President Trump has been impeached for asking and pressuring a foreign country to interfere in our next election in his favor. Many Republican Senators have made it clear that they want to acquit Trump and further to exonerate him by saying that Trump did “nothing wrong.”
Much of the Democratic opposition and some in the press rightly warn that outright condoning such conduct will only invite President Trump (and future presidents) to increasingly seek foreign interference in our elections.
But this warning gravely understates the actual ramifications. If the Republican Senate were to absolve or condone Trump’s conduct, then all future presidential candidates, and lower office candidates, will start canvassing foreign countries to solicit interference on their behalf in our elections. After all, if that conduct is not wrong, and if one can expect your opponent (Trump or anyone else) to be availing themselves of this advantage . . . well, then, you would do it too. Indeed, one might practically need to do so. And so, in short order, all major candidates will be soliciting foreign help and interference in our elections. (As well, logically, as cabinet-level nominees seeking appointment and power.)
The result would be an extraordinarily damaging revolution in our elections and democracy. Most incumbents and challengers, and at varying elective levels, presumably will be seeking foreign assistance and interference (and often like Trump, secretly). Properly understood then, the Republican notion of exonerating President Trump must be understood as a watershed event as significant and debilitating as the Citizens United decision allowing “dark money,” billion dollar interests to dominate our politics. Like with Citizens United, this would fundamentally change the rules-of-the-road not just for Trump, but for all future campaigns — with equal or significantly more disastrous effects.
This simple fact – that this will not be limited to President Trump – establishes the plain inanity and danger of the approach advocated by far too many Republican senators. It would trample upon – indeed, obliterate – the foremost concern (and established protections) of the Founders: corruption of democratic government by the intrigue and interests of foreign states and actors:
These Americans [the “Founders”] understood that allowing a foreign adversary to determine the outcome of elections would mean the death of their experiment in democracy. Without integrity in elections, there could be no legitimate representation in government.
In short, this isn’t simply about whether Trump maddeningly escapes accountability. This is about whether our democracy is imperiled and fundamentally changed, and whether we casually allow the careful work of the Founders to be tossed aside merely to protect the venal, parochial interests of a man like Donald Trump.