“America will always do the right thing,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once wryly observed, “but only after they have tried everything else.” While I like a good hot take as much as the next fellow, there are enough holes in this one to qualify it as a form of cheese.
For one thing, America does not always do the right thing, unless the “right thing” is meant as the “right-wing thing,” in which case the quip is both accurate and wrong simultaneously. In truth, America tends to do the right thing only after tripping over it in the dark. Of course we will try everything else first, if there’s money in it. And in many cases, we will never do the right (i.e. just and honorable) thing — or haven’t yet.
But Churchill meant it as a compliment and we will take it as such, on a day when the president himself lived up to the humor in the barb: Joe Biden has tried everything else short of open confrontation to deal with the ongoing national security crisis known as Donald Trump since taking office, to no avail. Today, on the anniversary of the afternoon Trump and his people tried to topple democracy itself, President Biden found his mettle and delivered the most important, and perhaps the best, speech of his entire political career.
“The big lie being told by the former president and many Republicans who fear his wrath is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day, November 3, 2020,” said Biden this morning alongside Vice President Kamala Harris. “Is that what you thought when you voted that day? They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riot that took place here on January 6th as a true expression of the will of the people. Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country, to look at America? I cannot.”
History will peer back at this passage of time with nearly incapacitating bewilderment. These Trump supporters, these “patriots” with their tactical sunglasses, these conspiracy sleuths and YouTube scholars, these people in their gaudiest Donald shirts, have been led to believe they are the saviors of this white plunder factory of a nation, because their hero lost the election and he’s worried he won’t be able to steal from them quite so brazenly anymore. Every fact they get wrong is further proof they are correct. They are the perfection of cognitive dissonance — and they are a symptom of a larger problem that goes far beyond Trump himself.
“While Republicans assault voting rights and the integrity of our elections, what fuels their advances is the rise of a gullible sector of the public ready to follow their leaders wherever they go,” writes Rebecca Solnit for The New York Times. “What’s often described as a weakness of the Democratic Party — the existence of a variety of views and positions, freely debated or even fought over, and a restless, questioning electorate — is a strength of democracy. The Republicans remain committed to punishing and casting out dissenters — such as Representative Liz Cheney, who has been ostracized since she recognized the criminality of Jan. 6 — only further inhibiting open debate and, these days, inconvenient facts.”
Grounded in white supremacy-driven dogma, they believe they are saving the country. That belief is what the country most desperately needs to be saved from, and soon, before the rolling pebbles become an avalanche and that old bloody band called “History” starts rhyming all over again.
“At least 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump’s false claims are running for statewide positions that would give them authority over the administration of elections,” reports The Washington Post. “The list includes 69 candidates for governor in 30 states, as well as 55 candidates for the U.S. Senate, 13 candidates for state attorney general and 18 candidates for secretary of state in places where that person is the state’s top election official.”
Yes, the GOP officeholders who still can’t bring themselves to say Trump lost the election out loud are working overtime to try and do it again. I’d wager some long green that not one federal-level Republican politician actually believes the election was stolen. Many of them know a grift when they see one, and this is one of the more masterful grifts ever spun. Plenty of them are in on it, sometimes gleefully, while the rest have chosen to either follow the herd mentality or get out of town altogether.
A majority of the country believes we are in trouble because of this elongated farce. Military generals are specifically concerned about where all this winds up in 2024, and are asking people to stop listening to those trying to sell pillows stuffed with lies.
Yet we are far down the wrong road now, and coming back will be a tricky deal. Even if some of Trump’s supporters can be convinced that they have been taken for a ride down Pickpocket Lane, that doesn’t diminish the forces — such as fascism, white supremacy and capitalism — that are undergirding Trumpism. We must acknowledge that even if the 1/6 commission succeeds in its important work, that work is only a beginning.