By Jenny Marcinkowski
Following former president Donald Trump’s acquittal of inciting an insurrection on Feb. 13, students are feeling the aftershock of his divisive presidency and concerned for the future of political discourse, level headedness and civility.
The impeachment follows the insurrection on the Capitol on Jan. 6, where a joint session of Congress was taking place to certify the votes for then President-elect Joe Biden’s win. The insurrectionists stormed the Capitol because they wanted to overturn the election results and had beliefs that the election was stolen from Trump. Many politicians on both sides of the aisle have suggested that Trump incited the insurrection.
In a CBS/YouGov poll, it was found that 56% of Americans felt that Trump should have been convicted, compared to the 44% that found his acquittal justified.
“Although I am not surprised by the Senate decision to acquit the former president, I recognize that this entails a huge issue for future generations,” said freshman political science major Ryan Lin. “Trump’s brand of conservatism is something this nation has never seen before and I believe is very dangerous to everything we hold dear as patriotic Americans.”
Like Lin, some Americans are concerned with the future of Trumpism. The CBS/YouGov poll cites that a third of Republicans said that they would vote for Trump if he was to form his own political party. That was followed by 37% who answered ‘maybe’ and 30% that answered ‘no.’
“There is a battle right now for the future of the Republican Party. Such conflicts always exist after electoral losses, but the battle is starker this year because of the intraparty divide between the Trumpist wing and the more ‘establishment’ wing of the party,” said Dr. Daniel Bowen, Associate Professor and department Chair of political science. “It certainly feels like the Trump wing has the upper hand, given only seven GOP senators voted to convict.”
This impeachment was unique as it occurred while Trump was no longer in office. Politicians such as Sen. Mitch McConnell felt that Trump was responsible for the insurrection, but that he did not need to be convicted since he was out of office.
Many are still worried about the impact the lack of conviction has on future politicians in similar situations. Dr. Bowen noted his concerns on the effectiveness of impeachment for the future and the possibility of it becoming a politically-damaging tool rather than it being used to punish the worst offenses done by presidents.
“One of the two major parties would not convict even after the president lost reelection and after the horrendous actions at the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol,” Bowen said.
Similarly, freshman English secondary and special education major Mac Warner felt that the acquittal validated the idea that those in power have the ability to get away with committing horrible acts.
“He isn’t facing any consequences for supporting and encouraging such action, whereas I strongly believe that anyone who is a direct and intentional cause of things like that should be punished and should not be allowed into positions of power any further,” Warner said.
While Trump’s future endeavors are uncertain, there is speculation that he will run again in 2024. The former president released a statement through his White House Deputy Chief of Staff that hinted at a possibility of a 2024 run on Jan. 7.
“I do think Trump will run again, and he must lose,” Lin said. “America is having an identity crisis at this point in history as we struggle to define what it means to be American.”
If he was convicted in his impeachment, he would have been barred from running for office. Now, people are considering different ways in which Trump can be held accountable for the insurrection.
“While he could be prosecuted, I think it is more likely he will be charged for other actions, like pressuring Georgia's Secretary of State to overturn the state's election results,” Bowen said.
President Trump has largely been silent since his departure and is expected to make his first public appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 28.