Finally, The Fever Breaks
Only in Donald Trump’s America could we be simultaneously contemplating the juxtaposition of inaugurating a new president and impeaching the current one.
But, after four torturous years watching mad King Donald and his sycophants trash American democracy, our capacity for being surprised is as rare as Sen. Susan Collins voting on principle. From the get-go, we heeded poet Maya Angelou’s advice — when someone shows you who they are, believe them. In our bones we’ve always known that Trump would use his inaugural manifesto as a roadmap for plundering our institutions, leaving a legacy of American carnage.
Still, that didn’t stop my heart from breaking as the wanton desecration of the U.S. Capitol — one of the most sacred symbols of our democracy — was carried out by thugs dispatched by the Insurrectionist-in-Chief.
No sooner had we started to revel in the ecstasy of scoring both Georgia senate seats, finally fulfilling the fantasy of flipping the upper house, than we were witnessing surreal images of Trump supporters invading the Capitol building to derail the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. The violence of the mob assault was belied by the television images of insurrectionists, wrapped in American flags, politely and dutifully observing the velvet roped passageways and sailing past passive security officers into the Capitol rotunda.
As the vandals cut a swath of destruction through the Capitol’s hallowed, historic halls, they carried their entitlement as a birthright more powerful than their body armor. From riot poster boy Richard Barnett, who traveled from his home state of Arkansas so he could commandeer Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, to those who shrieked “You work for us” at the Capitol police, their smugness was palpable. And, why not? They’d gotten their seditious marching orders directly from their commander-in-chief just minutes earlier at his Save America rally. Clutching oversized zip ties designed to detain, they were on a mission to hunt down those they branded as traitors, including Vice President Mike Pence who, setting his sights on his own 2024 presidential run, had refused to overturn the election.
MSNBC host Joy Reid called out the racist double standard in a magnificent rant contrasting law enforcement’s reaction to the invasion of the Capitol with their treatment last summer of peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors, who often were abused by the police. “White Americans aren’t afraid of the cops,” she fumed. "White Americans are never afraid of the cops, even when they’re committing an insurrection."
Out of curiosity, I switched on Fox to see how they were covering Trump’s brazen call to violence that triggered the siege. Predictably, while they couched the melee as the result of a “total breakdown in faith in our institutions,” in the next breath they slammed Democrats for not condemning the violence that punctuated the widespread protests fueled by racial injustice last summer. One of the Fox pundits defended the lawless goons, “Make no mistake, plenty of the people who are storming the Capitol really, truly believe that Trump has been cheated out of four more years; that Vice President Mike Pence has unilateral power to revise the election results; and that their takeover of the building could change the course of history,” he said.
Much of the conservative media even tried to blame the left for the insurrection, claiming the violence was provoked by Antifa infiltrators. But a small army of nerds, internet detectives who turned the marauders’ mantle of invulnerability into their Achilles heel, methodically tracked down the instigators.
Don’t miss this piece in Talking Points Memo which profiles some of the more visible criminals from Wednesday’s attack. You’ll meet the folks Ivanka Trump heralded as “patriots,” like furniture maker Adam Johnson who instantly became one of the most recognizable faces of the riot when a photographer snapped him smiling and waving while lugging off a lectern from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Johnson, like many of his new high profile compatriots, has been arrested by Federal marshals and is being held pending charges against him.
And, so we have come full circle. A president who pledged to fight imaginary “American carnage” at his inauguration but created real carnage to seize power from his successor, who forged a cultist alternate reality out of more than 25,000 lies but bequeathed an insidious domestic terror threat on his way out the door.
In the end, Trump didn’t have to shoot anyone on Fifth Avenue to test whether his toady Republican lickspittles would continue to stand by him. How often had we wondered during the last four years what would be the straw that broke their seemingly impenetrable complicity and silence? Not Charlottesville. Nor children ripped from their parents at the border. Not the shakedown of the president of the Ukraine which led to Trump's impeachment. Not even an eerily similar call just last weekend asking the Georgia Secretary of State to “find just 11,870 votes” to steal an election and overturn his defeat. Instead, it took an unprecedented assault on the U.S. Capitol and the lawmakers inside, five deaths - including a police officer's - and the world watching in stunned disbelief for the GOP spell to shatter.
Finally, in the wake of Wednesday’s violent events, some Republican loyalists jumped off the Trump train. Even as they bailed on their blind obeisance, they started posturing as brave firefighters out to save democracy rather than what they really are: arsonists who helped ignite the flames of conflict and fomented division at Trump’s behest.
Even diehard Trump defender Senator Lindsey Graham said he was calling it quits. The very public break-up came as he stood on the floor of the reconvened joint session of Congress Wednesday night after the melee had ended and the Capitol had been cleared. "Trump and I... we've had a hell of a journey. I hate it to end this way,” Graham nervously said. "Oh my god, I hate it... but today, all I can say is 'Count me out. Enough is enough.” But by yesterday, the man dubbed #LindseyTheLapdog had reverted to type and was attacking Twitter for permanently banning Trump and pleading with Democrats not to impeach Trump again, warning that it would “destroy the country.”
Not so fast, says Harvard professor Laurence Tribe. He argues that, in the interest of healing the country, Trump must be impeached for inciting an insurrection. "Simply put, Trump knew perfectly well that his rally on Wednesday was a powder keg of his own creation. But he gleefully lit a match and tossed it at Congress,” said Tribe in a WaPo op-ed written with Joshua Matz, who served a counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment and trial of Trump last year.
The article of impeachment circulated Friday by Democratic Reps. David N. Cicilline (R.I.), Jamie B. Raskin (Md.) and Ted Lieu (Calif.) accurately captures the gravity of Trump’s misconduct. It situates his action within his “prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election.” And it recognizes the terrible damage that Trump, through his incitement, inflicted on the nation as a whole.”
If I have learned anything during the cataclysmic Trump years, it is that truth matters and that words — enabled and abetted by Republicans — were responsible for Wednesday's seditious attack on our democracy. And, I believe the health of our nation hinges on the consequences that must be paid for such craven, amoral behavior. When it comes to Donald Trump and impeachment, once is not enough.
Arguably, last week was one of the worst times for American democracy. But, there is a silver lining.
Trump fever has broken. Four years ago, Republicans held a monopoly on power: the White House, the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, thanks to last week’s hard won victories by Senators-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democrats will be in charge. Yes, the road ahead is daunting. While the leader of the Trumpist cult may be gone, his legacy is a toxin that will continue to poison our unity long after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in 11 days from today. But what we’ve achieved in the past 4 years should inspire us to carry on and conquer the next frontier — a charge that is being led by young activists like Clara Green who tirelessly worked on the ground in Georgia to ensure that every vote would count.
Finally, one of the memes making the rounds right now goes like this: “I’ve completed my 10-day trial of 2021. How do I cancel my subscription?"
While the searing pain of watching our sacred U.S. institution defiled by a mob is indelibly etched in my database, I’m sticking with this new year. Better days are ahead. Still, I am planning a do-over. Come Wednesday, January 20, I’ll be toasting the start of 2021 all over again. Join me. Onward, Jane