What Now?

What now?

To ask the question is still to be at a loss for answers. I reach for my mantra, and the title of our community here: Steady

A vote anticipated is still a vote that shocks. The “constitutional” argument against the trial was a fig leaf without precedent. And it was defeated. How can anyone in good conscience then vote to exonerate such shameful, violent, and undemocratic actions? The answer is, you can’t. And yet the vast majority of the Republican caucus stood up and proclaimed, “Not guilty.” Fairness, their constitutional duty, and the judgement of history be damned. 

The emotions swirl within, the tug of war of multiple perspectives. The deep heart of mine that loves my country as a vibrant, pluralistic democracy founded under the rule of law, aches. 

The journalist in me seeks answers to the who, what, when, where, why, and how? Not only for this sham trial, but for the events of 1/6, and all that preceded and followed it. There is so much we don’t know. The American people need to know the truth and deserve to know why Republicans were so afraid to hear it. 

The history student in me wonders how this chapter will be written. Will shameless political opportunism be punished or rewarded? Will the America of the future be the one that elected two Democratic senators in a state like Georgia? Or will it be the one that raised Trump into power and then absolved his lawlessness?

To define today’s body of Republicans as a political party seems a naive throwback to when it was a consortium of ideas and not a cult of a single, unworthy, and autocratic personality. The fact that this was the most bipartisan vote in any presidential impeachment trial is small comfort when one considers how open and shut the case was. I wonder about those who voted “not guilty.” How many of them were --or are still-- frightened of Trump’s wrath, as a common narrative has gone?And how many secretly applaud his power-at-all-cost autocracy? 

Donald Trump will not go away. And if past is prologue, he will likely aim his fire in the months and years to come on many senators who voted to acquit, if they ever run afoul in his mercurial judgement. Just ask Mike Pence.

The cynicism, the hypocrisy, the gaslighting is at levels that beg belief. 

It is clear that the Biden Administration thinks the best way to defeat Trump, and Trumpism more broadly, is to show the government working (as intended.) And one of the underreported stories thus far, in my opinion, is how muscular and unified Democrats have been in pushing an ambitious agenda. 

I also have seen that once Republicans (or now in many cases former Republicans) denounce the “Cult of Trump,” they become ever more strident in their convictions. And there are plenty of Republicans who are outraged by what took place. The party is divided to some degree. 

But make no mistake, Trump owns a wide swath of the American electorate. His lies, abetted by right-wing media echo chambers and other countless enablers, fuel a movement that has already proved potent, violent, and unrepentant. It is a threat, and it is urgent. 

Yet, I do believe that there are fissures threatening to break their facade. Republicans desperately wanted to avoid revealing, let alone reliving, the full truth of what took place. They know guilt is obvious. And I do believe they know that a majority of Americans would recoil at that truth. But I wonder just how much is breaking through. 

This cannot be the end of the story of January 6. Justice must move to criminal courts, to fact-finding commissions, and ultimately the ballot box. Are the Trump forces emboldened? Undoubtedly. The question now is how emboldened are the forces that desperately believe America should not be a nation where lawlessness is rewarded, cowardice condoned, and democracy undermined. Our country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, that is a vital question as we ponder a day when the indefensible was defended.

—Dan

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