I’ve avoided writing about state and national issues in this space until now, but the events in our nation’s capital this week demand a response.
On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C. at the request of President Donald J. Trump, inspired and emboldened by the idea that our elections are somehow fraudulent and outcomes rigged. This theory, as well as that of widespread voter fraud, has been debunked over and over, yet many still believe these lies because the president and other public figures they respect have exploited widespread gullibility among their followers for years.
All four of our living presidents have spoken out against this blatant act of treason, but perhaps President Clinton summed things up best when he said, “The assault was fueled by more than four years of poison politics spreading deliberate misinformation, sowing distrust in our system, and pitting Americans against one another…. The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost. The election was free, the count was fair, the result was final.”
The insurrection on Capitol Hill marked the culmination, so far, of nearly a century’s worth of a slow fascist coup that a handful of extremely wealthy Americans have been trying to carry out and inching closer and closer to success each time they try. This conspiracy has existed since at least the 1930s, when a group of disgruntled business leaders tried to enlist retired Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, then the most highly decorated veteran in our history, to lead an army of mercenaries they intended to raise to assault Washington, D.C., overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt, and install a fascist dictator of their choosing. Butler refused and the coup never got off the ground then, but those behind it and their heirs have never ceased in working toward that goal.
In 1968, Richard Nixon ran a campaign based on a “Southern Strategy” designed to increase support among white voters in the South by appealing to racism against African Americans. This drove a wedge through the Democratic Party and began the process of siphoning most racist Democrats into the welcoming arms of the Republican Party.
Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 cemented the partisan division that today threatens to blossom into open civil war, but that’s not the only thing that happened during the Reagan era to undermine our representative democracy. In 1987 the FCC board, composed of mostly Reagan appointees, voted to end something called the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. This opened the door to right-wing media like Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News Channel.
Right-wing propagandists planted the seeds of dissension and mistrust, but it was radical Republicans like Newt Gingrich and others, past and present, who cultivated extremism and bigotry directed at Democrats, especially Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; all of which paved the way for a would-be dictator to step in and reap the bitter harvest. By exploiting outdated prejudices and the pain of working people across this country, left behind by an economic system that favors the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else, that is exactly what Donald Trump did in 2016.
What made matters worse was the open manipulation of public opinion by foreign operatives using social media, which was either ignored or encouraged by far-right extremists in Trump’s inner circle and Republicans across the board willing to endorse anything including criminal behavior as long as it furthered their agendas.
The insurrection of January 6, 2021, was cultivated by Trump and his enablers in Congress, especially Senate Republicans under the leadership of Mitch McConnell. Trump told us this was going to happen. He would never agree to accept the outcome of the vote prior to the election and he technically still hasn’t acknowledged his defeat. Instead, he spent the last two months removing officials at the Pentagon and the Justice Department and replacing them with his own hand-picked stooges. This was planned, and when all is said and done a lot of people in the administration and many of those who followed Trump and Giuliani’s marching orders last Wednesday should be going to prison for a long time.
Responsibility for this act of domestic terrorism falls squarely on the shoulders of the Republican Party, especially those members of the Senate who refused, in the face of overwhelming evidence, to convict the impeached president when they had the duty to do so. Many of our fellow Americans would still be alive today if that had happened, including the five who lost their lives this week at the Capitol. This did not have to happen, and if you voted for the people who allowed it there’s blood on your hands as well.