Donald J. Trump infamously noted, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay.” What happened yesterday is Trump turned the gun on himself — suicide on Fifth Avenue.
Allan Drury would have been amazed. As a high-schooler, I read Advice and Consent, a Washington drama, and was amazed by Drury’s imagination — he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel. Yesterday’s events would have shocked Drury.
As I scrolled Twitter last night, it became apparent that anger translated was preclusive — no combination of words and phrases written on the day after would suffice. So here is my 16 hours after-the-fact reflection.
Trump had, and perhaps still has, an immovable base. My guess: it has shrunk. But Trump’s seditious conduct has ripped apart the screen that reflected back what many of his followers projected — what they wanted to believe. Their support will be excoriated, but it was based on belief.
Millions of people are hardcore Republicans and Democrats. They are certain to grant the benefit of the doubt to their Party’s revolving door of pretenders and occasional real deals alike. Millions on the Republican side, for example, are Pro-Life — they will swallow extra hard before crossing that line to support a Pro-Choice candidate. I could go on and on with examples in both Party platforms.
But Trump was different. The Ex-Democrat turned Republican was an opportunist who sowed social distemper. We watched: he translated convictions strongly felt into fighting words. Trump insisted that his supporters join him in battle. And many on the Right seethed as the streets of Portland and Seattle devolved into summer combat and calls for defunding the police. And as the less concerned were confronted in the grocery store for not wearing a mask, little media criticism was aimed at the mask-less protests of the summer. Many Republicans saw this as confirming their distrust of what Trump and then they called the lame stream media.
Now 1/6/21 will be remembered along with 9/11/01, except this time it was Americans attacking Americans in our Citadel of Democracy. While polls have not been taken, it is almost certain that well over a majority of Americans would support the removal of the President from office. Better in my view that we understand Trump’s turned the gun on himself and move on. Vice President Pence should be particularly engaged and if necessary preemptive.
President-Elect Biden has artfully used the language of moderation and in less than two weeks will be President. Unwittingly, Trump has rearranged the White House stage set. It features a large round table — one that encourages everybody to take a seat without looking for name tags. There is no need to yell, each participant is only feet away. Indeed those who are inclined to yell should be elsewhere.
America faces very serious challenges. While the pandemic seems the worst, it is not. Finding the key to working together is America’s biggest challenge. Moderation its biggest need.
Soon to be President Biden seems especially gifted in the tones of moderation and we should all, and I mean all, hope he is the key to collaborative leadership.
Finally, the U.S. Senate is an expression of where America stands politically — 50/50. A numerical draw insists on a leader who will command the common ground. Joe Biden’s challenge is not to reconcile the Centrists and Progressives in his own Party, but to strive to lead Americans toward public policy solutions. And when I say Americans, I mean those who believe in America—“Out Of Many One”.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.