How will an impeachment trial unite Americans?

How will an impeachment trial unite Americans?
© Getty Images

Apparently, despite what they say, Democrats can’t get enough of Donald Trump. On Feb. 9, Trump will be the center of attraction in Washington once again. That’s the day his impeachment trial is scheduled to begin.

President BidenJoe BidenBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Former New York state Senate candidate charged in riot MORE has made unity a major theme of his fledgling presidency. In his Inaugural Address he said, “We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace — only bitterness and fury. No progress — only exhausting outrage. No nation — only a state of chaos.”

I’ve long believed that polarization in America is a bigger problem than almost anything else, including climate change, which we’re told is an “existential threat.” It certainly is a more immediate threat than climate change.

ADVERTISEMENT

So if Joe Biden wants to lower the temperature and bring liberals and conservatives closer together, then hats off to our new president for focusing, as he is, on unity. But this raises a question: How is an impeachment trial of a former president, who is now a private citizen, going to unite the country? 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTim Ryan slams McCarthy for mocking Capitol physician, mask mandate McCarthy knocks Pelosi, mask mandate: 'This House has broken the country's trust' Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal MORE (D-Calif.) says Trump should not be given a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, that he needs to be held accountable for what the House of Representatives’ single article of impeachment calls “inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” 

It’s not an unreasonable argument, but it’s one that would carry a lot more weight if then-President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE had delivered that reckless Jan. 6 speech a year ago, or even just a few months ago, instead of just two weeks before the end of his presidency.

But now that he’s out of office, is a trial really necessary? Whatever else it may accomplish, it’s a safe bet that it won’t — in the words of President Biden — enable us to “see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors.” Nor will it encourage Americans, already so divided, to “join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature.”

Trial or no trial, Trump will be held accountable for riling up the mob that stormed the Capitol. History will hold him accountable. And history, I suspect, won’t be kind.

ADVERTISEMENT

But it’s not only a questionable trial that stands in the way of unity. Apparently, President Biden’s supporters didn’t take seriously his call for treating each other with “dignity and respect.”

If you don’t believe that America is a fundamentally racist country, there’s a good chance the “woke” crowd will see you as a racist. 

Who thinks that will unite us? 

If you don’t think people who sneak into this country have a fundamental right to free health care and a path to citizenship, if you don’t think we need millions more immigrants crowding our schools and hospitals, there’s a good chance the other side will tar you as insensitive (at best) or a flat-out bigot (at worst).

Is that something that will narrow the gap between the country’s two sides? 

If you think the president made a mistake by canceling the Keystone XL pipeline — and putting in jeopardy thousands of blue-collar jobs — get ready to be smeared as a Neanderthal who doesn’t care a wit about the environment.

Is that likely to unite divided Americans?

And if you are an enthusiastic Trump supporter, “enlightened” progressives would like nothing more than to send you to a re-education camp. Katie Couric told Bill Maher on his HBO show that the “question is how are we going to really almost deprogram these people who have signed up for the cult of Trump.” 

For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t vote for Trump for dogcatcher, but help me out here: How is such elite condescension going to lessen the “bitterness and fury” that our new president worries so much about? 

Someone wrote a nice speech for the president to deliver at his inauguration. Words matter — but actions matter a lot more. Biden could have told his side to tone down the elitist rhetoric. He could have told Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy Pelosi, Schumer vow climate action: 'It is an imperative' MORE (D-N.Y.) to lower the temperature and stop the impeachment trial, that it was unnecessary because Trump is gone from Washington.  

As president, as the nominal head of his party, Biden could have shown them that he’s serious when he talks about unity.

He could have — but he didn’t. 

Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.