“In any case this week has probably finished (Trump) as a serious political figure. He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the Senate. Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.”
“It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.”
Wall Street Journal editorial, January 7, 2021
“Trump warns of ‘bedlam,’ declines to rule out violence after court hearing”
Washington Post headline, January 9, 2024
A failure of imagination, the inability to consider the probability attached to something that no American alive has experienced, could portend the death knell of the world’s oldest democracy.
Think about it.
What are Donald Trump and his most fevered supporters – not to mention those officeholding Republicans who lack the moral clarity to oppose his ridiculous, fact-free ignorance and desire to rule like a Mafia don – trying to do?
Quite simply the Trumpians need to rewrite the history of what happened three years ago this month. They have to keep alive the demonstrable big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. They must challenge the fact that a violent insurrection to prevent the lawful counting of electoral votes for president and threatened the vice president, among others, was merely a peaceful protest of patriots. The more than 700 of our fellow citizens who have pled guilty or been found guilty of participating in the assault on the Capitol aren’t criminals, in this whitewash they are “hostages.”
Additionally, the MAGA crowd must convince just enough gullible Americans through lies, stupid social media posts, phony news sites and unhinged Trump rallies that the Orange God is a victim simply because the nation’s prosecutors and courts are attempting to get to the bottom of his vast range of criminal behavior.
By the normal rules of American politics, given his boorish personal behavior, his incitement of insurrection, his footsie with dictators, his civil conviction of rape charges, his White House grifting and his obvious disdain for our Constitution Donald Trump would have been consigned to the dust bin of history. It is the man’s great – and only gift – that he can lie his way through all of it.
The rewriting of history is necessary to keep Trump from accountability, all he really cares about, and make sure he can live to corrupt again. We are living in Trump’s Orwellian word of up is down, in is out and a get out of jail free card is his prize. And it will get worse – much worse.
It is a great threat to American democracy – arguably the greatest since the Civil War – that members of his own party let him get away with it and in doing so endorse the clear threat that he has long been. They imagine he can be tamed. It’s a fiction.
Consider one of his enablers, a Republican senator from Oklahoma most Americans have never heard of and when his career has ended will not remember why he mattered. But Senator Markwayne Mullin does matter in one sense. In video of January 6, 2021 that became public this week at a trial of one of the “patriots,” Mullin, then a congressman, can be seen and heard with another Republican lawmaker admonishing the attackers of democracy. “You should be ashamed,” they said.
Mullin was there.
He saw what happened.
He’s a big, burly guy, but he would have been foolish not to fear what would happened if the attackers busted through the door he was standing behind with a Capital police officer.
Despite his personal experience on January 6, Mullin endorsed Trump on February 10, 2023, one of the earliest Trump endorsements by a sitting senator. He made his endorsement knowing what Trump had done. The same goes for the 22 other incumbent GOP senators who have endorsed Trump as of this week, most of whom voted not to convict him of inciting insurrection.
And consider the case of another Republican senator, Jim Risch of Idaho. Risch was in the Capital on January 6. We know, not from him but from the vast video record of that infamous day, that Risch’s own private office in the Capitol was trashed by the Trump “patriots.” He has never said anything about those events – nothing.
When I first filed this piece last Thursday, Risch hadn’t endorsed Trump for another term, but I predicted that he would. And true to form, late on Saturday he made his endorsement, not to an Idaho media outlet but rather where the endorsement would gain maximum inside the Beltway exposure.
In a statement to Politico, released just before the Iowa caucus, Risch said: “I realize President Trump greatly aggravates the left and the national media. I believe that is a small price to pay for righting this ship of state which is so greatly listing. I hope Republicans will join me in nominating President Trump.”
“Aggravated the left and national media?”
The gaslighting is simply astounding. It’s as if the last seven years, January 6, all the indictments and incitement never happened. The rewriting of history in a nutshell.
The hyperpartisan Idahoan couldn’t resist a swipe at Joe Biden for “reversing” Trump’s foreign and domestic policies. Of course, he offered no specifics.
Risch knows what Trump did after the last election and during the course of his chaotic presidency it simply doesn’t make any difference to him.
Perhaps the greatest failure of imagination in American political history occurred when Republican senators refused to hold Trump to account via a conviction during his impeachment trial for the events leading up to and including January 6.
One rationale for refusing to disqualify Trump – Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, said as much – was that, despite his clear responsibility for the insurrection, Trump could still be held to account by the criminal justice system.
That is happening, which is why Trump is so aggressively and improperly attacking the special counsel and others who have charged him and intend to try him. And, of course, Trump isn’t really attempting to defend himself from the indefensible. He’s frantically trying to delay his days in court. He’s offering up fantasy defenses, including that he can’t be held accountable for anything he did while president.
To make this defense even remotely plausible Trump has argued that the failure to convict him in the Senate was in effect exoneration for January 6. “Interestingly,” as historian Heather Cox Richardson noted recently, “Trump’s argument that he cannot now be charged with crimes makes the Republican senators who voted to acquit him complicit. It’s an acknowledgement of what was clear all along: they could have stopped him at any point, but they repeatedly chose not to. Now he is explicitly suggesting that their behavior shields him from answering to the law.”
Democracy can and may die in many ways. Most notably when those most directly charged with upholding democratic values succumb to their egos, give in to their need for power and embrace what are clearly anti-democratic actions, including inciting insurrection and violating the Constitution.
It is not original to me to refer to these politicians, men like Mullin and Risch, as “Vichy Republicans.” The reference is to the politicians who went along through ambition, ego, fear or need to cling to any shred of power to accept the abandonment of French democracy in 1940.
They accommodated even when they knew it was wrong, profoundly wrong.
That shameful period, the embrace of a treasonous armistice that forged a corrupt alliance with their country’s Nazi German occupiers, still clouds the French nation and haunts French politics. That’s the thing about expediency – to accept the unacceptable you must come to refuse to imagine what principle and character can accomplish.
When the French nation attempted, after World War II, to reckon with their own “Vichy Republicans,” it was left to the resisters, most notably Charles de Gaulle, to rebuild from the rubble.
But the epitaph of this shameful period was left to a former French premier Léon Blum, who had resisted and was imprisoned by the Nazis. Testifying during the treason trial of President Philippe Petain in 1945, Blum recalled how he saw men – the Vichy traitors to French democracy – “transformed and corrupted in front of [his] eyes, as if they had been dipped into some kind of toxic bath.”
The modern Republican Party is wallowing in its own toxic bath. We really must work to imagine what comes next.
There’s nothing debatable about the Constitutional requirements to become president
Marc Racicot, the former governor of Montana and one-time chair of the Republican National Committee, is a Never Trump conservative. Also a very accomplished lawyer, former attorney general and prosecutor. He has also been ridden out of the Republican Party for his opposition to Donald Trump.
Racicot argued powerfully this week that the 14th amendment to Constitution requires Trump’s disqualification.
“If you’ve taken an oath of office to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution’ and you thereafter betray its provisions by engagement in insurrection or rebellion, the 14th Amendment Disqualification Rule forever bars you from seeking that office again.”
Which states will join the new summer meal program for low-income kids? Here’s the list.
It is, to put it mildly, a forehead slapper of a story.
“Republican governors in 15 states are rejecting a new federally funded program to give food assistance to hungry children during the summer months, denying benefits to 8 million children across the country.”
Here’s the detail … followed by the head slap.
By the way, Nebraska’s Governor Jim Pillen, one of the nation’s biggest hog farmers and a pretty well-to-do guy is also rejecting the summer school lunch money. The governor said, “I don’t believe in welfare.”
Tell that to a hungry kid, governor.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s stance against the Vietnam War and how fight for peace in the Middle East
I highly recommend the daily newsletter The Conversation, thoughtful, well-researched articles on current events and history written by academics for an informed audience. Really good work.
This piece is by Hajar Yazdiha, a scholar at the University of Southern California.
Churchill’s Test of Freedom – Then and Now
A great speech from August 1944 proposed seven tests regarding freedom. It still applies.
From writer and historian Richard Langworth. I recommend signing up for his periodic newsletters.
Thanks, as always. Stay out of the cold. All the best.