans would have the “courage” to “save our democracy.” He told his supporters that they would have to show Congress “strength.”

Then he pointed them toward the Capitol.

That the march on the Capitol would turn into one of the ugliest days in U.S. history — and come close to being so much more tragic — was no sure thing.

But to anyone who has paid attention to how Trump has cultivated and condoned violence from his conspiracy-addled supporters, it was also hardly a surprise. The president has never understood or cared about the institutions and understandings that hold our democracy together, and he’s always put himself first — he showed as much when he failed to act when the Capitol was overtaken.

So he has spent years telling his supporters that they were the only good Americans, and that every force was aligned against them. Trump’s post-election lies only made them more desperate, and by Jan. 6, they were ready to blow.

Rather than talk sense to them for the sake of the country, Trump just fed them more lies.

He wasn’t alone. Too many elected Republicans echoed Trump’s lies of a stolen election, regardless of how ridiculous they were or how many courts threw them out. Others treated Trump’s post-election lies as annoyance or sideshow rather than the threat they are.

Very few Republicans have told the public the hard truth about Trump’s motivations or the danger of believing his lies, even as those lies continue to this day.

Many of them, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, also gave Trump a pass on his lies and corruption in his first impeachment trial last year. That enabled him to stay in office and lie about COVID-19, driving up the death toll.

Again and again, congressional Republicans have failed to hold President Trump accountable, and again and again it has come back to cause this country enormous pain.

If the Senate doesn’t step up now, we can be sure it will again.

 

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