By Jay Bookman
“I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump,” Donald Trump bragged back in March of 2019. “I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”
So it was always going to end this way.
It looks as though January 6, 2021 might be the day that the Republican Party finally reaps the harvest of lunacy that it has been sowing for the past 30 years.
— Jay Bookman (@jaysbookman) December 19, 2020
From the moment that Trump came down that escalator in 2015, it was always going to end like this. From his first campaign through his last, Trump has cagily refused to say that he would peacefully honor the outcome of the election, and he has repeatedly treated violence as his Trump card that he would play if necessary.
“Stand down and stand by,” as he told his Proud Boys.
So on Wednesday, he played that card. He summoned his thugs, his “tough people,” to Washington on Jan. 6, the day that his defeat was due to be certified through the process ordained in the Constitution. He promised them that it would be “wild.” Then, once assembled on the National Mall, he sicced those thugs on Congress, sending them to take over the U.S. Capitol and stop the ceremonial counting of electoral votes that would remove him from office.
Make no mistake: This was planned. This was plotted. At the Pentagon, Trump had already removed those civilian leaders with at least a vestige of a backbone and replaced them with lackeys who had none at all, in preparation for this day. Trump’s ill intent was so transparent that 10 former Defense secretaries of both parties, led by former Vice President Dick Cheney, had issued a public statement making it very clear that any use of the military by Trump would be an act of treason by anyone who participated.
It was striking that they felt such a statement was necessary; it is chilling to now know that it was.
And Wednesday evening, after his thugs had terrorized Congress and temporarily succeeded in stopping its performance of its constitutional duty, Trump released a video in which he told those people that he loved them, that they were “special people,” that he understood why they had done what they did.
Character is fate, and given Trump’s character it was always fated to end this way.
But character is fate for others as well. Character has proved to be fate for the many within the Republican Party who have played along with Trump, particularly after Nov. 3, for those who were willing to pretend to the gross untruth that voter fraud had stolen the election from him.
There is absolutely no evidence to that effect. None. Yet too many believed, because believing in that fraud was the first and necessary step needed to justify what they really wanted: the overturning of the election and the reinstallation of the clear loser as president.
They were willing to desecrate the Constitution in order to “save” it; they were willing to suffocate democracy under a blanket of lies in order to keep themselves in power. They tried; they failed.
People whom you know and I know were willing to believe the unbelievable to keep Trump in office. People whom you love, probably, people with whom you have history and blood ties. We now know who and what those people are, because we have seen it, and once seen it is impossible to unsee.
Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue were two of those people. They signed on fully and willingly to this madness. They fed the false claims of voter fraud, they attacked those few fellow Republicans who dared to stand up for truth, and they were ready and willing to use their position to help Trump ignore the verdict of the people and reinstall himself in the White House. They even offered up the votes of their fellow Georgians as sacrifice to Trump’s cause, arguing that those votes – our votes — should not be counted because they came out against the way the plotters wanted.
Never forget what they did.
The same is true of those congressmen who also placed the votes of their fellow Georgians on the altar as tribute to their would-be king:
Marjorie Taylor Greene; Andrew Clyde; Rick Allen; Jody Hice; Barry Loudermilk; Buddy Carter. To that list we should also add the name of David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, who also inflamed the easily misled with this garbage.
Those people have fancy titles and in most cases taxpayer-funded jobs, but they are no better than the rabble who invaded our Capitol Wednesday. They and the rabble shared a common mission, which was to overturn an honest election. Those who invaded the Capitol and those who sat inside it may have used different means, but those means were equally illegitimate, because there is no legitimate method to destroy American democracy.
This didn’t end Wednesday; it isn’t over yet, not by a longshot. The forces unleashed by Trump, by those listed above and by many others too numerous to list, are not going to recede peacefully into the shadows. Responding to this coup attempt will require a major, long-term law-enforcement effort, and no one, not Trump himself, should escape accountability.
Let’s also talk a little about the damage this has done to the Georgia Republican Party, damage so extensive that today we can only glimpse pieces of it. Rapid demographic changes have already left them vulnerable, and in the 2022 primaries, we will almost certainly see Republican challenges to Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The line of attack against them will be that they refused to enlist in the madness intended to overturn an honest election, that they refused to join in the assault on our democracy.
Think about that: They refused to conspire in the overturning of an honest election, and thus must be replaced by people who would not have refused. That’s going to be the case prosecuted against them, and I don’t know that they’ll survive it politically. The same may prove true of Drew Ferguson and Austin Scott, our two Republican congressmen who refused to join the conspiracy.
That’s a party-defining stance, and the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jody Hice, Doug Collins, Lin Wood and David Shafer is simply not going to win anymore statewide races in today’s Georgia. If that’s who Georgia Republicans insist they want to be, if that’s the line that the party base demands be toed, then two years from now we’ll see Gov. Stacey Abrams inaugurated at the Gold Dome, with a raft of Democratic legislators along with her.
Character is fate.
Jay Bookman is a columnist for the Georgia Recorder, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this column first appeared.