The 11th hour disavowal of Trump has been swift and sweeping.
A surprising number of Republican senators who, at the start of the day on Wednesday, planned to perpetuate the fiction of a stolen election withdrew their demands to “investigate” once night fell. The most surprising was Kelly Loeffler, who had nothing to lose having been defeated in her GA runoff election only hours earlier by Raphael Warnock. (The most entertaining was Lindsey Graham who seemed to be inebriated as he stumbled around giving what sounded like a tipsy retirement party farewell.) But whatever the political theatre or level of imbibing, the overall mood for political vitriol was dampened by the violence of armed Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol hours before. While many Republicans were quick to attribute the violence to bad choices on the part of a rogue few, it was undeniable that the proverbial chickens had come home to roost. Republicans had unleashed conspiracy theories that they could no longer control, and they had become the targets of their own manifest rage.
Rumblings about resignations from the politically-panicked started coming in from Trump’s administration almost immediately as face-saving politicians started to back peddle their life choices to preserve what was left of their future in polite society. Even Facebook and Twitter, long hiding behind unsatisfactory “freedom of speech” claims in allowing dangerous lies to be spread on their platforms, took the unprecedented move to ban Trump’s inflammatory posts. Beginning on Wednesday night, Senators, Representatives, political and civic organizations started calling for the removal of the President under the 25th Amendment or articles of impeachment. Simon and Schuster even canceled a contract for Josh Hawley’s book citing as cause the deadly “insurrection” that he helped to foment.
The impetus for the long-overdue corporate and politically bi-partisan condemnation of violent extremism, hatred, antisemitism, bigotry, and racism as an American political tool was the insurrection that took place on the Capitol grounds. The storming of one of our most sacred political sites, the US Capitol, on the day of one of our most important constitutional rituals, the peaceable transfer of power, was done at Donald Trump’s behest. The violence and confrontation were incited by a sitting president. Never had we see that kind of authoritarian power used in modern US politics and it was frightening.
The primary anarchists responsible for the destruction, criminal acts, and violence at the Capitol signaled their ideologies of hatred in the form of various symbols: The Confederate Flag, the antisemitic QAnon logo and its horned, furry mascot, an antisemitic t-shirt with a pro-Holocaust phrase, flags, patches, and symbols of the III-percenters, the National Anarchists Movement, Proud Boys, and more. Nooses were hung around the grounds of the capitol. Conspiracies about Jews were entwined with cloaked language about saving and protecting the good people from the “other” people. Hatred was everywhere on display.
Five people were killed. One woman was shot inside the Capitol by Police. 56 MPD officers were injured. One was pulled into a crowd and beaten. One officer died from injuries sustained in the melee. Trump did nothing to respond until hours later when he filmed a love letter to the insurrectionists, and—clearly under pressure—asked them to go home.
The chaos of the insurrection was made more painful by the unprepared and inept display of acquiescence by the Capitol police and other law enforcement agencies. It was not lost on anyone with a TV and a conscience that the reaction of law enforcement and the national guard to the George Floyd protesters earlier in the summer was far more violent than the response at the Capitol where armed insurrectionists strolled about unmolested and uninterrupted by anyone. People with too much time on their hands and absolutely no clue about how American government actually works randomly looted the Capitol, destroyed media equipment, and helped themselves to Nancy Pelosi’s chair (which I hope she later burned in effigy after confirming Biden’s win on the House floor) with impunity.
The unplanned and sophomoric boredom of the insurrectionists milling about once they breached the Capitol was even more horrifying to watch because it reinforced how senseless and useless all of it actually was.
But was it shocking?
No. This is not a shock.
To all of you out there feigning ignorance about the depth of violence embedded in Trump’s rhetoric or clutching at your pearls in horror that you never envisioned this kind of thing could be possible here:
My answer to you and all your 11th hour resignations, condemnations, and calls for removal of an unfit president is a resounding NO.
You do not get to pretend that you didn’t know this was possible just because you chose not to hear and chose not to see.
If you voted for Trump, you voted for this.
The “I didn’t know” excuse has been found wanting time and time again in the court of historical trajectory. History is replete with ordinary citizens, minor leaders, and paper-pushing bureaucrats from all walks of authoritarian life who, at the time of total political implosion, earnestly decried: “I’m sorry! I didn’t know! If I could do this again differently, I would!”
Such attempts at personal distancing from the destructive whole is the real fiction of this story. It is an act of cowardice, not rebuke. It is an act of self-preservation, not heroism. To tout Senators like Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney for their 5-second public break with Trump after they found themselves under armed attack is a lie because they are part of the poison that allowed this pandora’s box to be opened for as long as it was in the first place.
My answer to all of this political and cultural theatre is no.
You knew into whose bed you were getting. Whether you are true believers, or just true believers in making decisions that prioritized your needs over the American collective doesn’t really matter anymore. The end result of the myriad motivations was the same.
You are culpable.
You are accountable.
You had choices at all points along the way to say no. To say stop. To march out loud for good.
You chose to nod along, to double down, or to say nothing at all—which is a form of yes in its deafening silence.
You didn’t have to be the one who sat in Nancy’s chair, or who overturned historic desks, or who passed chairs through broken windows to allow others to climb in (why didn’t they just open the doors?), but that doesn’t mean that you didn’t allow this to happen through your vote, through your acquiescence, through your inaction.
The US Capitol police will take the hit for their insanely inept response and total lack of preparation, but on no planet is there an accepted version of the excuse that the US electorate and every sitting politician in office lacked the imagination to conceive that violence of this nature was a possibility under Trump’s insistence.
For the last four years, the drumbeat of prejudice, violence, and hatred has been there. For the last four years, scholars, academics, politicians, and diplomats from prior administrations and other countries have warned us that rhetoric precedes action in all cases; that this is going to get ugly.
So you can point fingers and lay blame;
You can claim ignorance;
You can distract with hysterical declarations of apology and outrage;
You can beat your chest with all the mea culpas that make good TV;
You can cancel book contracts to try and keep your corporation from hemorrhaging American goodwill;
but none of that absolves you of the sin of participating in the gradual and slow decline of our democratic values through silence and self-preservation.
So my answer to you is no. You are not free from the stain of your association whether you worked in the administration, voted for the administration, or simply cherry-picked the narratives you choose to hear from this administration. You owe us the burden of coming to terms with how you—simple, ordinary people—willingly, without force or coercion, participated in the undoing of our democratic social fabric.
And to everyone in the liberal camp congratulating themselves that we (yes, me too) have always had bumper stickers on our cars that said #resist, and that we’ve always voted and posted about the dangers of Trump, I also say no. We all failed. Today, we are all accountable for letting this get too far. It is a day of reckoning for us all.