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.

Phone calls, strongmen, and sedition

A couple of observations, and then I’m going to recommend you read a column by Tom Nichols, who said exactly what I’m feeling and much better than I would if I tried.

  • The phone call. Another “perfect” phone call, just like the one to the Ukraine in 2019. I read the transcript first, and then had to listen to the audio because I needed to confirm what I suspected from reading Trump’s words. I’ve wondered for four years how much of his bullshit was him playing three-dimensional chess (as his supporters suggested) and how much of it he actually believed. After reading the conversation and then listening to his voice, I’m convinced he really believes he won the election. Losing is anathema to him, but this is beyond that. He’s sure he won. He had so many people at his rallies, there were dead people who voted, they ran Biden votes through the machines dozens of times. In his mind, those aren’t just talking points to try to get Georgia’s Secretary of State to lie, cheat, and steal and election for him, but absolute truths. And that’s far more frightening than if he just cynically and malevolently were trying to cry “fraud” in a crowded polling place. He’s president of the United States. He has, for another 15 plus days, the ability to create imaginable and unimaginable chaos because he’s a petty man-child who has inexplicably lost his favorite toy. He should have been removed by impeachment. He should have been removed by the 25th Amendment. He still should be, even with two weeks left in his term. Mike Pence should finish the term. I dislike Pence and disagree with everything about him at this point, but he’s not delusional.
  • Strongmen. I wrote about freedom versus order the other day. There’s a not-small demographic of our citizens who favor the strongman concept over democracy. It tends to be (but isn’t exclusively) white men, of course, who are used to being strongmen, at least inside the walls of their homes. Losing that power outside of their personal kingdoms, especially to women, people of color, those from ethnic and religious backgrounds they don’t like, and other “deviants” has pushed them ever closer to ditching the whole democracy thing in favor of autocracy. And Wednesday, we’ll get to see just which members of the Grand Old Party still believe in democracy and which ones support a dictatorship. Watch the vote closely and never forget. None of those who vote against democracy should ever be taken seriously ever again.
  • Sedition. Tom Nichols said it better than I can. I highly recommend his honest and angry commentary on The Atlantic today. Early in the piece, he lays down his cards:

This is sedition, plain and simple. No amount of playacting and rationalizing can change the fact that the majority of the Republican Party and its apologists are advocating for the overthrow of an American election and the continued rule of a sociopathic autocrat.

We’ve had a lot of critical days in the past few months. Tomorrow’s election in Georgia and the drama in the House and Senate on Wednesday are two more, back to back. Our country is at a breaking point. It’s survived so far, but the outcome of the next two days will be vital to who we are moving forward.