Ordinarily, when a new president is inaugurated I devote the entire column to him and wish him well. Also, I issue a report card evaluating the incumbent president’s past year in office. But these are not ordinary times, so I’ll be doing all of that in the near future; there’s a more urgent matter at hand now.
I can’t even believe the words I am about to write, because I’m not usually prone to exaggeration: America is facing a constitutional crisis the likes of which it hasn’t experienced since the Civil War! Five major events have jolted our great republic over the past couple of months: 1) a presidential election whose accuracy nearly 80 percent of one major party and over 10 percent of the other (the number was much higher until their candidate was declared the winner) question; 2) the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting a case affecting the entire country, over which it had original jurisdiction; 3) our precious U.S. Capitol invaded by domestic terrorists; 4) Congress impeaching a president almost faster than it takes to make a pot of coffee, setting up a Senate trial they know can’t happen until he’s out of office anyway; and 5) social media outlets assaulting free speech to alarming degrees.
Worse yet, anyone daring to inject nuance is subject to irrational backlash from extremists and absolutists on both sides. In the interest of sanity and reason prevailing over misinformation lunacy, let’s consider these five awful events one by one:
On Election Night 2020, the race between incumbent Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden was too close to call. Around midnight, when most Americans were either already asleep or close to it, the odds started tilting slightly in Trump’s favor, but it was far too early for celebration on one side and cocoa, coloring books, and cuddle puppies – for, yes, adults – on the other. By morning, the tide had turned: Trump’s seemingly large leads were erased and Biden pulled ahead. In the ensuing days, Biden not only regained Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin for the Democrats, who lost all three in 2016, but picked up Arizona and Georgia in the process. Having deemed the election “rigged” because of ample leeway for mail-in ballots and relaxation of postmarks and signature verification in some cases, Trump doubled down as Biden appeared to be the winner, calling the results a “fraud” and urging his supporters to help “stop the steal.” Close to 80 percent of Republicans agreed that something was fishy: maybe it wasn’t stolen, but how on earth, they wondered, did Trump lose after gaining 12 million more votes than in 2016, and how did Biden gain about 14 million more than Hillary Clinton did four years ago? Where did those new 26 million votes come from?
Just like in 2000, the victorious party avowed the 2020 election was legitimate and the losers clamored that it was stolen. With so many questions unanswered and nearly half the population suspicious, a bipartisan congressional committee should be established to examine it more closely. I, for one, hope they determine it was proper, because I’d find it far worse to live in a country of stolen elections that reverse for Trump than one with fair ones to begin with that elect Biden.
A barrage of lawsuits followed, arguing that Trump really won the election. Unanimously, courts stated that even if the allegations were true – such as faulty voting machines and unscrupulous vote-counting practices – overturning those few instances would not be nearly enough to neutralize Biden’s substantial 74 electoral vote lead. But in a different case of some states suing others and thus rendering it eligible to be heard by the Supreme Court directly (original jurisdiction), the plaintiffs alleged that actions taken by some state governors to modify election laws – by installing ballot dropoff boxes or extending the mail-in date beyond the election – was unconstitutional, because only state legislatures are allowed to determine such things. This is a question of law, not of fact, and the Court was derelict in its duty to provide a definitive answer. Had it done so, perhaps we wouldn’t have suffered the three subsequent atrocities.
On January 6, tens of thousands of Trump supporters went to Washington to march to the Capitol and protest the election certification taking place inside. In the first bona fide attack on our preeminent legislative building since the War of 1812, hundreds breached the barriers and invaded, transforming First Amendment exercise to treasonous terrorism. Earlier, Trump had fired them up with a “go fight” pep rally. Importantly, he used Rudy Giuliani – clearly not a physical violence perpetrator – as an example of a fighter, and specifically told them to go march “peacefully” – something much of the mainstream media conveniently omitted from its reportage. Trump’s response was unacceptably late and disappointingly feeble. More presidentially appropriate comments weren’t made until days later.
Trump’s combination of repeated unsubstantiated conclusions about the election’s credibility, failure to sufficiently emphasize preemptively that violence would not be tolerated, and perception that he cared more about losing than about the national chaos surely damaged his credibility and will permanently lose him some support (how much is to be determined). But it is not an impeachable offense. Yet the Nancy Pelosi-led Democrats, bent on destroying Trump at his core, proceeded to impeach him on the evidenceless charge of “Inciting an Insurrection.” The Senate trial, if there is one, won’t happen after Trump left office. Its only two purposes, then, would be to further stain his legacy by convicting him, preventing him from ever running for office again, or if the Republicans vote to acquit, using that against them in 2022. If the world wondered whether we’re falling apart after January 6, the Instapeachment of January 13 surely strengthened that notion.
After years and years of Trump being Trump, numerous social media outlets suddenly decided to ban his accounts. They also censored comments made by citizens who questioned the election results. Granted, these are private companies that can do as they please, but the consequences have a chilling effect on a nation founded on the principles of liberty. In censoring Trump and Trumpism, these media totalitarians have exhibited the very fascistic behavior they have attributed to Trump for the past four years.
There is plenty of blame to go around; in the weeks to come, I’ll be pointing the finger of shame at many.