When Richard Nixon resigned as president after Watergate, the country exhaled a collective sigh of relief: the scheme had succeeded. However, the scheme only succeeded because every institution stepped up to play their part. The Senate’s utter and debilitating collapse damaged the strong efforts of the media, the judiciary, the House, state and local leaders, and the voters in coping with former President Donald bc Trump’s abuses of power.
Since the disastrous handling of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, the Senate, once the crown jewel of our political system, has been on the decline for at least 30 years. And that downturn has turned into a long, accelerating downward spiral with no apparent bottom over the past 12 years, after Senate Republicans shunned President Barack Obama’s stimulus package as America teetered on the brink of economic disaster.
By 2016, the hyperpartisan Senate had created gridlock, leading to an understandable lack of public confidence in government and allowing a narcissistic celebrity outsider to become president. And once Trump was elected, America was faced with a nightmare scenario: a fractured Senate, devoid of bipartisanship, confidence, and pride, was incapable of carrying out the fundamental duty for which the Founding Fathers founded it: checking a president who aspired to be a dictator, or at the very least an authoritarian.
The Senate’s inability to prosecute Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurgency to prevent a peaceful transition of power, and then allowing it to rage on despite the lives of Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and countless others being put in danger, was the most surprising dereliction of duty. However, it was just the most recent instance of the Senate averting its eyes while Trump assaulted our democracy and failed our country.
In just one year in 2020, the Republican Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, failed to impeach Trump or censure him after his first impeachment trial; stood by as Trump down played the impact of COVID-19, mocked masks, and invited supporters to indoor rallies; remained silent as Trump spewed lies about the election being “rigged”; refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s presidential election victory even after electors in all 50 states had voted, allowing conspiracy theories to flourish; and moved to ram through the confirmation of Amy Coney Baer.