The GOP's missed opportunity

Republicans could have barred Trump from running but decided to ignore him

Donald Trump.
(Image credit: Melissa Sue Gerrits / Getty Images)

Republicans blew their best chance to end Donald Trump's hostile takeover of the party. A week after the Jan. 6 insurrection, the House impeached Trump for inciting the attempted coup and sent the case to the Senate. In the fresh horror of the riot, many Republicans jumped off the Trump train. "Count me out. Enough is enough," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who'd up to then been a groveling Trump apologist. A disgusted Mitch McConnell, then the Senate majority leader, said, "There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day." But out of fear of the MAGA base, McConnell, Graham and most other Senate Republicans voted to acquit Trump. By letting him off the hook, the Senate also passed on the chance — expressly authorized by the Constitution — to bar Trump from ever again holding public office. McConnell suggested that the "criminal justice system" should hold Trump accountable. Privately, he told Republicans, "Let's just ignore him."

When you ignore a tumor or a raging infection, it doesn't go away. Despite three indictments and a fourth coming soon, Trump is again running for president and dominating the Republican field. Once a globally admired beacon of democracy, our nation is descending into the tawdry, chaotic politics of a banana republic. If Trump — facing dozens of felony counts — is nominated, the stakes of the general election will be enormous. He and his cult following will be keenly aware that defeat may mean Trump will die in prison; if he loses and claims fraud, political violence dwarfing Jan. 6 is a real possibility. If Trump wins, he will use the presidency to escape justice and fulfill his vow to inflict "retribution" on his many enemies, whom in the demagogic spirit of Joe McCarthy he's taken to calling communists. "Either the communists destroy America, or we destroy the communists," Trump said at a recent rally. "This is the final battle." Buckle up.

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William Falk

William Falk is editor-in-chief of The Week, and has held that role since the magazine's first issue in 2001. He has previously been a reporter, columnist, and editor at the Gannett Westchester Newspapers and at Newsday, where he was part of two reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes.