Trump Acquitted: Where Do We Go From Here?

By Penn Diehl and Alex Wyckoff

Today concludes the most consequential trial in American history, the second impeachment of Donald Trump. We at Sunrise San Diego recognize that these are confusing, tumultuous times. In light of that, we wanted to offer our thoughts not just on the state of politics, but on what we can do about them. 

Donald Trump has spent the last few months telling hundreds of disprovable lies about the legitimacy of the election. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (established under former President Trump) released a statement with its assessment that the 2020 General Election, “was the most secure in American history” and, “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” The former president’s lies climaxed in Trump making dozens of incitements to violence, including the Jan 6 rally where he whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and then ordered them to march to the Capitol and, “Fight like hell.” 

This event and many of his lies and words of incitement were well documented in the trial.  We saw shocking video of the mob he incited, crushing a police officer in a hundred pound door as rioters smashed through the Capitol and openly declared that they sought lawmakers for the purpose of executing them. In their own words, rioters credited Trump with inciting and directing them, and openly sought to murder not just Democrats, but anyone who would not decertify the election results. Rioters targeted Mike Pence, Trump’s own Vice President – himself a Republican, who at the time was the second highest ranking politician in America. Rioters actually came within seconds of encountering Pence himself. The angrily shouted words, “HANG MIKE PENCE!” will echo in the halls of Congress for decades to come. 

Though House Impeachment Managers presented irrefutable proof that Trump incited an insurrection, Republicans still acquitted him. The truth is, they had made up their minds long before the trial. Many kicked their feet up, giggled, made drawings, napped, passed notes, and tapped their fingers impatiently, while others chose not to show up at all. Worse still, Republicans, who were supposed to act as impartial jurors, were caught meeting with Trump’s defense team. In a court of law, this would never have been permitted. Rule 3.5 from the American Bar Association states: “A lawyer shall not: communicate ex parte with a judge, juror, prospective juror, or other official during the proceeding unless authorized to do so by law or court order.” But this was not a court. Republicans made it a partisan political theater. 

After he voted to acquit Trump in the Impeachment Trial, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (the highest ranking Republican in America) said, “There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. . . . The people that stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on the Earth.” 

Mitch McConnell and Congressional Republicans understand that Trump incited an armed invasion on our Capitol against American democracy. McConnell openly admits this. And still a majority of Republicans refused to convict Trump. Unmoved by facts, they hid behind technicalities in order to keep their power. Trump’s words and actions led to the death of 7 Americans (5 were killed, 2 committed suicide), the wounding of at least 140 police officers, and the wounding of untold numbers of Trump’s insurrectionists. Trump’s actions almost led to a massacre of Republican and Democratic Congresspeople alike, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who is second in the line of Presidential succession after Pence. Republicans just set a precedent that future presidents can do anything they want in office and not be held accountable by their party. By failing to punish Trump for his lies and insurrection, we leave the door open for these events to repeat.

Unfortunately, Republicans shirking their responsibilities and seeking to dismantle democracy is not new. For years they have sought to disenfranchise voters by reducing the number of polling places in predominantly BIPOC communities, communities that tend to vote blue. This year they made robocalls illegally intimidating voters, limited early voting and mail voting (which likely increased COVID deaths), purged voter rolls, and created disinformation campaigns, all to reduce the number of Democratic voters. These measures combined with gerrymandering allow Republicans to choose their voters, not the other way around, guaranteeing their undemocratic minority rule. For years, they have strategically sought to make it harder for their political opponents to vote. They have admitted this openly and in court. On the other side, Democrats felt so strongly about protecting the health of our democracy and Americans’ right to vote that they introduced a sweeping voter rights and election reform proposal as the first numbered bill of the term. H.R. 1, The For the People Act of 2021 expands Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduces the influence of big money in politics, strengthens ethics rules for public servants, and implements other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and more.

Republicans for years have implemented bad policies which harmed millions of Americans. The Nixon Administration admitted it began the war on drugs not to stop drugs, but to target black Americans.The Reagan Administration admitted its economic policies, which Republicans champion to this day, do not work, and that they disproportionately hurt the working class. While Democrats have fought for healthcare reform for years, the Trump Admin. fought in court for years to try to repeal non-discrimination for pre-existing conditions. There have been at least 70 Republican-led attempts to repeal, modify or otherwise curb the Affordable Care Act between its inception as law on March 23, 2010 and July 29 2017. Though Democrats have fought to spend wisely, Republicans added $1.5 trillion to the deficit with their 2017 tax bill, which gave tax breaks and handouts to millionaires and billionaires at the cost of increasing middle and working class taxes in 2021. It gave corporations a massive permanent tax break and repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate — a move that is estimated to leave 13 million fewer insured in the 10 years following passage of the bill, and increase premiums by an average of 10 percent. By 2027, 53% of all Americans will see a tax increase as a result of this bill. Politics does not have to be this way.

There is a better path. Progressives across the country have suggested bold, innovative ideas to end the pandemic, make an economy that works for everyone, and address the crises of climate change, racial and socioeconomic inequality, and our crumbling infrastructure. We propose that every American has a right to affordable healthcare, education, and a job. Major bills to address these concerns are S.1129, The Medicare for All Act of 2019 (guarantees affordable healthcare and comprehensive benefits to all Americans for life, has no premiums, and replaces private insurance), S.672, the Debt-Free College Act of 2019 (makes public universities and colleges free), and H.R. 4278, The Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act Of 2019 (provides a job, with a living wage, to all citizens over age 18 seeking employment. Creates full employment and maintains price stability). These proposals all have majority support among Americans. We propose that Americans struggling during COVID deserve real help rather than months of theater that ended in a subpar, $600 stimulus check. 

We can get Americans $1400 stimulus checks, better unemployment payments, and a September extension for the federal eviction moratorium. We can provide money to help pay for utilities in these trying times. We can pass a 15% increase in food stamp benefits and additional nutritional assistance, financial aid for child care providers, limits to health care premiums, additional funding for mental health and veterans health, a $15 minimum wage, and a massive boost to vaccinations and COVID testing. And right now all of this is in one bill: President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Republicans have argued against the bill, despite polling showing broad support among Americans (A 68% approval rating, including 47% support amongst Republicans, a plurality). They claim that it is too expensive despite former President Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury saying last October that inadequate stimulus spending would weaken our economic recovery, while spending “too much” (A Republican claim for which they give no factual justification) would only strengthen and accelerate our economic recovery. In The Great Recession, Republicans also made the argument that Democrats’ proposed relief was too expensive. Democrats conceded to their demands and instead passed a much smaller package, which ultimately slowed economic recovery for Americans. We need to beat this pandemic so that we can reopen the economy and put our kids back in school. We can get this passed, but we need your help.

This effort takes all of us to succeed. That means you, your family, your friends, and your coworkers. Together, we become an unstoppable coalition. We urge you to reach out to everyone you know and get them fired up about advocating for these amazing policies. And if you’re under 35, come join the fight with the Sunrise Movement! We have a developed hub here in San Diego and are always accepting new members. We work on policy issues from the city of San Diego, all the way through the county, state, and federal levels. If you are convincing your friend to join a Sunrise hub, but they don’t live here, don’t worry! Sunrise has hubs in every state. You can find your nearest hub here: 

If you or your coworker want to change our country but are older than 35, there are a variety of organizations who are doing this work as well. Other organizations doing progressive activism include, The Sierra Club, MoveOn, Color of Change, Indivisible, The ACLU, Black Lives Matter, and the NAACP. No one leader can implement the change we need. Change begins with us, with our involvement, with our voices and with our votes. Former President Barack Obama once famously said “Yes We Can.” If we come together, however, we can do even better than that. Together we can change the narrative, and change the course of our country. Together, we can transform “Yes We Can,” into something new: “Yes We Will.” And, “Yes We Did.”