Democrats’ drive to impeach Trump part of attack on constitutional rights

By Terry Evans
March 1, 2021
U.S. rulers have long history of attacks on workers rights and free speech. Above, FBI raided Socialist Workers Party hall in Minneapolis in June 1941, seizing boxes of books, pamphlets and newspapers. Left and top, Militant and Industrial Organizer, newspaper of Teamsters Local 544-CIO, fight Roosevelt administration’s anti-labor frame-up of SWP, union.
U.S. rulers have long history of attacks on workers rights and free speech. Above, FBI raided Socialist Workers Party hall in Minneapolis in June 1941, seizing boxes of books, pamphlets and newspapers. Left and top, Militant and Industrial Organizer, newspaper of Teamsters Local 544-CIO, fight Roosevelt administration’s anti-labor frame-up of SWP, union.

Even before the Senate voted Feb. 13 to reject the impeachment of former President Donald Trump, Democrats and other liberal groups were pursuing additional ways to break him. They want to bankrupt and block him from ever running for office again. 

Their target, in fact, isn’t Trump — it’s the tens of millions of working people they slander as “deplorable white supremacists” because they voted for him. The Democrats are determined to prevent these workers from affecting the outcome of future elections. 

It is these working people that the capitalist ruling families and their meritocratic hangers-on increasingly fear, along with the 70 million more who were so disgusted with the choices before them in 2020 that they didn’t vote at all. They fear what is building up among millions of workers and farmers who bear the brunt of the current crisis. Increasing numbers of working people recognize today that neither the Democratic nor the Republican party has any intention of curbing the bosses’ assaults on jobs, working conditions and wages. These politicians rule in the interests of the capitalist class.

Until working people draw the conclusion that we need to build our own party, a labor party, the anti-working-class course of the Biden administration will create conditions in which millions will be drawn to Trump again, or another like him. That is, a capitalist politician who claims they’ll sweep aside the swamp in Washington, find a way to provide jobs and end the American carnage. 

Mockery of constitutional rights

The Democrats, and a handful of Never-Trump Republicans, failed to impeach Trump on charges of “inciting insurrection” at the Capitol Jan. 6. The rulers historically aim these types of charges against workers and our struggles. The Constitution does not sanction Congress ousting someone who is already out of office. 

Recognizing this, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts refused to preside over the Senate show trial. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy — who switched back and forth between prosecutor, “judge” and jury — replaced him, claiming that was the “practice” in earlier trials of presidents out of office. But there has never been any other such case. 

Much of this so-called trial featured attacks on political rights.

Trump argued the election results were falsified. But he had no evidence that the scope of election fraud, a common phenomena in capitalist elections, changed the outcome of the vote. In fact, Democrats and their liberal media allies did use the FBI, slanders and lies to wage a four-year hysterical effort to get him thrown out of office. 

Trump told a crowd protesting the election results Jan. 6 to “fight like hell” to have the vote overturned.

But to try and convict him, the Democrats had to insist his remarks aren’t protected by the Constitution, which forbids Congress from making any law “abridging the freedom of speech.” 

To reinforce their case, Democratic House managers presented a crude amalgam of other remarks by the former president going back to 2017, claiming that he has a propensity for violence. Trump’s defense team replied by citing the many occasions when prominent Democrats used exactly the same language that Trump used. 

“Regardless of who these attacks on free speech are aimed at, their target is always the working class,” Joanne Kuniansky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New Jersey governor, told the Militant. “Workers have a stake in opposing all efforts to restrict political rights. We need these rights to discuss, debate and organize to fight for our own interests.” 

In Washington, the defense of free speech has been turned over to the conservatives. And they use it to try and take the high ground in advancing attacks on unions, women’s right to choose abortion and other anti-working-class political moves.

Liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP vociferously backed the impeachment crusade, arguing that Trump deserves no constitutional protections. This stance goes hand in hand with arguments by liberal forces that political rights must be sacrificed to meet the threat of rising “domestic terrorism” from a racist working class. 

The impeachment “trial” was a mockery, where the former president was denied the same right to due process that any other private citizen would expect when facing criminal charges. Rules for Trump’s impeachment had nothing to do with legal protections required in a court of law. In a rush to get finished, the five-day operation had no provision for calling witnesses. 

When Democrats suddenly raised calling some people to testify at the end of the proceedings, the defense team said if there were witnesses, they had plenty to call — starting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Democrats responded that since this wasn’t a court of law, they — not the defense — would decide how many witnesses they could have. In the end, they stuck with no witnesses, took the vote and went home.

Attacks on political rights continue

The failure of impeachment far from ends the liberals’ drive to crush Trump and corral the “deplorable” working class. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer says he’s thinking of putting Trump’s right to run again up for a vote. Legal probes of Trump have been opened in both Georgia, over his efforts to contest the vote there, and in New York, where the Manhattan district attorney is digging into the former president’s financial dealings. 

Seeking unspecified money damages, the NAACP filed a lawsuit Feb. 16 against Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, charging they all conspired to violate the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act. 

The liberal offensive yielded some violent results when Michael van der Veen, one of Trump’s attorneys, had his home attacked with the windows broken, threats spray painted on his driveway and his family terrified. 

The 2020 election and its fallout has exacerbated the crisis wracking both of the two main capitalist parties. Trump backers and Anti-Trumpers are at each others’ throats, with rumors of splits in the offing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell berated the former president, saying he is “morally responsible” for Jan. 6 and liable “for everything he did while he was in office.” 

The differences between the Biden wing of the Democrats and the party’s socialist reformers was quieted by agreement on the impeachment drive, but will spring forth again as they debate political priorities.

One thing there is bipartisan agreement on is preparing broader moves aimed at extending the power of the capitalist rulers’ political police, the FBI. A Domestic Terrorism Prevention bill proposes an expansion of FBI surveillance, increased cooperation between the rulers’ various spy agencies and includes the option of the death penalty.