January 6 is going to be one of those Never Forget days for me, for a long time. Maybe for the rest of my life.
One year ago today, a violent mob of domestic terrorists, inspired and commanded by an impeached fascist who lost a free and fair election, overran the United States Capitol in an attempted coup.
The coup failed in part because the defeated president was and is surrounded by people who were and are as incompetent as him, but by the end of the night, the fascist movement he leads had successfully assumed complete control of what had been called the Republican party, finally bringing into the open its enthusiastic embrace and promotion of white nationalism after keeping it hidden behind dog whistles for decades.
That was the most shocking thing for me, when I think about it. After all that violence, after the horror of it all, after we all watched our Congress come within a doorway of the unthinkable, they still stood by him. I mean. Wow.
I remember, in the evening of January 6 last year, listening to Lindsey Graham — Lindsey Graham, of all people! — declare from the floor of the Senate that he was done with Trump. Lindsey Graham! I listened to Mitch McConnell — the Senate Minority leader — remind everyone, for the Congressional record, that Trump bore responsibility for the attack. I remember watching two powerful, privileged, coddled men who were clearly shaken by what they had experienced. They seemed like people who had felt, maybe for the first time ever, a real threat to their lives, and they knew who was responsible for it. I remember feeling the faintest hope that, now that it was personal for them, the appalling violence of the insurrection would give Congressional Republicans an opportunity to actually put America first (not in the fascist slogan way, in the patriotic way), and purge Trump and his supporters from government. The McConnells and Grahams in the party got a lot out of him in four years: disatrous, unpopular tax cuts for billionaires, the most cruel and inhumane immigration policies imaginable, three SCOTUS seats, countless unqualified political operatives confirmed to lifelong seats in the federal judiciary. They got so much, moved the Overton Window so far to the right, surely they’d celebrate their victories and cut out the malignant cancer that was rotting not just their party but the entire political system in America. Regroup, and come after the Democrats in the midterms with a message that was aimed at the suburban voters who were appalled by Trump, but remain inexplicably cool with all the GOP policies that created him. A clean break was so easy and right there for the taking. I remember thinking, “If Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell are saying this on the record, it’s finally over. Thank God. It’s finally over. They are done protecting him. They’re still repugnant, but at least they aren’t full-on fascists.”
As it turned out, instead of forcing Trump and his fascists back to the fringe of their party, those Vichy Quislings put him in charge of the whole thing. It’s almost like they never had a problem with the appalling behavior that repulsed so much of America and the world: his embrace of white supremacists, his embrace and celebration of autocrats and dictators, his cruelty, his corruption, his belligerent refusal to do a single thing to protect us from Covid. It wasn’t until he almost got them killed that some of them were like “Hey, wait a second,” and even that only lasted for a few hours before all was swept under the rug. 147 Republican members of Congress, just hours after hiding from a violent mob that was there to kill their colleagues and hang the vice president of their party, stood with that mob and refused to accept the election results, as commanded by their defeated leader. When he was rightly impeached (becoming the first president in history to be impeached twice) a few weeks later, so-called “mainstream Republicans” [sic] had their clearest opportunity to reject the violence, the man who instigated it, and his movement. It would be a heavy lift with a lot of their voters, but they could do it. They EXCEL at coordinated, disciplined, communication. They could reasonably claim that maybe they got out over their skis a little bit, but now they could at least bring the country back from the brink of civil war. They could have made a vote to convict all about the Constitution. They could have made an argument to his supporters that they still thought he was awesome, but laws are laws and we all have to follow them. They could make the very reasonable argument that instigating that kind of violence and lawlessness was a bridge too far, even for them. It would have been tough for some of them. Some of them would likely face difficult conversations back home with people who believed the Big Lie, but the future of the country was at stake and like John McCain telling that lunatic woman that President Obama wasn’t a terrorist, show real leadership.
But all of that is predicated on what turns out to be the entirely incorrect presumption that there is any daylight at all between Trump and so-called “mainstream Republicans” [sic]. It would require us to believe that Trump and Trumpism was an outlier, not the logical and anticipated consequence of fifty years of Republican policies and Southern Strategy lies. Holding Trump accountable presumes that Republicans respect their oaths of office, that they hold some fundamental values other than the preservation and expansion of their own power, that they are willing to do the hard work of governing a diverse nation during extraordinary times with a commitment to improving the general welfare.
We all know how that turned out. All but seven Republican Senators — forty-three of fifty members in the upper chamber — protected him and embraced his Big Lie. In the year since, they have doubled down on it, and they have not stopped insisting that we did not see what we saw one year ago today with our own eyes.
Depending on one’s point of view, it’s either a bug or a feature, but FIFTY-NINE PERCENT of Republicans still believe the Big Lie. Fifty. Nine. Percent. The next mob is all primed and ready to go. They are even asking when they get to use their guns to go shoot Democrats. Years ago, it was Republican pundit David Frum who said that when Republicans couldn’t win votes in a democratic election, they wouldn’t change their policies to win over more voters, they’d just reject Democracy entirely. That sounded nuts at the time, but holy shit was he right.
I hope that the people behind the coup attempt will be meaningfully held to account, so this never happens again. I hope they’ll go to prison, all of them. Hannity, Meadows, Bannon, Eastman, Gosar, Boebert, Cawthorn, Hawley, all the Trumps, all of them. They are all traitors. I hope that all the Democrats, including the execrable Joe Manchin and the loathsome Krysten Sinema, do whatever it takes to secure free and fair elections in America at the federal level while they still have the chance. Because if they don’t, the next coup, which is already in motion, will succeed.
So on this one year anniversary of Trump’s failed coup, as we continue to hold him to account, do not forget for one second all the Republicans who enabled and continue to enable him. They’re evil, not stupid. They won’t fail a second time.