The list of those who were present or helped pull off the stunt is merely the tip of the iceberg, a small subset of those whom history will hold responsible for the serial failures, outrages and perversions of this administration.
Too often we let off those without whom Trump would have been deterred if not defanged. Let’s start with those who have served in this administration. All of them. There are no “good” servants of a racist, wannabe dictator. Former Defense secretary Jim Mattis is as culpable as former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. They cannot escape responsibility for their role in creating a patina of normalcy, enabling Trump or lying on his behalf. The anonymous New York Times writer who deluded himself or herself into believing that working for Trump served some noble purpose is no better than Stephen Miller, the architect of inhumane immigration policies.
Certainly, every Republican senator who voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial shoulders part of the blame for Trump’s conduct that followed. That includes the firing of inspectors general; the blunders in failing to address the pandemic (and the ensuing death of more than 100,000 Americans and loss of 40 million jobs); the racial incitement; the abuse of peaceful demonstrators; and the threat to deploy the military against American civilians. There are 23 Republican incumbents in the Senate on the ballot in November. Every last one of them should be booted out and have his or her name “tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history,” as House impeachment manager Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) put it.
There are overt enablers — e.g., House Republicans, the right-wing media that advanced “But Gorsuch” rationalizations for Trump, willing propagandists in Republican organizations and intellectually debased think tankers. And there are less visible facilitators — the false-equivalence wielding journalists, social media companies, silent Republican officeholders. Each played a part in the travesties leading up to Monday. Silence is complicity when evil men hold power.
We can rid the White House, the halls of Congress, the governors’ houses and the state legislatures of all traces of the Trumpian GOP. The rest? At the very least we should not treat former officials as respected reservoirs of historical or political wisdom. No cushy university perches. No participation in panels of esteemed former officials. Private employers should be wary of hiring people of such low character. Yes, serving in an administration so corrupt, racist, dishonest and anti-democratic should deprive one of the benefits ex-officials of other administrations enjoy. (Don’t shed a tear on their behalf. They’ll still get jobs with right-wing outfits.)
I would like to think that mainstream and social media companies would engage in some serious reflection on their behavior during this era. Did they bend over backward to afford Trump the benefit of the doubt when none was warranted? Did they give a platform to disingenuous shills or dishonest apologists? Did they forsake accuracy for phony balance? Such companies need to exercise judgment to label lies as lies, crazy behavior as crazy and racism as racism. No person, even the president of the United States, is entitled to use their outlets to incite violence, perpetrate election fraud or engage in racial or religious hate speech.
One is tempted to convene truth and reconciliation commissions for people to renounce their sins of enabling evil, but the ones most culpable would never participate. The only reconciliation we will get is the verdict of history and our collective determination to hold people responsible for their deeds during this painful episode in American history.
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