The week of Feb. 8 will be here before we know it, and the expected impeachment trial of former president and commander-in-provoker Donald J. Trump will begin.
Senators already have been sworn in as jurors for that trial. And they — unlike all of us who were mesmerized by the live television scenes of the Capitol mob's final Trump carnage — were actually present to witness that violence.
On Tuesday Sen. Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore who will preside over the trial in the absence of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Vice President Kamala Harris, administered the oath to senators. The senators then signed the oath book declaring their intent to serve as impartial jurors.
Almost immediately, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul brought a point of order motion challenging the constitutionality of an impeachment trial against a former president. The Senate voted it down — 55-45.
Five Republicans joined all of the Democrats in opposing the measure. Those numbers offer an indication, some pundits and politicians say, that Democrats will not get the GOP votes needed to convict Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
"I think it's pretty obvious from the vote today that it is extraordinarily unlikely that the president will be convicted," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the five Republicans who voted to proceed to trial. "Just do the math."
It will take two-thirds of senators — 67 votes — to convict, meaning 17 Republicans must cross party lines to side with Democrats in finding Trump guilty for his role in stirring up the mob that violently targeted lawmakers and Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, as Congress met to finalize the election.
If senators do convict Trump, an additional vote to disqualify him from ever holding office again will take a simple majority.
So, do the math. Conviction requires a dozen more GOP votes than Paul's trial balloon motion brought.
We're not so sure that Republicans can be that blind to the damage they threaten if they do not hold Trump accountable for his myriad lies that built the platform for the violence and insurrection. And we are talking about damage not only to our country, but also to the Republican Party if these GOP senators choose to embrace what conservative columnist Micheal Gerson on Monday dubbed a GOP "strategy of collective amnesia."
Gerson wrote: "Some propose to forget the unpleasant past in the cause of national 'healing.' Others adduce a thin constitutional argument against the impeachment of a former president (a position that would effectively grant immunity from impeachment to every president during his last few months in office, when the opportunity to subvert an election is greatest)."
It's easy to see the GOP retreat from memory and accountability. Just look at the speech and actions of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. When the violence was fresh, he said Trump "bears responsibility for [the] attack on Congress by mob rioters." More recently, McCarthy claimed: "I don't believe he provoked it."
It's natural to try to erase the memory of unpleasant events, Gerson noted. But it would be disastrous in a democracy under continuing threat. The time of threat is when we need to use the realities of history to help us learn. To help us survive this and future dangers.
"Capitol insurrection — and the broader attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election — lies like an undigested lump in the gut of our political system. How can we be asked to forget events that we haven't fully processed?" Gerson wrote.
As president, Trump — with the broad approval of GOP leaders — systematically attempted to invalidate millions of votes, mostly those of minority voters in swing states that gave Joe Biden their electoral votes. When more than 60 lawsuits toward that end failed and state after state — even Republican-led Georgia — certified the votes cast for Biden, Trump invited a mob to Washington, whipped up the mob's resentments and directed that mob toward Capitol Hill.
Trump urged the mob to intimidate lawmakers and disrupt a constitutional process, challenged it to "fight," and then refused for hours to intervene while domestic terrorists forced their way inside, smashed windows, and hunted for Vice President Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"Would Republican senators still want the country to put these events behind it if 20 Capitol Police officers had been beaten to death rather than one? If Pelosi had actually been zip-tied and held hostage? If Pence had been murdered?" Gerson asked. "At what point would executive incitement of a violent mob to intimidate the legislative branch meet GOP senators' exacting standards for conviction? For what similar actions by a Democratic president would they allow bygones to be bygones? The problem here is a general lack of Republican shame."
There's plenty of shame here to go around. The shame of Trump. The shame of Republicans — and Democrats — who have been too cowardly to stand against increasingly poisonous rhetoric and otherism.
But giving a pass to the most divisive president in our history for his blatant radical rallying of hatred and violence in the name of unity or any other excuse will only further empower him, his mob and others like him — in any party.
Make sure your senators know you believe that must not happen, and Trump must be convicted.