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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