WASHINGTON — What do we do, we who firmly believe in democracy, the division of power into three branches and majority rule?

Short term, let's do what many heads of state have done openly. Respond with disdain to the forces that cravenly refused to see absolute abuse of power and obstruction of justice. Withdraw all respect from Donald Trump and the Republicans in the Senate who in an amazing act of mass hypnotism all lost their spines at the exact same moment.

Dismiss them. They are not worthy of being taken seriously. And that is the worst punishment. They will be gone. We will turn the page. History will heap scorn on their heads.

Except for Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who refused to acquit a sullied president of abuse of power, profiles in courage they assuredly are not — after a vote of 48 for Trump's guilt of abuse of power and 52 Republicans' vote of not guilty.

Remember the photograph of other leaders of the West laughing — laughing — at Trump. (In a burst of a childish display of his true character, he abruptly left the meeting in Europe and flew home on Air Force One.) That sort of says it all. Trump ridicules and mocks anyone who disagrees with him but can't take it himself.

We have tried to respect the office. Some decided, if for nothing else but that, to respect the man as well. That time is over. It's impossible to defend Trump because truth to him does not matter.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defiantly ripped the copy of Trump's impossibly partisan State of the Union speech in half, after he refused to shake her hand and began his reelection campaign, she acted for many.

Acknowledge that Trump and his ilk in the GOP are unworthy of their place in history and vote them out of office.

Because now we know. This president of the United States considers himself above the rule of law. He's been telling us, and we didn't listen. But Senate Republicans did listen. And they were cowed.

There wasn't disagreement about what Trump did. Even some of the Senate's cowardly lions agreed that Trump tried to cheat on the next election. He held back $391 million in military aid from desperately war-torn Ukraine in a vain attempt at an exchange for a fake investigation of a man he believed to be his political rival. Then they said that, despite the warning of the Founding Fathers about foreign interference in U.S. politics, it doesn't matter. And then they said his obstruction of Congress in learning the truth doesn't matter.

No higher an authority than the U.S. Senate has decreed the American president, at least if he is this Republican, to be invincible. The president is the state, and he has the right to be as corrupt as he chooses. It's going to get worse.

Wow! We gave away so easily, in less than three years of the most corrupt administration in U.S. history, a form of government that took centuries to develop. Think of all those American soldiers who gave their lives for democracy.

The same Republicans who three years ago called Trump a xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, ignorant, pathological liar now quiver in fear he will tweet negatively about them.

During Trump's sham impeachment trial, his White House lawyers argued — successfully, because of Republicans — that whatever Trump does to further his reelection chances is sacrosanct because he truly thinks his presidency is in the best interest of the nation. Did the Founding Fathers forget about elections when they devised the process of impeachment? No.

For the first time ever in the 17 impeachment trials of presidents or judges, the Senate voted against hearing witnesses or seeing evidence. History will forever record that they voted without knowing the evidence, without hearing the witnesses in the room, without the whole truth.

By the way, the Senate's GOP leadership has blocked votes on almost any legislation of importance but couldn't give one week to hearing witnesses about Trump's malfeasance.

Are we inching closer to dictatorships such as Russia, Venezuela and China, where the supreme leader can do no wrong?

The dictators of those countries do whatever they want with impunity. They censor free speech. They investigate and take revenge against their opponents. They do what their wealthy backers desire. They siphon off the soul of their nations.

The day before the Senate's acquittal, Trump lied repeatedly. He said he supports insurance for preexisting conditions. He has sued to block such coverage. He said it's a golden era for blue collar workers. It is not. Former President Barack Obama created more jobs in his last year in office than Trump did in his first three.

Resist. Share those Trump jokes. Shun the senators who did you wrong.

If you are not registered to vote, do it. If you've never been active politically, start. This is about your rights, your independence and the future your children and their children.

The worst offense Senate Republicans committed was raising cynicism among Americans to record levels.

Trump says he will use foreign power to help him win reelection. He will use voter suppression, gerrymandering, falsehoods. With vast sums of money at his disposal, he will use the tools of government.

Cast off any residual respect for Trump. And vote. Before we lose the right to do both.

Trump has been acquitted by his partisan cult. He has not been exonerated, and he never will be.

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Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at amcfeatters@nationalpress.com.

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