What happens after (a second) impeachment

We are witnessing a giant game of political chicken: two wings of the Republican party barreling towards each other in a contest of wills.

Connor McNamara

Donald Trump was acquitted of impeachment charges on Feb. 13, 2021. In a 57-43 vote, he became both the only president to face a senate impeachment trial twice, and the subject of the most bipartisan impeachment vote in modern history. Seven Republican senators broke rank to vote guilty on the charge of inciting a riot, according to The New York Times

But Trump was not convicted. An impeachment requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to pass, which was not reached. So, he can run for office again in 2024. 

Despite rebukes of the former president from high-ranking Republican officials, the vote showed Trump’s hold on the party remains steady. Congressional conservatives obviously feel the influence of his base — and they fear what would happen if they displeased it.

The dynamic between pro-Trump politicians and more moderate Republicans has shifted, but not by much. The senators who voted guilty on impeachment have been largely and immediately  censured by their state legislatures. According to The New York Times, speculation has even arisen that Lara Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, will run for Richard Burr’s senate seat in North Carolina in 2022. 

Trump’s official condemnation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for his statements against the former president after the impeachment vote, was even more startling. McConnell has been one of the most influential supporters of Trump for the past four years and was the key engineer in his domination over the Republican-controlled Senate. To see such broadsides fired by each politician shows how deep the divisions in the party are.

It is difficult to anticipate where Republicans will progress now. The party still seems to be largely under the control of Trump’s supporters, especially at the state level. Infighting between the more moderate and the extreme ends of the party at the national level is ongoing.

The midterms will be the first real test of the shift in political power on the right. More figures like Lara Trump are sure to emerge in races across the country, and liberals will have their own chance to ask the nation if they would choose Trumpism over an alternative.

But the primaries in 2024 are going to be the most important. It would not be surprising to see a roster of candidates similar in size to the 2020 Democratic primaries. Figures like Ted Cruz, Nickey Haley, Tucker Carlson and even Donald Trump himself or members of his family may appear on the ticket. It could become a vast ideological brawl — the winner of which will cement the future of the Republican party.

Within our country’s two-party system, weakness within one party will always strengthen the other. Both sides know this. Conservatives do not want a split, but with such a difference in ideology, it is almost inevitable. The question now is how many politicians will fully commit to taking the “losing side” — which at this point seems to be the side of the moderates.

We are witnessing a giant game of political chicken: two wings of the Republican party barreling towards each other in a contest of wills. The last to bail will decide the direction of American conservatism for decades, at the risk of splitting the party and ensuring Democratic dominance for the foreseeable future.

I am not sure anyone can predict the outcome, but I do know one thing: I’m excited for Mock Con 2024.