It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Trumpists attacked the seat of democracy at the U.S. Capitol. As horrific and despicable as that was, I’m even more worried now than I was then. It’s become readily apparent, in my mind, that the only way we ever can begin to reverse this troubling march to a failed democracy is for the disgraced 45th president to be charged and prosecuted for trying to overturn a legal and fair election.
The idea that we need to move on from that day, promulgated by the Republican Party and their backers in the right-wing media world, cannot be further from the truth. Because the fact remains, and there can be no doubt, that, but for Donald J. Trump, January 6, 2021, does not happen. In other words, he bears all of the responsibility and subsequently must pay for his crimes.
Those on the radical right will say he believed in his gut that the election was stolen from him, which drove his actions afterward. He’d surely use that as a defense in any subsequent court case. But to believe such BS is to disregard what any sane person would think.
The millions of us who are not insane and voted in the 2020 election know what happened, as did all 50 state governments, including many led by Republican and Trump-loving governors. The election was certified, audited, and audited even more. There can be no question whatsoever who won the election, yet, the man who legally and fairly lost continues to push the Big Lie daily.
In my mind, and I’ve said it before, Trump is the most dangerous man in America, for he represents the idea that the will of the people can be overturned if the loser of the presidential race can’t handle that they lost. It’s the bedrock of our democracy that a smooth and orderly transition and concession from the losing candidate is paramount. Otherwise, our government institutions are at risk to the whims of a crazy man.
It’s never happened before, not in the history of the United States of America, where we did not have a smooth transition. Sure we’ve had contested and close elections. But in the end, the loser concedes because it’s the only way a functioning democracy can ever survive.
Look no further than the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore if you want a recent example. If you’re going to talk about a close election, that would be the one. Bush eventually won the Electoral College, 271–266. The election that year came down to one state, Florida, where Bush had a lead of slightly more than 500 votes. There was much confusion that night, with Gore at one point conceding to Bush — then retracting it when the vote count was shown to be much closer.
Without retracing all of the details, the race was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which stopped the Florida Supreme Court-ordered recount of approximately 45,000 undervotes. Many on the progressive side wanted Gore to keep challenging the results in court. But, in an act of true patriotism, Gore gave up the fight and conceded on December 13, 2000. In his speech doing so, he said the following:
“I accept the finality of the outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”
We saw no such concession from Trump, and the contest was nowhere near as close as Bush v. Gore. Again, had there been such a concession, January 6 would have been nothing more than watching Congress do their Constitutional duty officially certifying the election. Not only did he not concede the election when warranted, but when asked whether he would do so several months earlier by reporters, he refused. “We’ll see what happens,” he said at the time.
This behavior, of course, was nothing new when it came to the former president. He began sowing the seeds of so-called election fraud months before he and Hillary Clinton faced off in 2016. If he won, everything was fair and square. If he lost, it’s because the Democrats stole it from him. Sort of a heads I win, tails you lose strategy.
And it simply ended up being the same playbook in 2020. Only this time, there was much more at stake. With several investigations hovering over him, Trump knew he had to win at all costs. It’s what would enable him to avoid accountability no matter what. He could pardon all who stayed loyal and ride out the statute of limitations on whatever came his way.
So, of course, he was willing to pull out all stops to stay in power. And he had scores of people around him who were more than willing to do his bidding to do just that. But here we are a year later, and accountability is nowhere in sight. Yes, the foot soldiers of the attack are still being rounded up and charged, as have some far-right white supremacist groups.
We did hear from Attorney General Merrick Garland yesterday, reminding us that the wheels of justice are painstakingly slow. It was refreshing to hear him say that those who were at the Capitol that day, and even those who were not, would all be held to account, no matter what level of power they might possess.
But what we did not hear from the Attorney General was whether Trump’s actions leading up to January 6 were being pursued. What about the phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State, demanding he “find” 11,780 votes? Is that not an attempt to corruptly influence and overturn a legal election?
We do not know what’s going on at the Justice Department. We can only hope those wheels begin to churn a bit faster because before we know it, it’s going to be 2024. Is there any doubt now that Trump is planning to run again?
If only ten more Republican senators had grown a spine and held Trump accountable at the second impeachment trial. They could have kept him from ever seeking political office again. Instead, they failed the American people. Now we’re left with the January 6th Committee that does seem to have the former president in their crosshairs. We can only hope because time is running out, folks.
Joe Biden, today, delivered what has to be considered his most incredible speech as President, calling out the disgraced 45th for the Big Lie. It’s the kind of speech many of us have been wanting from Biden for a long time.
It was personal, and it was all true. One of the best lines of the speech went right at the heart of the matter:
“He values power over principle. His bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy. He can’t accept that he lost.”
Biden can’t come out to say we need to arrest the man. He can’t tell his Justice Department to launch an investigation into the former president. It wouldn’t be prudent, and it’s not what the norms of our democracy say he should do. By the way, those are the norms that Trump never adhered to or ever believed.
But make no mistake, the only way we’ll ever be able to safeguard our beloved democracy is to use every lever of power we have left in the federal government to investigate, charge, and convict the disgraced 45th president for trying to overturn a legal and valid election.
Are there risks to charging him? Of course. We’ve never done it before in this country, and those are the kinds of things familiar to third-world banana republics. And for sure, his lunatic supporters would rise to his defense as they always do, elevating him to a politically persecuted martyr.
So be it. It’s worth the risk, for we cannot let the actions of a dangerous and corrupt man go unpunished. To do so merely allows for the possibility of it happening again — the next time, God forbid, with an even more despicable demagogue.
We simply must meet the moment. Joe Biden met the moment today in his speech to the country. The question now is, will the rest of our government of the people, by the people, and for the people rise to the occasion and take a stand for the survival of democracy?