Markos and Kerry opened the show by discussing Trump’s second impeachment trial and what the process has shown about his lasting influence on the Republican party. Markos noted that Trump has hurt the party substantially, as demonstrated by the most recent election cycle, when Democrats captured the trifecta of the U.S. House, Senate, and the presidency. Moreover, Trump is the only the third president in 100 years to lose reelection. Yet, Trump’s hold over a significant chunk of GOP voters remained clear from the way Republican leaders responded to his incitement of the insurrection. As Kerry added, “Mike Pence wouldn’t even stand up for himself and his family after it became clear that Trump had targeted him.”
Elie Mystal joined for the first half of the episode to weigh in on the impeachment trial and share his thoughts on its sudden end on Saturday. As Mystal described, the Republicans in the U.S. Senate bore responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6, and that made unifying in convicting Trump more difficult:
The Senate, I think, was cowardly in a way I think we expected them to be. They themselves were complicit in the insurrection. That, I think, was something that was lost during the House managers’ [line of questioning] … They were trying to convince Republicans to come onto their side, and by trying to convince Republicans, that means you can’t call them out for their complicity in the violence … Republicans did everything that Trump did—except try to kill Mike Pence.
Mystal cited the attack on the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ campaign bus in Texas, where Trump supporters almost ran the vehicle off the road, and how Trump expressed support for the people who committed that dangerous act. Trump had long been stoking this violence, he said, as well as Republican senators like Marco Rubio, who expressed support for attacks like these.
Regarding the Democrats’ strategy, Kerry wondered aloud about witness intimidation and if it might have occurred the night before the closing arguments were to be heard: “What happened in that negotiation that they ultimately decided not to call witnesses? Was it Democrats backing off? Was it witnesses drying up?”
The trio then discussed the aspect of freedom of speech in the impeachment case and the Brandenburg test, which Markos asked Mystal to explain. The test is one that helps “determine when inflammatory speech intending to advocate illegal action can be restricted,” or basically when free speech isn’t protected.
Lastly, Markos, Kerry, and Mystal discussed Joe Biden’s pick of Merrick Garland for attorney general; the hopes Mystal has for the work Garland will do as AG; and the fact that Trump can still be tried for a multitude of other crimes, especially at the state level in places like New York and Georgia. Ending on a positive note, Mystal said, “I don’t know if ultimate responsibility will come to Trump, but some of these people that have been enabling him for four years, especially people like Rudy Giuliani—one of the things that Trump has shown is is that while he may be Teflon, people around him ain’t.”
After their conversation with Mystal, Markos and Kerry talked about what has happened since Trump left office and how he continues to have a hold on the Republican Party. Kerry floated the idea of a third party becoming a prominent force in the coming years and noted that support for a third American political party is at an all-time high—as evidenced by the results of a recent Gallup poll. As she explains, the infrastructure exists for a third party to rise, led by someone like Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), a Republican who voted in favor of impeachment. A number of voters are changing their affiliation away from Republicans.
Kerry listed several reasons as to why she believes this:
1. The GOP’s image is plummeting.
2. There’s more support than ever for a third party.
3. Tens of thousands — a unique number of voters — are changing their affiliation away from being Republicans.
4. You have a bunch of former GOP officials who know both the governance side and the political side, the electoral side, of running a party.
Markos indicated that Trump represented a major turning point for the GOP. As he said, “How did Donald Trump get that many more votes? … And it’s one thing for him to win in 2016 when you don’t really know who he is, or you’re smitten by the fact that he’s a celebrity. But to see four years of Trump chaos and say, ‘Yeah, I want more of that.’ That’s what hurt me most on election night.”
Kerry agreed, saying, “The situation from the insurrection has really opened up a gaping wound in the Republican Party that cannot be fixed. They cannot paper over this.”
As Markos and Kerry closed out the discussion with an audience question, they came to agree that a third party is more likely to emerge from never-Trumpers, rather than die-hard Trump fans.
You can watch the full episode here:
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