Why several things must happen before our nation can “move on”
As you’ve probably already noticed, there’s a problematic narrative being spun by a number of conservatives in the aftermath of the Trump presidency and it goes like this: Trump’s lack of success in the White House wasn’t so much about any fundamental flaw in his agenda or its basic purpose; rather, it was the result of him allowing unnecessary “distractions” and personal foibles to get in the way.
If Trump had simply stayed focused and not allowed himself to wander off into undisciplined and counterproductive personal actions and battles, goes this troubling argument, his presidency would have been a success. Indeed, say these apologists, it was a success in many important ways that have simply been obscured by the chaos and hubbub that surrounded his personal conduct.
This contention is not only false, but dangerous.
The hard truth is that, as the final weeks of his term and the horror of Jan. 6 ultimately made clear, the Trump presidency was rotten to its core.
Sure, not every single action that Trump took was evil, destructive or incorrect. This is true of all real and aspiring autocrats. Even Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un cut ribbons on new factories, approve appropriations and advance useful initiatives from time to time.
And much as caring and thinking people might passionately disagree with Trump’s policies on immigration, taxes, health care and raft of other important policy matters, those differences aren’t what set his presidency apart. This is not about policy differences.
What sets the Trump presidency apart from all those that preceded it in American history is the central and indisputable fact that it was, at its essence, based on lies (tens of thousands of them) and a fundamental unwillingness to accept and abide by the basic rules of our democracy. And the ultimate proof of this frightening truth was fully demonstrated in the events of the past few months when Trump and his supporters attempted to overturn an election he lost by decisive margins.
These massive flaws were more than a “distraction.” Trump and his supporters didn’t just get carried away or make a mistake born of over-zealousness. What has been happening in this country since Nov. 3 through Jan. 6 and until the present moment has constituted a clear and present danger to our democracy and way of life.
Indeed, numerous Trump supporters – many of them supposedly responsible elected officials like North Carolina State Sen. Bob Steinburg – continue to spread the outrageous and dangerous lie that Trump won the election and is being denied a second term by some kind of mysterious and diabolical conspiracy.
And that’s why we cannot just forget the last four years (and last few weeks), “move on” and and “get back to debating the substantive issues of the day.” Utterly maddening Trump apologists like U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio may claim that a reckoning for Trump and his accomplices will somehow spur “division” and inhibit national “healing,” but the truth is the direct opposite.
Ultimately, there cannot be any real healing or sense of unity in the nation until there is a reckoning for the disaster that befell it — a disaster that could have been exponentially worse had Trump somehow won reelection or the Capitol invaders located their intended targets. Maybe it was and is only a small, radicalized minority of the political right that supports Trump’s lies and attempted coup d’etat, but if that’s so, then the other members of that group need to publicly and explicitly acknowledge the truth.
Simply put: You don’t get to foment, bless and, effectively validate a violent insurrection targeting the seat of government and then simply return to business as usual a few days later as if nothing had happened and demand that we “turn down the temperature.”
And that’s why several things must occur before our country can get back to merely debating the issues, including:
- an impeachment trial for Trump in the Senate;
- the full investigation and, where appropriate, criminal prosecution of all those who participated in and abetted the insurrection – including members of Congress; and perhaps most important,
- a plain, public acknowledgement from all Republican leaders and elected officials that President Biden won the election fair and square.
The bottom line: The point of pursuing Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, prosecuting others who led and aided the invasion and requiring acknowledgement of Biden’s win is not about reliving the past. It is about drawing a line in the sand and establishing a clear precedent that such an across-the-board rejection of the basic rules and norms of our democracy poses an existential threat to its survival and will not be tolerated.