Let me make this clear. The United States isn't following in the footsteps of Nazi Germany. So when I speak of the danger of Donald Trump's authoritarianism, I'm not equating him with Hitler, though he does have Hitler'ish tendencies.
However, this doesn't make Trump any less of a risk to our nation's democratic institutions and the Constitution.
So his impeachment needs to be viewed from the broadest possible perspective, not just Trump's attempt to get Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election and then obstruct Congress in its 100% legitimate impeachment inquiry.
That's bad enough, of course. Much worse, though, is how what Trump and his cronies did in the Ukraine scandal points to an authoritarian mindset that strikes at the heart of what the patriots who founded the United States feared might happen.
A return of King George in the guise of an American president.
The king can do no wrong, supposedly. But a president of the United States can be held to account for seriously bad behavior through impeachment. Which happened today, thankfully.
However, no Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for impeachment. Even worse, I watched the House debate off and on this afternoon, and didn't hear a single cogent defense of Trump's abuse of power, the first article of impeachment.
Meaning, zero GOP members said that it was OK for a president to ask a foreign power to investigate his political rival prior to an election.
Yet there is zero doubt that Trump did this.
The notes of the second phone call between him and the Ukrainian president show that this happened, and Trump himself has admitted that he asked Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son -- going so far as to double down and ask that China do the same thing.
So it's clear that virtually all Republicans in Congress, and also most Republicans in the country, have decided that they will go along with whatever crazy stunt Trump decides to pull off, regardless of whether Trump's actions are ethical, legal, or in the nation's interest.
Which gets me to the movie, Jojo Rabbit. Here's the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis.
Writer director Taika Waititi (THOR: RAGNAROK, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE), brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, JOJO RABBIT, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy (Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.
My wife and I saw it at Salem Cinema last Saturday night. Without giving away any of the plot, since it's a great movie that everyone should see, I can simply say that 10-year-old Jojo ends up displaying much more courage, wisdom, and open-mindedness than any Republican member of the House of Representatives.
That's scary, because Jojo starts off as an extremely avid fan of Hitler and Nazi propaganda. Yet Jojo eventually is able to set some of his prejudices aside and see Jews as human beings, not as the cartoonish evil characters Hitler portrayed them as.
Another disturbing aspect of Jojo Rabbit was the newsreel footage from Nazi Germany that's shown early on in the movie. What we're watching is authoritarianism writ large -- massive crowds cheering Hitler in lockstep, resonating with his message of, in so many words, "Make Germany Great Again."
Donald Trump loves dictators. He adores Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Trump shows no interest in fostering democracy in the world, nor in protecting the free press essential in a democratic society.
After the House voted to impeach Trump today, I heard Speaker Nancy Pelosi answer questions from reporters as I was driving home from my Tai Chi class.
It seemed evident that she is open to not sending over the impeachment decision to the Senate until Mitch McConnell agrees to a fair trial in the Senate that includes fact witnesses such as Mick Mulvaney and John Bolton, plus documents that Trump is hiding, almost certainly because they are incriminating.
This strikes me as a really good idea.
So good, I'm hoping Congressional Democrats will agree to simply sit on the impeachment resolution without sending it to the Senate if McConnell and Co. persist in their plan to have a very brief show trial that acquits Trump after a week or so.
Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe argues for this in an opinion piece, "Don't let Mitch McConnell conduct a Potemkin impeachment trial." Excerpt:
Consider the case of a prosecutor armed with a grand jury indictment who learns that the fix is in and that the jury poised to consider the case is about to violate its oath to do impartial justice. In that situation, the prosecutor is under no affirmative legal obligation to go forward until the problem is cured and a fair trial possible.
So, too, the House, whose historical role is to prosecute articles of impeachment in the Senate after exercising its “sole” power to impeach, is under no affirmative constitutional obligation to do so instantly. That is especially true when the majority leader has made clear that he is, for all practical purposes, a member of the defense team.
More than anything else, at this point Trump wants to have the Senate declare that he is innocent of the impeachment charges so he can trumpet that during his 2020 re-election campaign.
Denying him this victory would be both good politics and good for democracy, as it would show that Democrats are holding firm on Congress taking impeachment seriously. Trump has mocked democratic norms from the day he was elected. He's acted like a wanna-be authoritarian. He has said that the president can do whatever he (or she) wants.
Sure, part of me would love to see Elizabeth Warren, say, be elected president next year, and then be able to do whatever she wants in accord with the "Trump doctrine." But the wiser side of me understands that no president, Democrat or Republican, should be able to act badly without consequences.
One of which is impeachment. That's why today was a great day for American democracy.