Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

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If they didn’t convict him, isn’t Trump Innocent?

British statesman Edmund Burke served as a member of parliament in the British House of Commons from 1776 to 1794.

Regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism, Burke’s famous speech to the voters of Bristol after he won the parliamentary seat of Bristol at the 1774 election is well worth recalling today.

The task of the elected official, he said, is not just to mirror the views of his constituents but to utilise his ability to debate, to sift the evidence, to reason – and to pursue the common good. “Your Representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgement – and he betrays you, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices his judgement to your opinion.”

“Certainly, Gentlemen” he went on to say “it ought to be the happiness and glory of a Representative to live in the
strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him, their opinion high respec,; their business his unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and, above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.
But, his unbiased opinion, his mature judgement, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure, nor from the Law and the Constitution.
They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable.”

I could not help remembering Burke’s famous speech when I heard this morning that the US Senate had voted on the impeachment of Donald Trump. True, the majority of Senators – who are deemed to be impartial jurors – had voted 57 to 43 to convict Trump of the gross misdemeanour with which he was charged viz. Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States,

However, in order to be convicted, at least two thirds of the senators – that is at least 67 of the 100 senators – had to vote to convict the accused. By failing to convict him by the two thirds majority required, the Senate let the former president get off the hook and go off scot-free. In effect, despite the majority vote going against him, Trump can now claim to have been acquitted by the Senate.

While all the 48 Democrat senators and the 2 independent senators (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine voted to convict Trump, only seven of the 50 Republican senators voted with them. Although this is the largest number of senators ever to vote to find a president of their own party gulty, it seems impossible not to conclude that the rest of the Republicans failed to do their duty as impartial jurors.

For these 47 Republicans, voting to convict Trump involved more than just going against the leader of their party and risking the rebuke of his base of supporters. It involves admitting that they were wrong in their judgement of endorsing Trump for the past four years.

It could even be construed that a lot of these Republican senators are motivated by fear – fear about not only their personal safety but also their political future. Trump has shown he can excite the mob and it is possible that they could be victims of future attacks, just as Republican officeholders who resited Trump’s pressure to alter election results.in Georgia faced death threats.

During the impeachment proceedings, Representative Ted Lieu of California noted that former members and long-standing Republicans have madeit clear that President Trump incited this insurrection and that it went against our democracy – quoting Republican governors Spencer Cox, Charlie Baker, Mike DeWine and Phil Scott. He also quoted many former Trump administration officials such as chief of staff John Kelly, secretary of defense James Mattis and national security adviser John Bolton – and drew attention to the many Republican White House officials (including senator Mitch McConnell’s wife, Transport secretary Elaine Chao) who resigned after the events of January 6..

One of the most high profile Republicans to turn against Trump is Nikki R. Haley, former governor of South Carolina and former US Ambassodor to the United Nations under President Donald J. Trump. In an interview published last week she sharply criticized her former boss in an interview published on Friday, saying that she was “disgusted” by his conduct on the day of the Capitol riot.

As Edmund Burke observed 200 years ago:
“Parliament is not a Congress of Ambassadors from different and hostile interests which interests each must maintain, as an Agent and Advocate, against other Agents and Advocates. Parliament is a deliberative Assembly of one Nation, with one Interest, that of the whole – where, not local Purposes nor local Prejudices ought to guide, but the general Good, resulting
from the general Reason of the whole. You choose a Member indeed – but when you have chosen him, he is not Member of Bristol, but he is a Member of Parliament.”

Sadly, too many American senators voted yesterday, not with a sense or responsiblity or morality, not with an interest of the general good or the nation as a whole- but with an eye on the next elections and their own political futures.

One comment on “If they didn’t convict him, isn’t Trump Innocent?

  1. Owen
    February 16, 2021

    Good article and great illustration. Let’s see how the orange monster gets on in a real criminal court. I do hope somebody over there can make that happen. Best wishes to you from the UK. Stay safe.

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This entry was posted on February 14, 2021 by in Opinion and tagged , , , .
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