Voices that long abetted Trumpism seemed to finally awaken as his backers storm the Capitol.
Mike Pence. Mitch McConnell. William Barr. Ted Cruz. Lindsey Graham. Thom Tillis.
The list of important politicians who have known for years that Donald Trump was and is a criminally dangerous liar, race-baiter and traitor, and a malignant threat to American democracy is a long one.
Some of them have even made explicit statements to such an effect at different points in their public lives.
And still, throughout almost all the last four-plus years, each of these individuals has not just stood passively by as Trump has run roughshod over the Constitution and countless core democratic values and norms, but affirmatively and cynically egged him on and/or aggressively defended him.
Time and again, when presented with the chance to stand up to Trump and to brand him for the deceitful con man he is, each of these men and many, many others of their contemptible and cowardly ilk, has run the other way.
Indeed, it was just a few weeks ago that each of these individuals was standing arm in arm with Trump, perversely likening him to a national savior and viciously attacking those who spoke the truth about the enormous damage this deeply disturbed man has inflicted on the republic.
Ah, but alas, their tunes seemed finally to shift yesterday upon being forced to come face-to face with the cancerous forces that are an essential component of the Trump package, and that their own craven toadyism helped unleash.
Here’s Pence (who finally acknowledged on Wednesday that he cannot unilaterally overturn the results of a presidential election) in response to the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol:
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now…this attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
William Barr (whom Trump forced from his job as Attorney General on Dec. 23 after he finally acknowledged that Joe Biden had won the election, but who defended Trump shamelessly and relentlessly until that point):
[The assault on the Capitol was] “outrageous and despicable. Federal agencies should move immediately to disperse it.”
Thom Tillis (who has repeatedly shown that he knows the truth about Trump and just as repeatedly retreated in gutless fashion when given the opportunity to say so publicly):
“It’s a national disgrace to have a mob attacking Capitol Police and engaging in anarchy. This is not what America stands for.”
And so it went throughout yesterday afternoon’s stunning events. Cruz publicly decried the violence as “un-American.” Graham called it a “national embarrassment.”
Meanwhile, prior to the moment when Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol barricades and overran the chamber over which he has long presided, McConnell actually took to the floor of the Senate to speak against the efforts of Trump and his shameless congressional lackeys to reject the Electoral College vote. This is from CNN:
“The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken,” McConnell said from the floor of the Senate Wednesday afternoon. “If we overrule them all, it would damage our republic forever. … If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again.”
Of course, one of the great tragedies in all of this is that it should never have gotten this far. Sure, there’s clearly much more at work in the dark phenomenon of Trumpism than the mad ravings of the movement’s Dear Leader himself. One couldn’t watch yesterday remarkable events unfold without quickly spying the ugly tentacles of racism and white supremacy — noxious phenomena that long predate Trump and that will, sadly, outlive him — on brazen display in all their wretched squalor.
But there’s also no doubt that anyone paying attention to American politics has seen this coming for a long time. Not only has Trump been actively encouraging it, but so too have all the other bootlickers who rode his coattails and mimicked his racist and absurdly hypocritical claims and fundraising appeals throughout 2020 about “preserving law and order.”
This includes not just the national pols listed above, but dozens of powerful state and local political figures — from North Carolina GOP leaders like Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, and former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to the denizens of the right-wing ’think tanks’ — all of whom regularly and repeatedly kowtowed to Trump (and made excuses for him) notwithstanding his blatant dishonesty, racism, and corruption.
Boy, did we see their version of “law and order” yesterday.
Indeed, one shudders to think what kind of response from law enforcement these Johnny-come-lately hypocrites would be demanding (and that we might well have witnessed) had the invaders of the Capitol been people of color.
The bottom line: Trump’s supporters in high places could have prevented yesterday’s disaster. Unfortunately, for the last four years they laid the groundwork for it by willfully aiding and abetting his increasingly unhinged and malevolent megalomania.
And sadly, it seems certain it will take several more years to lift up and scrub clean the ship of state from the toxic slime in which their treacherous and cowardly actions have immersed it.
Rob Schofield is the director of NC Policy Watch. He has three decades of experience as a lawyer, lobbyist, writer and commentator.