Responsibility and law and order first, then – perhaps – we can begin to heal

It is both fascinating and infuriating to watch members of the GOP, long self-identified as the party of “law and order,” “personal responsibility,” and more recently the leading actors in the “Blue Lives Matter” playacting exercise, suddenly calling for “healing” and “unity.” If the mob that descended on the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday had actually been made up of leftist thugs, these same sensitive souls would be calling for putting the culprits in the same cages they’ve used for children on the Mexican border.

The law is clear about what seditious conspiracy is and how it should be punished. The Constitution – from which the ability to enact laws is derived – similarly includes specific punishments for persons holding state or federal offices who participate in an insurrection. Why don’t these “law and order,” “personal responsibility” Republicans want to follow those laws and punish the criminals who broke them? Why, after a generation of pious bullshit, are they suddenly leading a chorus of “Kum Ba Yah?”

There are two reasons, one more immediate and one the result of long-term trends and choices made by the leadership of the Republican Party.

In the immediate timeframe, there are credible reports that members of Congress themselves may have been involved in the planning and execution of the “rally” on January 6th, including providing information to leaders of the Capitol riot on where key members of Congress would be located and possibly how to move through the labyrinthine corridors and tunnels that make up the Capitol complex. If true, any member of Congress who was involved must be removed from office per Article III of the 14th Amendment. Beyond the individual humiliation of being removed from office, the loss of multiple GOP representatives and even senators would also affect the balance of power between the parties. While the Democrats currently hold both houses of Congress, the margin is slim in the House and as close as it could be in the Senate, where each caucus (including independents who vote with the Democrats) has 50 seats, making Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote if needed.

The long-term issue for Republicans has been how demographic change in the U.S. has been eroding their influence and voting numbers. This isn’t new. It’s been discussed for half a century, ever since the GOP developed its “Southern Strategy” in the wake of the civil rights movement in the sixties and particularly after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited discrimination based on race in voting and had the potential of adding millions of largely Democratic votes to the rolls.

Republicans could have changed their strategy and tried to reach out to the growing numbers of Hispanics and other immigrant populations. They even commissioned a report in 2012 after Barack Obama’s re-election that called for “an extensive outreach to women, African-American, Asian, Hispanic and gay voters [and] backing “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Sally Bradshaw, a Florida GOP strategist and one of the project’s co-chairs, said the party has been “continually marginalizing itself and unless changes are made it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.”

“Public perception of our party is at record lows,” Bradshaw said. “Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents and many minorities think Republicans don’t like them or don’t want them in our country. When someone rolls their eyes at us they aren’t likely to open their ears to us.”

Bradshaw added that the GOP “needs to stop talking to itself” and needs to open the tent in order to win presidential elections in the future.

“We have become expert at how to provide ideological information to like-minded people but, devastatingly, we have lost the ability to be persuasive with or welcoming to those who don’t agree with us on every issue,” Bradshaw said, noting they need to be “inviting and inspiring.”

Sound advice, right? But GOP leaders instead decided to double-down on their appeals to white, mostly male, and mostly less-educated, voters with a combination of fear-mongering, racism, white nationalism, xenophobia, voter suppression (including successful efforts to weaken the Voting Rights Act) and even religious fanaticism, both through conventional Christian groups and the rise of the QAnon mythos in the past few years.

This is how people who knew they were losing control of the country they’d always dominated behave. It’s a desperate defensive action by conservative Republicans (who are, incidentally, neither conservative nor small-r republicans) to hold on to power. Under other circumstances, appeals to healing and unity would have been welcomed. But where were those appeals for the past four years (and even during the Obama presidency)?

There can be no healing, there can be no unity, until those who created the environment that made it possible for a fraud like Donald Trump to be president of the United States recognize their culpability and accept the reality of the situation. That includes, first, acknowledging – with no hesitation or caveats – that the 2020 election was held fairly and Joe Biden will be president beginning at noon on January 20. Those responsible for the outrage of 1/6 then must be held accountable, through arrests, fair trials, and appropriate punishment; expulsion from Congress where required by the Constitution; and even the impeachment and conviction of the president for his support of the actions of last week.

Only then will we truly be able to move beyond this dark time in American history and attempt to heal and find common ground. It will not be easy and there are no guarantees, but our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

If not now, when?

Yes, the people responsible for the insurrection on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol must be arrested and prosecuted.

I know there are political reasons why sometimes crimes are not pursued by law enforcement and the court system. There can be extenuating circumstances. Those do not, and can not, apply here.

This is not someone being charged with misdemeanor being let off with a light sentence or some community service. This was a planned and executed attack on our democracy, aided and encouraged by members of our own Congress and White House staff, up to and including the president of the United States.

It was sedition. That’s a serious charge, and not a common one, fortunately. But seditious conspiracy it was, per 18 U.S. Code § 2384 (emphasis mine):

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

That’s what happened Wednesday. A mob, armed with various weapons, invaded the U.S. Capitol while the House and Senate were in session, seeking at the very least to disrupt (to “force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States”) the certification of the Electoral College votes. They were successful. According to numerous reports and video evidence, they also intended to cause bodily harm to, possibly kidnap, and perhaps even attempt to execute members of Congress and even the Vice President for being “traitors.” Political party wouldn’t have mattered, in fact, it’s doubtful the mob would have been thoughtful enough to have bothered to determine whether the person they were targeting was a Republican or Democrat.

That’s the part Trump’s enablers still don’t seem to understand. They still think they have control of the MAGAites. They don’t anymore. They will just as quickly turn on them as they did on Mike Pence, who has been a dedicated yes-man for the president for four years but refused, in the end, to go rogue on Wednesday. Or perhaps that’s why they’re still kowtowing to the Trump brigade: they’re afraid of the monster they created.

This has to be dealt with, immediately and severely. We’ve never had elements of our own government attempt to overthrow the results of a legitimate election before, much less encourage violence in doing so. Those who carried out the desecration of the Capitol on Wednesday must be identified, arrested, and put on trial for sedition and other crimes. And those who stood by and goaded them on must also be dealt with. Watching “Senators” Hawley and Cruz and over one hundred “representatives” including minority “leader” Kevin McCarthy continue their fraudulent objections to the will of the voters of Arizona and Pennsylvania – even after hiding from the mob they helped create – made me physically ill. They have violated their oaths and no longer are qualified to serve in Congress. Everyone involved must be dealt with. There can be no political exceptions.

Otherwise, what’s the point of having laws against sedition? I know it’s a serious crime and it’s a sensitive issue. But if we’re not going to enforce them after what we all witnessed in real time on Wednesday afternoon, then when will we? If there’s no punishment for fomenting an insurrection, we will certainly continue to have them. And the decline of the American experiment will most assuredly continue into the next several years.

It was sedition. Arrest. Prosecute. Punish. There is no other alternative.

Lancing our national boil

What can be said that hasn’t already been said about today’s embarrassing and despicable events at the U.S. Capitol. It would have been embarrassing and despicable even before a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an act of insurrection that hasn’t been seen in the United States since the Civil War.

The cynicism of people like Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz is breathtaking. Trying to gain favor with Trump’s cabal, they jumped at the chance to align themselves with those who were creating political theater over the election results, even if that effort was doomed from the start.

Trump’s encouragement of the mob, however, took today to a different level. His speech to the crowd this morning, telling them he’d be with them as they marched to the Capitol (of course he wasn’t), surely contributed to the violence and lawlessness that we witnessed.

In an odd way, though, I’m relieved that this happened today. I think if we hadn’t had something as awful as today happen, our national split may have gone on for years. But the images we saw today may have lanced our national boil. Several of the “Dirty Dozen” are disavowing their support of the objection scheme as I type this. It just might get us past some of this in the end. It cost at least one person their life and many others were injured, but if it moves us toward some national reconciliation, it may have a positive effect.

It’s not over, of course. Tomorrow is another day, but combined with the election of two Democratic senators in Georgia last night, it does seem a bit more hopeful.