Former President Trump has been acquitted of “inciting insurrection”. Republican opposition rested on a technicality: Trump is no longer President and hence cannot be “removed from office”.
But this, in turn, happened because the Republicans had delayed any hearing until he had in fact been replaced by President Biden.
However, in my opinion, he is indeed not guilty of “inciting insurrection”. The problem here is that “incite” can refer to either an intended or an unintended action.
No doubt, as prosecutors allege, and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell agrees, his comments on the day, and remarks in the months leading up to the assault, laid the groundwork.
His intemperate language, and accusations of election fraud, certainly prepared and persuaded his supporters to “fight like hell”.
Nevertheless, Trump’s real fault was his irresponsibility, because he does not take care to use his words with precision. Thus he stoked up fires, unleashing forces beyond his control.
Elements in the crowd certainly had made plans to attack the Capitol; but it is doubtful whether Trump had any clearly formulated plans at all, beyond causing trouble.
Indeed, I’d go so far as to say, he is a coward; because he did not go with, or join, his supporters in their attack, but left, and hid in the White House as events unfolded.
This is his usual modus operandi; sending in his troops, but abandoning them on the day of battle. Just as, frequently, at demonstrations, he would drive past in his motorcade, on his way to play golf.
But there is another side. I leave it to you to decide whether it is a positive one. Where previous Republican Presidents paid lip-service to the religious right, Trump kept his word.
On pro-life and abortion issues, they had done nothing to put words into action; and initially, it seemed Trump would be the same.
But his strategy of packing the Supreme Court with right-wing candidates amounted to significant pay-back for conservative Christian support.
Trump knows how to stay loyal to his fan-base. As long as it serves his interests, he keeps his promises.
To illustrate why they in turn stay loyal to him: a MAGA supporter claimed, in a television interview, that he voted for Trump, because Trump is not a politician, but a businessman.
Trump’s attitude, to business and politics, can be discovered in his ghost-written book “The art of the deal”. Even his lies and exaggerations did not diminish support, regarded instead as part of the game.
For those feeling marginalised, who had previously benefited from a system rigged against other minorities (based on race, sexuality or gender), he was convincing.
After his departure, the Senate’s verdict means he isn’t prohibited from being elected again; so the danger is of a “Trump Redux”.
But even if Trump remains unelectable, Trumpism remains. The Republican elite have been vanquished by the wave of populism he surfed into office.
As Brecht said of Hitler: the beast that produced him is still here.