The Radicalization of America

Part I: Accountability

Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

Actions have consequences, and we, as a nation, have a choice – the consequences can be of our choosing, controlled by the laws of this country. Or we can incur the unintended consequences that will result from not taking action, not punishing those who participated in this affront to our democracy. As I tell my kids, not making a decision is a decision.

We must hold our elected leaders accountable for their involvement in the Big Lie (credit to Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny) and for manipulating Trump’s followers. We must hold Trump accountable for inciting an insurrection and fomenting violence. If we don’t enforce the legal and ethical consequences of their actions, there will be other consequences that spin out of control and take deep root in a broken people.

We’ve seen the second kind of consequence in action on January 6. We’ve seen it in the radicalization of Trump supporters as they watch the President of the United States face no consequences for his actions for four years. We’ve seen it as so-called “media” outlets report only lies and mistruths, spinning the story for their own ratings and profit.

After the [first] impeachment of Trump, experts opined about the potential consequences of the Senate failing to charge the President. They warned that Trump would be emboldened, that he would see himself as above the law. The insurrection at the Capitol is a direct consequence of the Senate’s failure to convict. Failing to act again will only lead to more of the same.

One thing has been made clear in the last week: millions of Americans are radicalized. Just as Isis manipulates its followers into horrific actions, just as cults brainwash their members, the Trump cult has convinced millions of Americans to ignore the truth, to deny facts, to refuse to believe the media, to denounce science. On my own Facebook page, I see posts from people who support the insurrection, who believe the Democrats have committed even more atrocious acts, who believe the rioters were protecting our government (and in the ultimate Orwellian logic also believe the whole thing was orchestrated by the ambiguous Antifa). Refusing to accept the facts, refusing to listen to reason, refusing to see the horror of the violence, refusing to be disgusted by the treatment of our democratic symbols (from the Capitol building to our flag) – these are people who are radicalized and poised for further unthinkable acts. These are people too easily manipulated to actively undermine our democracy.

This state of affairs is the unintended consequence of enabling Trump for four years, of failing to call him out for his lies and his literal crimes.

To those who warn that a second impeachment will only further enrage his followers, I say that they are already there. Those willing to engage in the acts of violence and sedition that we saw on Wednesday, as well as those who believe them to be right, are not to be placated. To simplify this to a parenting analogy, you don’t fail to punish your child when they misbehave because you want to avoid the tantrum.

We have seen what the radicalized right is willing to do, now we must punish those responsible with all of the laws we have at our disposal. The first tool at our disposal is impeachment. The second is holding accountable the Members of Congress who went along with this farce for four years, but especially for those who furthered the Big Lie of a stolen election. The houses of Congress have the authority to kick them out of office, censure them, strip them of their committees and shun them. The voters have the power to never again let them hold elected office in this land, for they broke their oaths to uphold the Constitution.

Given that the Executive Branch is unwilling to act by invoking the 25th Amendment, given that the Republican Party is unwilling to force Trump to resign, Congress must impeach Trump and they must do it now. The number of days left in office is irrelevant. Trump himself has fired people who were mere days away from retirement to deny them their benefits. Impeachment would set the precedent that an elected leader cannot get away with breaking the laws of this country. Should the Republicans in the Senate actually grow a backbone and convict, impeachment would also deny him the ability to run again and the privileges afforded a former President, including daily confidential briefings.

Let that sink in. This man, if not impeached and convicted, will have access to confidential national security briefings about the state of the world every single day. He can’t even be trusted with Twitter.

If not impeached and convicted, Trump will have access to confidential national security briefings about the state of the world every single day. He can’t even be trusted with Twitter.

We’ve already seen the consequences of failing to act once. The Senate’s refusal to hold Trump accountable for breaking the law led to a violent insurrection against the very tenants of our democracy. Impeach him now and punish those Members of Congress who perpetuated his lies.

Then we have the difficult task of addressing two cancers growing in the heart of our nation: the radicalized right and systemic racism. Not confronting these issues will have its own consequences. We can no longer sit back and see what happens. We must choose our fate.

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Making this up as I go and learning every step of the way.

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