from Peter Radford
The crisis lingers on.
One would think, although we are now in an odd world, that abetting, instigating, and applauding an attack on Congress would result in more than a gentle rebuke. Apparently not. The wheels of American politics move extremely slowly and the perpetrator of the crime still is hunkered down in the White House bloviating, no doubt, about how he was robbed of his victory in November’s election. Perhaps there will be enough spine amongst those who were attacked to exact appropriate revenge. Perhaps not.
For, already, the political calculation that infects everything done in Washington is slowing and possibly preventing prosecution. The Republican Party, now terrified of its full complicity and concerned about whatever is left of its public image, is doing its utmost to avoid punishing its soon to be ex-leader.
What do we know?
Congress was invaded with the intention of stopping it from performing its Constitutional obligation to recognize, formally, the November election result
The invasion came at the explicit behest of Donald Trump who ordered the mob at his January 6th rally to march on Congress with that aim in mind.
Several of the more extremest members of the mob had been planning various acts of mayhem for several weeks.
That planning had been overt: many of them had spoken, written, and communicated about their intentions for months.
Many others in the mob had simply fallen for the serial lying of Donald Trump or had fallen prey to various conspiracy theories allowed to float freely on social media platforms that think of themselves as above regulatory control. This group consisted of people from all over America who believed Trump’s lies concerning the election. They thought he had been robbed. That he never, not once, produced evidence to support his claim was not enough to stop them joining in the assault.
Adding these facts together we see something as stark is an insurrection or a coup. America has just survived an attempt to topple its government through the use of violence.
We are thus in a binary condition: either we are for Trump, or we are for the United States of America. There is no middle ground. And even those who imagined themselves acting out some patriotic mission to salvage freedom and the election result are part of the treasonous plot. They are guilty. Perhaps they are guilty most of monumental gullibility, but once they entered the hall of Congress they became criminals along with Trump himself.
So what to do?
Here we run into the obscurities of the American governance system itself.
Because of the absurdity of the prolonged “lame duck” period between the election and the inauguration of the new president, Donald Trump remains the president and thus the wheels of justice are, technically under his control. Fortunately, it appears that Trump is not only in hiding, possibly aware of his guilt, but he also seems to have dropped any pretense to governing: he is absent from all discussions. He has always run from the carnage he has created throughout his life, he has never accepted responsibility for his actions, so we can assume he is trying to stay away from his own coup attempt too. His absence leaves the reins of American government loosely held by sundry departmental heads, all of whom have suddenly found the urge to cooperate fully with the incoming regime. It also leaves the Vice President in the lurch, his own political future shot through from all sides: to Trump loyalists he is a traitor; to those supporting the United States of America he is an enabler, or worse, a quisling.
Vice President Pence shares this unenviable situation with whole swathes of our political and business class.
Which side are they on?
For years large numbers of our business elite have overlooked Trump’s manifest racism, misogyny, and other defects because he promised, and delivered, fat tax cuts to enrich them. He bought their support. Their moral equivocation now stands out in startling detail. How could they? The list of very wealthy Trump supporters who fawned over him whilst he pillaged the economy on their behalf is too long to go into here. But we must be insistent: whose side are they on now? How can anyone trust their moral judgment going forward? How will they make recompense?
Whose side is Steven Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group on? Trump’s? or America’s?
Ditto, Larry Ellison and Safra Catz of Oracle.
Ditto John Paulson; Marc Rowan; David Duffield; and Peter Theil.
Are they fans of the coup attempt? Have they spoken out against Trump? If not we know where they stand. We already know that they value their business interests above their valuation of America. Have they discovered patriotism yet?
If they do not speak out, forcefully and not in corporate waffle-speak, then their business interests ought suffer. How can any respectable business transact with people who abet such a crime?
The political class too is now in the spotlight. Having either tacitly or explicitly supported Trump as he trashed institution after institution, the day of reckoning has arrived. Which side are they on? Mitch McConnell: where do you stand? Fancy speeches on the Senate floor are one thing, but substantive support for concrete action is another. Take a stand against Trump, or join him. Those are the only two options you have.
Ditto for Marco Rubio; Tom Cotton; Ben Sasse; and the entire host of Republican contenders for president down the road. Will they disavow Trump and his mob? Or will they worm their way around looking for a politically convenient way to avoid roiling that mob?
And what about Fox News and other right wing media? I doubt there will be much change. They will wriggle and deflect the blame. Their commitment to the truth and to the moral high ground will be sorely tested. Judging by these past few years, there is little reason to imagine a sea-change or any contrition.
But, enough. The nation has been attacked from within. The reckoning will take time and will be dangerous. Given the ability of most people to maintain contradictory mental images simultaneously it is only time that will allow the heat of the moment to dissipate. Some of the mob will end up in court. Most will fade back into the woodwork and get on with their lives. They will continue to harbor loyalty to Trump and his lost cause. The tempers and feelings he engendered will lurk below the surface and no amount of proof, rectitude, or logic will eliminate the disease.
One last thing: the stark evidence of racism throughout the mob is, perhaps, its most horrifying aspect. One woman mob member, as she wiped away tear gas from her eyes, proclaimed: “They are supposed to be shooting at BLM, they are not supposed to be shooting at us. We are patriots. We are on their side”. This as she broke numerous laws and defiled democracy. There is no need to parse that statement. It stands as testimony to the depth to which America is in need of a reckoning and a full accounting for its past. Perhaps this woman fears that the day of reckoning is here. Perhaps she thinks that a mob of white people invading the halls of Congress is perfectly allowable. It doesn’t matter what her justification is. She is a racist. Self-declared in her own language. And she was far from alone: anti-black and anti-Semitic language and paraphernalia were on abundant display. We do need to waste time wondering whether racism was part of the motivation of the mob. It most certainly was.
This is a sick nation. Trump damn near destroyed it. A generation will be needed to pass away before the stain of January 6th begins to fade. Under any circumstance the reality of what America is, is fully exposed. For those who keep repeating “this is not who we are”, I ask you to stop and reflect. Because this is indeed who we are.
Now we need to fix it.