Murkowski on looming Trump acquittal: It's okay, Americans will never elect him again

Oh, is that right?

What action can I get in Vegas that this depraved country will in fact elect him again if he decides to run in 2024?

Even if Murkowski’s right that Trump couldn’t hope to win a general election now given how many people have been alienated by “stop the steal” and January 6, remember that the only reason his attempt to overturn the election failed was because there were a few too many principled Republicans at the state level unwilling to abet him and a few too many states in the electoral college that tipped narrowly to Biden (Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia). If he had fallen short of victory by a single state and officials less scrupulous than, say, Brad Raffensperger were in charge of that state’s election machinery, there’s every reason to believe the coup would have succeeded, Trump would still be president, and this country would be en route to dissolving after having just witnessed an honest-to-goodness autogolpe.

So Murky may want to reconsider the potential consequences of Trump even *attempting* to run again, whether or not she’s right that he’s apt to fall a few EVs short of 270.

Even if he ends up losing in 2024, his last loss resulted in a domestic terror attack on the Capitol perpetrated by a horde of QAnon zombies and militiamen. What sort of mayhem is Murkowski prepared to endure in 2024 because her colleagues are too afraid of their voters to do their constitutional duty this week?

Her naivete about what Americans are capable of after they already elected Trump once and gave him the second-most votes in American history three months ago reminds me of this legendary Susan Collins quote after Impeachment 1.0. Do you have any misgivings about voting to acquit, Collins was asked? Nah, she said. What’s the worst that could happen?

“I believe that the president has learned from this case,” she told Norah O’Donnell of CBS News. “The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.”

“He was impeached. And there has been criticism by both Republican and Democratic senators of his call,” she continued, before predicting: “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.”

He did learn a lesson. The lesson he learned was that Senate Republicans won’t do anything to hold him in check when he abuses his power. The “stop the steal” campaign was a direct result of that lesson. And now they’re going to remind him again that they won’t do anything to hold him accountable when they acquit him next week. Imagine the lesson a newly reelected Trump will take from that in 2025.

Total impunity. He can do anything he wants so long as Democrats don’t have 67 seats in the Senate.

The difference between Collins last year and Murkowski this year is that Murkowski’s going to vote to convict. She’ll do her part to empower the Senate to disqualify him from future office even though her effort is destined to fail. But her blithe insistence that failure is okay because America will certainly never elect him again is trivially easy to dismiss. As Jamie Weinstein rightly says, Trump is one of the two most likely people in America to be president in 2024. Even as a candidate who lost the popular vote twice, he’d have an easier time securing the nomination of his party than the sitting vice president, Kamala Harris, would have securing the nomination of hers if Biden opts against running again. So total is Trump’s sway over the GOP that it’s all but unthinkable that he’d be seriously challenged in a primary. (I’m not counting token opposition like Larry Hogan.) Basically, he can have a spot on the presidential ballot in 2024 simply by asking for it.

And then, once it’s a choice between Trump and either Biden or Harris, all bets are off. A weak economic recovery, a lingering pandemic, scandal, left-wing violence, more “defund the police” nonsense from the AOC brigades — any or all of it could make Trump viable again, if only as a “lesser of two evils” choice. Republicans will spend the next four years spinning impeachment for him (“he was acquitted twice so how can we hold it against him?”) and Trump himself will be coached to make disapproving-sounding noises whenever he’s asked on camera about the Capitol riot. Plus, Harris is a weak retail politician and could be framed much more convincingly as a secret left-wing radical than Biden ever could. He’d be no worse than 50/50 to win running against her.

There’s simply no reason to believe that Trump is unelectable, even now. Our country isn’t civically healthy enough for that to be so. And from the perspective of a senator sitting in judgment of him, it shouldn’t matter either way. Disqualifying someone from office isn’t a matter of whether he’s likely to win if he runs again or not, it’s a moral judgment by the people’s representatives on whether the defendant is guilty of a defense so grave that he’s effectively forfeited his ability to represent the country going forward.

I’ll leave you with this clip from tonight’s impeachment presentation, highlighting how Trump played the pied piper for the mob by ranting about Pence on Twitter even as the assault was ongoing. They were hanging on his every word.