All posts by John Of Late

America Divided

In the Senate last week, Mitch McConnell stood at the rostrum. He said in somber voice: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” Further, “self-government, my colleagues, requires a shared commitment to the truth and a shared respect for the ground rules of our system.”

McConnell’s commitment to truth and actual evidence, though, was sorely missing on November 9 when he said that the president (who had clearly lost the election by that time) was “100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.”

In America Again, I wrote that the president’s right to “look into allegations” was a dodge. McConnell did not acknowledge the truth that Trump had lost the election. Instead of standing up for truth and “ground rules”—such as the tradition that the loser should concede when the results are clear—McConnell did what he has done time and time again during the Trump presidency. He enabled, and thereby reinforced, Trump’s lies.

He did not speak up for the truth when the president continued to riff on the epic falsehood that he had won the election and that “they” had stolen the election— “they” include, apparently, the overwhelming majority of voters.

McConnell spoke not a public peep about the truth when Attorney General Barr said that the Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of voter fraud “that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

For two months, the election lie went unchallenged, not only by McConnell, but by most Republicans in Congress. This liars’ caucus was determined to disrupt the ceremonial counting of electoral votes on January 6—votes certified correct by each state. The premeditated disruption was instigated by the president’s allegations of voter fraud. The “death spiral” had already begun.

The belief that the election had been stolen festered in the minds of Trump voters, day-by-day raising the scope and temperature of their anger as they gathered at the March to Save America rally on January 6. The president had asked the vice president to reject “fraudulently chosen electors.” At the rally, he said: “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.”

Pence declined. In a statement released minutes before the vote count began, he said: “the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”

As the electoral vote count got underway in Congress, grievance went ballistic. The mob became a munition, the president aimed it at the Capitol, and it detonated in the halls of Congress. Amid chants of “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Stop the Steal!” the mob looted and vandalized the building and five people died while the Vice President and the members of Congress hid, fearing for their lives.

Later, the mob was cleared from the building, and Congress completed its work and declared Biden the winner, but 147 Republicans had objected.

In America Defiled, I wrote that there was a “moment of unity” as the men and women of Congress hid from the attackers and shared the horror and the anger at what was happening. I commented that an attempt to remove the president from office would turn a rare moment of unity into “another tedious partisan divide.”

I was wrong on two counts. First, there must be a penalty for a president whose lies would incite a mob to attack the Capitol. Belying his weak suggestion that the crowd would march “peacefully,” he did nothing to stop the riot and even praised the attackers with his “love.” Impeachment holds the president to account, inaction excuses.

Second, impeachment would not be the cause of partisan divide, tedious or otherwise. Our divisions as a people have existed for a very long time. Even a civil war did not change that. Impeaching this reprehensible president will not cause division in our country any more than failure to impeach will cause unity.

Trump has exploited and exaggerated divisions that existed before he became president. He promised to build a wall to keep “them” out. He found “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, giving aid and comfort to white supremacy. Even wearing a mask to defeat the coronavirus was for other people. He blamed “Democrat cities” for civil unrest. He said that “they” stole an election. His appeal is Trump versus “them.”

On January 13, 2021, the House voted to impeach Donald Trump for the second time.

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America Defiled

Lately, I feel history being written. It is not merely a knowing but a visceral sensation. It is an odd feeling as if I sense the reverberation as history’s chisel impacts the stone of time and carves its story.

Amid all the infections and death caused by a virus spreading out of control in our country, the losing candidate in an election that took place over two months ago refuses to admit defeat. The loser, the incumbent president of the United States, says that he won by a landslide. He tells the 74 million people who voted for him that the numbers are false, there was massive fraud, and “they” have stolen the election. Most of them still seem to believe him even after two months of investigations, recounts, and lawsuits resulted in no credible evidence of fraud or theft.

Among the president’s supporters, many also deny the reality of the virus, which has infected more than 21 million people in the US and taken the lives of 359,000. This week, Americans are dying from coronavirus infections at the rate of 4,000 per day.

In November’s presidential election, the winner received more than 81 million votes, producing a victory in the electoral college, 306 to 232. On January 6, Congress met for the official count to confirm the election result.

In the days leading up to the official count, the incumbent urged his followers to come to Washington to rally in his support at a so-called Save America March. “Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted.

Addressing the rally crowd, he vowed never to concede, evidently believing his own lie that the election was somehow stolen. After riling up the mob, he said he would walk with them to the Capitol, telling them “you never take back our country with weakness.” But he did not walk with them.

An astonishing lapse of police planning and presence allowed the mob to surge easily beyond the undefended perimeter fencing and up the steps of the Capitol building. In minutes, the presidentially-inspired and -inflamed mob broke into the building. What ensued was a wild rampage of vandalism and desecration of the nation’s center and symbol of democracy.

The members of Congress, who had been evacuated to safety, returned to the Senate and House chambers that evening when the building had been cleared and the mob had been pushed back up the National Mall after a 6 pm curfew. They resumed their business of counting the electoral votes, subject to objections to the votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania by 147 Republicans led by Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and Representatives Paul Goser and Mike Kelly.

The president did not denounce the mayhem. Quite the contrary, in a video while the Capitol building was occupied by rioters, he claimed again that the election was fraudulent: “There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country.” He told the people who rioted in his name, carrying his flag and wearing his hats: “We love you. You’re very special.”

There can be no sensible doubt about the president’s culpability for the defilement of the Capitol building—and symbolically the defilement of Congress, of democracy and America itself. Some have suggested invocation of the 25th Amendment or a second impeachment to remove him from office, but these efforts are not likely to succeed. In any case, he will be out of power no later than January 20.

The mob was inspired by lies and fantasies about the election—the false belief that the incumbent was not the loser. So too were the 147 members of Congress who argued that the certified electoral votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania should not be counted.   

As horrible as it was, the riot that drove Congress into hiding for several hours on January 6 was a moment of unity. An attempt now to remove the president from office would turn that moment of unity into another tedious partisan divide. It would distract the nation’s attention from where it should be.

Our attention should be focused on the future and on the new president’s efforts to reverse the damage the loser caused and to right our country’s course onto a better, more hopeful, heading.

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    In the Senate last week, Mitch McConnell stood at the rostrum. He said in somber voice: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” Further, “self-government, my colleagues, requires a shared commitment to the truth and a shared respect…
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