No Country for Honest Men
Sitting in the kitchen with an after dinner coffee I watched as my mother-in-law — belle maman, as she prefers — took a long drag on her cigar and blew the smoke out the window over the sink. “I wish you wouldn’t be so political,” she intoned slowly so I could understand her French.
It was not a comment I hadn’t heard before, but it did seem strange coming from a strong feminist like her. “Why?” I asked genuinely interested.
She shook her head. “I don’t want you running for office.”
“Who said anything about running for office. I just write.” In truth I was lying. I have been toying with the idea of running for office for years. In my childhood I pushed it to the back of my mind because there were not really any female politicians and I didn’t think I would be able to do it without marrying a politician first and then after visiting the state Capitol I had realized that the smell of the building was overbearingly decrepit. I reviled the idea of every morning having to dress in a scratchy suit and go to an old ugly building like that to discuss things only old white men may have. As an archaeologist I love old things. But the smell of something which is simply a few hundred or thousand years old is very different from the smell of something which has stagnated. But recently it hasn’t escaped me that I might be the political equivalent of air freshener.
My belle maman had other concerns. “They might assassinate you.”
“Why on earth might they assassinate me?”
“They killed Kennedy. And my son will be right there with you. What if he’s in the line of fire?” Maybe it was the wine we had had with dinner, but she was clearly imagining me as President being paraded in an open roof car through a throng of excited Texans as a radicalized sniper took aim from a sixth floor window. I briefly wondered how my partner would look in a nice Chanel pillbox hat. Very silly, I decided.
“I’m not even running for office,” I stated. “I’m not President and it’s pretty unlikely I ever would be. And besides, the last credible assassination attempt of a US President was on Reagan before I was even born.” And then I said the one thing which would soon thereafter prove to be untrue. “If I go into politics it will be in America, and we have a democratic process. We don’t shoot our politicians or engage in violence to change the government. It may be a bloodsport but it’s not that kind of bloodsport.”
At this point my father-in-law stepped in to rescue me. My partner and I, as all couples do, have a particular love language. And in ours he will often joke how he will spend his time as First Gentleman. Apparently, should I ever become President, the First Gentleman’s chosen program will be “No Naked Feet,” he will divide his time between the tennis courts and golfing, and any and all State Dinners will have an intentionally weird seating plan. There is also the genuine possibility that he may choose to greet a dignitary entirely in the nude. I have voiced my displeasure.
Although, I did ask him to expand on his plans for “No Naked Feet,” and apparently it’s an early childhood care plan which makes sure that children have appropriate medical care, nutrition, education, and clothing through at least grammar school. He also elaborated that he wanted to put together athletic clubs and encourage physical activity for American children and sponsor or encourage programming language training in middle school and high school. And he came up with this on a bus while I was poking fun at him.
Before the Trump era, I would have been right. America has a lot of faults but we had free and fair elections* and the peaceful transition of power from at least 1788 (or 1797 if you want both) until 2016. And even though 2016 was marred with clear voter suppression and Russian interference there was still a peaceful transition of power. In the 2020 election Democrats — including myself — fought hard to safeguard the election. I was involved in an effort to register voters and help voters get their ballots sent in when they could not vote in person. In a lot of cases we crashed up against Republican Party efforts to disenfranchise voters. This wasn’t really new, but given how hard Trump and his party had been working to undermine all US elections since and including 2016 it was pretty enraging.
*Terms and conditions apply if you don’t happen to be a white man.
Our efforts, I believe, saved the country. If we had done nothing the Republicans would have been able to suppress the vote and change laws such that — for whatever stupid reason — Democratic votes didn’t count. But because Americans showed up and voted and fought for their rights to vote and insisted upon a free and fair election Trump lost again. But this time, crucially, he not only lost the popular vote as he had in 2016 but also the Electoral College vote. Try though they had, Republicans were unable to manipulate the tallies to their advantage.
In 2016, despite the fact that she had won the election and despite the fact that the Electoral College loss was likely an artefact of Russian interference Hillary Clinton did not press the issue. She conceded. She conceded the very night of the election. Obama, by then the outgoing President sanctioned Russia for it’s attack on American democracy, but also supported Clinton in her decision to concede. It became readily clear that the election had been very likely manipulated in key districts and it additionally became clear that that manipulation had taken place with the knowledge of and at the behest of the Trump campaign. And yet, Clinton did not raise legal challenges because she understood the importance of the peaceful transfer of power. She encouraged the majority of Americans who had voted for her to accept the election and wished Donald Trump the best. She did not complain, she did not rage, I’m sure she cried, but she upheld the notion of a peaceful transition.
No Democrat of the modern era would ever consider fomenting a coup or attacking the Capitol regardless of how deeply corrupt Republican leadership proved to be. Nixon committed all manner of crimes and dealt with no insurgency. Bush condoned torture and saw no insurgency. McConnell prevented Obama from performing his duties as President and refused to hold hearings on the seating of Merrick Garland and not a single Democratic voter stormed the Senate to stop him. Regardless of what Republicans will say over and over again the real party of law and order is the Democrats. Republicans will use the judiciary to squash opposition, but they don’t believe they are subject to the law. Democrats use legislation to further the American Dream and see law and order as applying all people equally. A real Democrat in this era would not be able to reasonably contemplate storming the Capitol even in the face of the hypocritical and overt lawlessness in which the Republicans engage.
The defeated rebels who called themselves the confederacy and built their case on the backs of Black slaves were once a creation of the Democratic Party. But in the modern era that racist legacy belongs to the Republicans. The Republicans who once put down the racist insurrection have now perverted themselves and the idea of law to reanimate its rotted corpse.
And that repulsive, authoritarian, zombie infestation is what staged that inept and hypocritical attack on the United Stated Capitol.
In one of my recent articles on this I made the case that Trump and these terrorist insurgents need to be punished. And specifically they need to be punished because they were NOT punished after the Civil War. They may hail from a different Party and the flesh may be a bit more rotted this time around, but these are essentially the same people. They were pardoned and this was their reaction. They tried to destroy the nation.
For that take, some guy on Twitter decided to ignore all the precedents of dealing with fascism and hate and tell me that I am “way off base.” But you know something? I will give that dude the benefit of the doubt because he wrote that before reporting came out about the full extent of the coup attempt. He’s a white guy so the various threats and struggles that everyone else in American society deals with on a daily basis as a result of these racist anti-American terrorists probably escaped him. He probably didn’t at that point know that a police officer was actually murdered in the course of this or that it will be largely Black janitors who have to clean up the likely Covid contaminated faeces smeared in the Capitol building or that all signs point to Trump and his administration having a direct hand in allowing the insurrection to go on as long as it did.
For their crimes, those who participated in the attempted coup will be arrested and charged. Some — many of whom identified themselves on their own social media — have already been arrested. Nancy Pelosi has issued a warning that if Trump’s cabinet does not immediately invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him she will impeach him. When she and Chuck Schumer who will in a few days become the Senate Majority Leader attempted to call outgoing Vice-President Pence to discuss Trump’s removal, Pence left them on hold for twenty-five minutes. As a direct result of Pence’s failure to uphold his oath and Trump’s criminal attempt to commit a coup Trump will become the first President in American history to be impeached twice and there is a possibility he will be the first to be removed from office.
In a normal Presidential election people’s emotions flare up, accusations are tossed about, and people cast one another as ridiculous caricatures as opposed to actual people. But the marvel of the American system of democracy has been — prior to Wednesday — that we, or at least or elected officials could put that to one side and work at least nominally in the name of the American people. This is the first time in our history outside of the Civil War where a coup d’etat has been fomented and it is certainly the first time it has happened at the orders and with the help of a sitting President. In normal elections once they’re tallied — in November — we do need to come together as a country and work to reconcile. In this case though … Trump and his supporters attempted a violent overthrow of the state in order to cement his regime.
And I’m not exaggerating. In my earlier article I noted that one of the insurgents was pictured with zip ties. The plan, and apparently this was the plan known to Bill Barr and the reason he resigned when he did, was to capture the Capitol, take lawmakers hostage, and start executing them until they were willing to overturn the election. I took exception when Bernie supporters started sending me pictures of guillotines because that is a death threat. I don’t care if you want to pretend it’s funny to send women or people of colour pictures of guillotines, if that’s your sense of humour then 1.) you’re not funny and 2.) you’re a white supremacist. Same deal applies here. Except moreso because there was an actual gallows erected and they were trying to kidnap and murder people. I don’t like giving ANY form of white supremacist any leeway, but at least the BernieBros couldn’t figure out where many of us actual progressives live.
Anyway, in previous articles on QAnon I’ve repeatedly stated that radicalization often grows out of a sense of isolation and lack of community. So if you fear that a family member or friend is at risk of being radicalized it is really helpful for you to reach out to that person with kindness. But once they implement a plan to storm the Capitol and execute duly elected legislators, the soft touch approach just doesn’t cut it. We need to throw the book at every last person involved in this from soon to be Ex-President Trump all the way down to the likes of that idiot (named Kevin Greeson) who managed to tase himself multiple times in the scrotum while trying (and failing) to steal a painting.
Once they start committing acts of violence and acting to destroy democracy they do not deserve pardons, or reconciliation, or understanding, or what have you. We are a country of law and order. And we need to demonstrate that those apply equally to everyone.