Shortly after Donald Trump's acquittal Saturday with only seven Republicans willing to vote for his conviction on an impeachment charge of incitement of insurrection, a pundit on CNN said the vote to convict just "didn't have enough Republicans."
No. That's not right.
There were too many Republicans. Too many Republicans in the Senate, period. And too many Republicans with no moral compass.
There were too many Republicans willing to make up a flimsy technicality excuse to let the most divisive president we've ever seen escape accountability for inciting insurrection and the deadly Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. And they did so using a bogus claim that convicting a president out of office for something he did in office would be unconstitutional.
By that logic, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can spend their entire term knowing they can burn the Capitol and everyone one in it to the ground on the day before they leave office and they too will have an automatic get-out-of-jail-free card.
Really, does anyone think the GOP would then claim a conviction for that arson six weeks later would be unconstitutional?
But there's a bright side.
The courageous seven Republicans who joined all of the Senate Democrats in a vote to convict Trump not only set a record for senators willing to hold a member of their own party accountable, they also represent a slim chance for the GOP to survive Trumpism.
Because of the two-thirds majority vote rule, Trump defenders needed but 34 votes for acquittal. House impeachment managers needed 67 votes for a conviction. In the end, 43 senators allowed Trump to escape the charge that he incited the mob that attacked the Capitol; 57 senators voted to convict.
Within minutes, the most lizardly of GOP reptiles, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, took the microphone and followed his own "not guilty" vote with a scorching rebuke of his former president. McConnell's criticism was so scathing that it could easily have been mistaken for a prosecutor's closing argument to convict. McConnell said Trump had been "practically and morally responsible" for provoking the mob that resulted in five deaths and scores of injuries.
McConnell is trying to save his party and his own power. He's trying to bring more Republicans back into the Senate come 2022 — a Senate that already has too many Republicans.
If he is successful, the question then becomes what kind of Republicans those newcomers will be.
As the clock ticks away from that shameful Trump acquittal, the fissure widens between Republicans who want nothing to do with the former president and those who openly embrace him. The gap is growing between Republicans vs. Trumpism. And the division is playing out as the former inciter in chief promises a return to politics, and as both GOP factions vow they will prevail in the 2022 midterm elections.
McConnell on Saturday planted a flag on a GOP without Trump.
But Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who would dearly love to take McConnell's leadership place, immediately took an ax to the minority leader, saying he may have "got a load off his chest" with his floor speech but he also made himself a target for pro-Trump Republicans in 2022.
Graham told Fox host Chris Wallace: "All I can say is that the most potent force in the Republican Party is President Trump. We need Trump."
So that's to say the GOP needs a pathological liar who's willing to overthrow the government to remain in power?
Here's Graham's answer: "I've been asked by a lot of people 'Calm President Trump down, talk to him, get him to calm down.' Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn't. But to my Republican colleagues, this is a two-way street," Graham said. "I'm into winning. And if you want to get something off your chest, fine. But I'm into winning."
He and too many Republicans, like Trump, are "into winning" — whatever it takes.
Last month, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the 10 Republicans in the House to vote to impeach Trump the second time, started the Country First PAC to challenge the party's embrace of the former president. And over the weekend Evan McMullin, executive director of the nonprofit political organization Stand Up Republic, talked about his recent call with more than 120 Republican officials about starting a new party or faction within the GOP.
"Well, I think what's clear is that something new is required," McMullin told MSNBC on Saturday. "Forty percent feel there is no hope for the GOP to reform and to rejoin the healthy political process in America."
Kudos to Kinzinger and McMullin. But here's another idea. One that's been employed scores of times before: How about those seven brave Republican senators with consciences and those 10 Republicans in the House brave enough to vote for impeachment become independents or switch parties altogether and become Democrats?
That would certainly change the equation for primary challenges, and perhaps for two-thirds majority votes, as well.
Talk about a game changer.