The US Senate on Saturday voted and acquitted former president Donald Trump, putting an end to his second impeachment trial.
Despite the acquittal, the impeachment has been a process in which the Democratic Party has strived to show Americans Trump’s destructiveness to the US political system. The impeachment will influence many Americans’ views of Trump as well as impacting the GOP.
In the end, seven Republicans voted to convict Trump, the largest ever number of party members to vote against a president from their own party. From this perspective, Democrats have gained from the process despite the result of the trial.
Nonetheless, due to the possibility of Trump’s return is still on the table, Democrats will probably take other measures to block Trump’s path back to office for good. They may also turn to US Constitution’s 14th Amendment to continue their attack against Trump, in an attempt to bar him from holding future office – an ideal scenario for Democrats. But even if they fail to win on this front, the moves they take would also help to perturb Trump’s return.
In a statement shortly released after the vote, Trump said that “movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun… I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.”
We can perceive that Trump hasn’t given up the possibilities of making a future run at office. If there is any opportunity, he will run again for the presidency. He still commands a large and loyal base, and apparently still believes in the principles behind “Make America Great Again.”
But whether he will finally run for 2024 still faces quite some uncertainties. For example, will Democrats’ efforts to politically ban Trump be effective? What will Trump do after losing influence on social media?
The actions of other Republicans are also another decisive factor.
Regardless of these uncertainties, it can be sure that if Trump runs for office, the social division and chaos in the US will be further deepened.
With this in mind, the Republicans who still chose to support Trump in the impeachment vote did so out of political considerations, because there is no other feasible leader within the Republican Party. Now they only have Trump.
However, due to his reckless presidency and the storm of the Capitol riot, Trump’s influence is fading. In addition, many Republicans are not fans of him anymore, such as former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who recently directly criticized Trump for his involvement stoking the Capitol riot. So now it is more of that Republicans are desperately maintaining Trump’s political position for political reasons.
“This trial in the final analysis is not about Donald Trump,” said Democratic lead prosecutor Representative Jamie Raskin. “This trial is about who we are.” But clearly the trial hasn’t given the answer Raskin has implied to American people.
The US remains in a precarious situation. The minds of ordinary Americans and even the American political elites are in a state of flux regarding how to define “I am American.” This also shows that the ongoing cultural wars, identity struggles, and overall social division in the US will continue to deepen, and cannot be alleviated.
The author is a professor with the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University. [email protected]