Donald Trump continues to win politically to the delight of millions of his fans. But the latest victory on Jan. 31 comes with quite a cost for all of us.

We all knew the impeachment trial would end in an acquittal from the Senate. Loyalty to one person transcends all now. But the denial of witnesses and evidence in front of the chief justice of the highest court in the land on a matter of utmost national importance? This decision was the difference in actual court and kangaroo court — the difference between a traditional U.S.A. and something fundamentally altered. This represented the death of a long-held principle.

What a sucker I was! I grew up believing that any trial in the United States of America at any level included the understanding that facts and evidence reign supreme in all proceedings, from Danielsville to D.C. I was so wrong. Truly. My bad. I was willfully gullible. I believed in Santa Claus too long as well. I was that kind of kid. Sometimes we just hold on to beliefs because we need to believe in them. And I needed this. I needed to believe this about my country. I didn’t understand how much that belief meant to me until the belief actually died. The idea of juries, of impartiality in legal proceedings, all of that stuff — this means more to me than any leader of any party. Guess I should just abandon fact-gathering as an occupation and cheerlead for some politician now, right? What good are deeper principles?

An inner correction is required. I thought one thing, but now I’ve been shown the light — or rather, the darkness about our new America. I thought we all agreed that any trial, from frivolous to full-proof, would be decided by laying the evidence on the table and letting the chips fall where they may. That had been the fundamental principle of justice in my mind since eighth grade civics in Mrs. Gunn’s class. Show me the evidence. Hear from witnesses. Put your hand on the Bible. Say it straight. Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

That means in all matters of public interest — pursue the truth until the pursuit has been sufficiently exhausted. Liberal, conservative, whatever — it doesn’t matter. That ideal is central in my mind when I put my hand on my heart and say those words to the flag. I want to believe in this no matter the person, no matter the party. I thought we all did.

Benghazi. Heck yes. Put her on the stand. Make her testify. Tell the truth. What was known? When? What did those in direct contact with Hillary Clinton have to say? Did I think the Benghazi issue was largely fueled by partisan motives? One hundred percent. But whether it was or wasn’t, get all the facts. Get the evidence, the testimony. Lay it on the table for the public. Monica Lewinsky needed to testify. Of course. And she did. I want all to testify when their testimony is relevant to the matter at hand, especially in matters of grave national importance.

The public deserves this — always.

Politicians come and go, but the principles are supposed to stay — always.

Put the truth on the table — always.

That is — or was — our national franchise through the Constitution, a codification of firmly held principles. Whelp, wrong.

Honestly, love Trump or hate him. I’m over it. Forget you, forget me. Who cares about our dang opinions on him? Whatever. He is here now. He will be gone at some point. We fight bitterly over him. But we’ll fight over something else when he’s gone. You know this, too. There are bigger issues than one man. And now, the Senate sacrificed the most basic principle of truth gathering when it voted to deny witnesses taking the stand in the matter of presidential accountability. Imagine such an act in Madison County Superior Court. What validity would that court have going forward if a defendant or his supporters got to determine if witnesses were even allowed to testify against him? What a joke that court would become. But that wouldn’t happen locally, would it? Nope. That’s because we have deeper principles in Madison County than to allow that in Danielsville. But nationally it’s OK? What gives?

Yes, this rage surely makes some chuckle, those who enjoy the provocation of “the left” where I’m surely lumped no matter what’s actually in my head. I guess I should go get some, thick black horn-rimmed glasses and scream my “liberal” wail beneath my latte-soaked mustache. That would be good for a chuckle, I suppose, for any and all trolls. The stereotypes we have for each other render us all ridiculous and unworthy of any mutual respect. We make caricatures of each other and laugh and act cruel from the safety of screens. This is the toilet bowl of today’s public discourse. We’re all circling the drain, folks, if we can’t be better than that. And can we do better? I’m losing heart. Are you?

Our politics drift deeper into the sewer than ever. And the vote to deny witnesses and evidence by the Senate was the most egregious abandonment of civic duty I’ve witnessed in my 47 years. The Senate just abdicated its Constitutional check on power set forth by the founders of this country. Oh well, ho hum, what’s on Facebook, right?

Our system of checks and balances is collapsing. This nation fought a war to remove ourselves from rule by king only to back-stab each other into a new kingship. Donald Trump is that king right now. Officially. But he won’t rule forever, and now the precedent is set for extremist kings of either party to take all power in their hands and do what they want — legally or not — without any check on power from Congress or the courts. I don’t want that from a Republican or a Democrat. I want better for all of us, no matter the party. Such a setup ensures future bloodshed. Why can't we all see this? It is the recipe for domestic war. Do you remember that we had a form of government vote years back in Madison County? The county turned down the sole commissioner option. I’m not in favor of the “sole commissioner” nationally either. This move by the Senate felt to me like far more than an impeachment action. It was a vote on our form of government moving forward.

I used to think there was common ground on certain principles between the two parties. I can’t say that anymore, not with a straight face. This precedent of trashing the pursuit of truth will be used over and over again for more and more unsavory actions — certainly by Trump, but probably from the left, too, when they get power.

Thanks Senate. I’d like to say, “they know not what they’ve done.” But yeah they do. They know exactly what they did — and the significance. And it will resonate for years as we circle the toilet bowl of lost principles. Either that or we citizens step it up, big time. No leader is going to do it for us. We find a way to save ourselves or we all sink, Republicans and Democrats, all of us. The time for new, brighter thinking is here. And it will only come with principles held firm, not flushed. Shame on the Senate Republicans. Shame on you, on me, on all of us. We’re all in this boat. Ain’t no passes, not if we actually care about this country.

Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal. He can be reached at zach@mainstreetnews.com.

(1) comment

Virginia Moss

As to constitutional justice or even justice broadly, people of color and/or of poverty have known for some time that American justice is not the justice taught in our public schools. I thought it was. I have also seen the light now. We have lost a huge, precious value with this denigration of justice by Republicans.

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