Although we can welcome President Biden’s desire to look forward rather than backward, our nation, and the Republican Party in particular, have not fully come to terms with what the violent attack on our Capitol and the effort to overturn the result of a free election mean for our democracy. Trumpism and its close cousins in Greene-ism, QAnonism, white supremacy and violent extremism cannot become “the new normal” in our politics.
We have “moved on” far too quickly. All 147 Republicans who, against all the evidence, cast at least one vote to reject legitimate election returns should be called upon to recant the falsehoods on which their votes were based. A formal resolution affirming Biden’s legitimacy is in order.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) treats advocates of “a bullet to the head” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as just another wing of the Republican Party. Yes, the GOP includes supply-siders, social conservatives, foreign policy hawks and now would-be assassins who believe that Jewish lasers start forest fires. Talk about broadening the base!
McCarthy isn’t even a competent opportunist. He condemned QAnon last summer when it seemed politically convenient to do so, but turned around last week and said: “I don’t even know what it is.”
Memo to McCarthy: You have heard of Google, haven’t you? Everything you said can easily be found and shared.
White extremism is, alas, nothing new. After Barack Obama’s election, an Associated Press article on Nov. 15, 2008, began: “Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting ‘Assassinate Obama.’ Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.” The incidents “are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.”
Trump exploited racist feelings against Obama as a prelude to his run for president. Trump made clear to the right-wing radicals after he won that they had a friend in the White House, and they became key to his survival strategy after he lost to Biden. He lied about the election — consistently, resolutely, systematically. He kept race in the forefront, regularly leveling his fraud charges against big Democratic cities in swing states where Black voters were a decisive force.
And then he moved to replace democracy with mobocracy, gathering a throng in Washington and inciting it to march to the Capitol and sack it. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer, and the crowd threatened other elected officials, including Trump’s own vice president.
This is the outrage that the House impeachment managers will describe in detail this week. The nation, and especially the Republican Party, cannot just walk away.
The managers are expected to show video interviews of members of the rampaging horde making clear that they were doing what they were doing because Trump asked them to. And they will demonstrate that Trump himself welcomed the violence.
This is one of the most telling passages in the House impeachment managers’ brief:
“In fact, when Congressional leaders begged President Trump to send help, or to urge his supporters to stand down, he instead renewed his attacks on the Vice President and focused on lobbying Senators to challenge the election results. Only hours after his mob first breached the Capitol did President Trump release a video statement calling for peace — and even then, he told the insurrectionists (who were at that very moment rampaging through the Capitol) ‘we love you’ and ‘you’re very special.’ ”
Very special indeed.
Enough Republican senators seem ready to hide behind the claim (easily contested through historical examples involving other offices) that a president can’t be tried when he’s out of office. So a conviction vote may fall short of the required two-thirds majority.
They should think again. We cannot have the national “unity” everyone claims to yearn for unless the president’s own party acknowledges that these were high crimes and misdemeanors of a fundamental sort. We’re talking about an attack on democracy itself through force and violence at the beckoning of a leader who sought to corrupt not only our political process but also our self-understanding as a nation of equals.
The impeachment managers will be insisting that this can never be our “new normal.” Here’s wishing them Godspeed in their work.