Thanks to the impeachment trial, the English language has a new phrase in common usage to take the place of a three-syllable word: responsibility. It cuts through the fog of semantics and lies to assign fault, guilt, and accountability. The most powerful argument that rose from the impeachment trial, was "but for", as in, "but for Trump, the mob would not have erupted into a violent insurgency.on January 6." The test of "but for" is to remove Trump's lies and his role in organizing the rally, including inviting known violent groups and refocusing the date of a right-wing women's march to disrupting Congress' election certification, and his failure to head off violence once it began..But for him, the event would not have played out as it did. "But for" had been the staple of argumentation in courtrooms because it is so thought clarifying. The impact on the majority of voters who already supported a guilty verdict will only be fortified and the fallout in general elections will be felt for years because of the common-sense argument of "but for, " regardless of how the Senators vote on acquittal.
The counter contentions are that there are other issues to consider: So the event happened and it was bad, "What about..such and such legal arguments about jurisdictions, free speech, or that others who committed similar acts are equivalents and therefore are precedents already belittled and tolerated by society. The President was just an innocent advocate and only made a speech at a political rally that turned into something he did not intend. Update March 2, 2021, fake Trump supporters and Antifa were not among the rioters, per FBI Director:. On Jan. 6 attack, FBI's Wray tells GOP what it doesn't want to hear (msnbc.com)
The "but for" is a stark exercise in logic and to common sense to assign responsibility for January 6. to Donald Trump and to make the case that he should be found guilty as charged by the impeachment managers inciting the violent insurrection. It is a way to determine responsibility when the perpetrator hides under the semantics of "What about he did not tell them in his rally speech to be violent, just to fight like hell. He just wanted them to convince legislators and the vice president to decertify the election.;" The case the impeachment managers made so effectively was that Trump's beating the drum before the election "the only way I will lose would be if election fraud" and after the election "the election was stolen; I won". " Stop the steal" became the slogan that drove the mob to a frenzy as they thought gave them the legitimacy to act as they did and to excuse Trump's loss. But for Trump's strategy to create the big lie that he won and his repeated summoning known violent actors he himself had called patriots and fine people before to the January 6 rally leading to the attack on the Capitol the mob had fuel to act out in the name of patriotism.. The evidence was the slogans and the shouts of the attackers themselves who repeated his words and tweets.. Ignored were Trump's cohorts losing 60 suits that were dismissed by judges of all stripes and appointment sources. the one case Trump won had no bearing on the outcome. Ignored were Trump's threats and attempts to get GOP state officials and legislatures and his own Vice President to lie about the vote outcome and to violate their oath and laws that defined their power. Ignored were Trump's constant tweets and calls to summon the domestic terrorists to assemble in January 6.and their parroting back his rhetoric as they took his words literally "to fight". with violence and seek to murder the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. If it had not been quick-acting and bravery of capitol police in the face of death and close calls, the second and third in line and any number of legislatures would have been killed. The damning evidence of what Trump did intend was his tweets and lack of action once it was clear the mob he unleashed turned violent. If Trump did not want or intend for the violent attack, he did nothing to stop it until the deed had been done and completed. But for his inaction and words of love for the attackers, the violence could have been stopped. To ignore that takes an enormous effort by his apologists of self-deception. Even if his apologists do not accept his failure to stop the violence as evidence of his state of mind and intent, his dereliction of duty and irresponsible lack of action to stop the violence is cause for voting guilty for that reason alone.
The "what about" defense is likely to be cloaked. with legalese and false equivalencies as a counter to a strong case by the House managers. Concede the event happened, but other considerations are more important. Laid to rest was one "what about" a conspiracy theory by the words and video records e of the rioters themselves.. A note to those who believe the QAnon line that this was a false flag operation for Black Lives Matter, BLM arrestees tallied zip. No surprise since the Capitol invaders were overwhelmingly white per the videos and pictures of the event. In addition not one of the rioters identified or arrested was affiliated with "Antifa", https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-capitol-mob-antifa-undercov/fact-check-men-who-stormed-capitol-identified-by-reuters-are-not-undercover-antifa-as-posts-claim-idUSKBN29E0QO
The other "what about" defense argument is to point to other incidents that purport to show a double standard. For example, Black Lives Matter demonstrations sometimes turned violent as well, so, therefore, it is equivalent, Trump supporters advocate, and somehow that makes the attack by white nationalist terrorists OK as well. .Sometimes we call that a false equivalency; they were not the same and they were not equal. Other ""what about" are those false equivalences for which Trump is most famous in his calling both sides of the neo-Nazi infiltrated marchers were some "fine people" just as the demonstrators against them in Charlottesville were fine people, too... The dry runs for occupying a capitols building were the twice attacks and occupation of the Michigan capitol in 2020. by so-called militias. Trump called the armed attackers "patriots".
The answers to such "what about" depend on the circumstances and extent of obvious differences. The one Joe Biden took as a candidate was to condemn what 2020 violence had in common: violence and violence is not protected by free speech and should be condemned equally. This is a "plague on both the houses" approach. Similar to that is a response that two wrongs do not make it right.
If the equivalent is so outrageously wrong, the response should be outrage that the leader of the movement or the one who considers them "their cavalry", using threatening and violent forces, are considered justified by partisans. This second approach, then, to support of "what about", then, it was not that big a deal and Trump had nothing to do with inciting violence, ignoring evidence to the contrary.. On January 6, Trump invited, encouraged, turned loose known domestic white nationalist terrorists to make a last-ditch attempt to overturn the election by mob violence, attacking the US Capitol to keep him in power through a second term.
The third approach to a "what about" is to use it to hide behind some legalese argument such as the first amendment protecting freedom of speech, or that they do have not have the right to sit in judgment when the accused is no longer in office.. The violating of the oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution is just ignored even though that oath is also in the Constitution.
The Senators who vote to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial have allied themselves with those who say Trump was not that leader who used the terrorists for his own political benefit. Some may actually believe that the violent insurgency was justified because they swallowed the lie that the election was stolen, even though 60 judges, even those Trump appointed, ruled otherwise.. Others may twist themselves into pretzels to rationalize a vote for acquittal because they fear their political futures are in danger. The vote becomes a loyalty test of whether they are supporters of Trump in the 2022 midterms and can keep the Trump base voters.. How public opinion digests this trial, opinions polled already in favor of the guilty verdict, will determine what self-serving political preservation is at stake: 2020 midterms.
What should be at stake in the future of democracy in an infinite long term as we have known it for 250 years....whether the country could become a dictatorship with a violent takeover or by a more subtle, clever, insidious, process engineered by some wannabe dictator. . An acquittal vote will give a green light to such attempts in the future because the message is there that there are no repercussions for such attempted attacks and that they could actually succeed...
Update February 14, the morning after: I am waiting a bit to see public opinion polls give time for the public to digest this. That McConnell validated the Manager's fact case was important. However, he gave a transparent fig leaf to his fellow party members based on a legal theory of jurisdiction that so many conservative constitutional scholars say was bunk. It was easy to see through his words as a way to give cover to the Senators in his caucus to keep from having to have on public record any judgment on Trump himself. and suffer the consequences of his vindictive ire. That a significant bipartisan majority voted Trump guilty as charged was important. What the trial did do was shine light on the danger of domestic terrorism and winning the argument that the "steal the vote" slogan was Trump's fabrication to give a rationale for overturning an election so he could stay in power.