Donald Trump Wednesday told his mob of followers, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness.” The mob hung on his words in their march up Pennsylvania Avenue, and, fueled by his vitriol, stormed the nation’s Capitol. The images will be forever cemented in our minds. Our stomachs will ache from the pain that comes from such stunning transgressions. The ugliness will haunt us.
It is a given that those who trespassed the Capitol should be found and criminally charged. It’s a given they should be made accountable. But they are bit actors in this tragedy. They were following their pied piper; they did what they were told. The full weight of Wednesday’s assault on our democracy falls on the president.
In an unintended way, Mr. Trump was right. We won’t get our country back through weakness. But being weak means allowing him to remain in office for these final weeks tossing out torches to our democracy. He is guilty of inciting the violence. He, alone. He should be impeached and removed from office. As fast as possible. He brought grievous injury to us as a nation; he cannot be allowed to hurt us anymore than he has. He has to be made accountable if our nation is to remain wedded to the rule of law.
This warranted action should be brought by Republicans not Democrats. Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott urged as much yesterday. Not only has Mr. Trump brought dishonor to his party, he threatens to destroy it. The only way Republicans can recover is to clean their own house, to separate themselves from that which threatens it.
In an obviously perverse way, Mr. Trump has made that choice easier. Fair or not, in public life you are remembered as much for your exit as anything else. You are who you are in those last moments. Mr. Trump’s last moments have him isolated, shut off, unrepentant, and repeating, to no one, his lies.
When Congress finally reconvened after the assault, this understanding seemed to seep through. Even the president’s most stalwart supporters — Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham for example — said enough was enough. They understood, and feared, the mob’s open contempt for democracy. They were repelled. Perhaps they could see the tsunami coming their way if they continued to support a president who is a stranger to the truth, or moral values. More than a few Republicans acknowledged that all the “good” done by the president in his four years was erased in a single evening by his mobsters and his role in egging them on. More than a few are also waking up to the fact that Mr. Trump has been a disaster to their party. Republicans have lost control of both Houses of Congress and the presidency. The casualties were inflicted by Mr. Trump.
All of this is why it falls to Republicans to act. The Democrats don’t have to clean their house; Republicans do. It’s their opportunity. It’s the Republicans who have to say never again. It’s the Republicans who have to find their Phil Scotts, their Mitt Romneys, their Ben Sasses, their Lisa Murkowskis, their Nancy Landon Kassebaums, and then build around them.
Then, it falls to us. It hinges on how we decide to communicate with one another. It depends on what we continue to allow in social media outlets. It depends on how truth is determined and how we respond when leaders like Mr. Trump, use their social media megaphones to lie and to distort. [Facebook and Instagram won’t allow Mr. Trump to post anything until after he leaves office. The decision was made as a matter of national safety, which is stunning in its implications. Twitter should follow. If social media outlets consider the president’s words too dangerous to our democracy to post, then what lesson are we to take from that other than he needs to go?]
It should be crystal clear to Republicans that Mr. Trump is finished politically. The footage from Wednesday’s insurrection, and his words urging them on, praising them, telling them they would be doing his work will be played and replayed. It’s the ending narrative of the Trump presidency. This is who he is, it’s who he’s always been. Republicans are the ones who need to rid themselves of his stain. It’s the only way they move forward.
by Emerson Lynn