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.
Letters to Editor
Barry Koh says
“Trump turned the gun of himself and move on.” Really? Inciting a riot, encouraging sedition! Just move on? What is it in particular that allows him to get away with serious crimes?
Susan Langfitt says
Respectfully, the attack on the United States Capitol by a Trumpist mob occurred in large part because the last four years have seen Republicans turn a blind eye, defend, excuse and “move on” as Trump grew increasingly dangerous to our national security. Perhaps if Republicans had cared more about their country and the American people and less about their own personal fortunes and political futures and held Trump accountable for his actions instead of “moving on” time after time, this president would not have felt empowered to send his mob marching up the steps of our Capitol with impunity. Hopefully, a new presidency and a new congress will have the inclination and the courage to finally hold Trump accountable for actions.
Deirdre LaMotte says
Well said Susan! None of this would have occurred if the Senate Republicans did their duty and
impeached Trump. They are all complicate and their Party is rotten to the core.
Al Sikes says
An exercise of the 25th amendment would be appropriate and I would applaud. An attempt to impeach and convict in 12 days would be implausible and detract from the orderly transition now promised. The nations focus needs to be on the incoming President. Punitive actions should be left to the judicial process.
Jay Plager says
Any American watching the events of Wednesday afternoon in Washington must be shocked, and saddened by the unnecessary tragedy of a loss of life. Much breast-beating has ensued. BUT there is a plus side to what happened, and it may be a very big plus side. VP Pence, after 4 years of being viewed as a non-entity, showed a degree of mettle, and a public commitment to the Constitution, that stunned Mr. Trump, who expected loyalty to himself and not to the law. Senator McConnell, after years of skulking in the background of Trump’s demands, stood up and declared his support for the Constitutional process. And even more, the vote in the Republican-dominated Senate was 93 to 6 to reject the challenge to the proper reports of the election sent to Congress from the state authorities. There had been letters from all living former secretaries of defense, from collections of CEOs of major U.S. businesses, in opposition to the Trump position on the election – where silence had prevailed with regard to Trump’s previous outrages, there were now signs that silence was no longer acceptance.
But most importantly, what happened that night? In some third-world countries where democracy does not survive, the demagogue would have been awarded president for life. Instead, despite the mob threat, the House and Senate met again at the Capitol late into the night, and declared the triumph of the democratic electoral process over the rule of the mob. There’s a lesson for our children to take to heart, and a great reason for them to be proud they are Americans.
My friend Al suggests that distrust of mainstream media results in major measure from mask issues/ coverage this past summer. My sense is that Trump in typical authoritarian fashion has attacked the legitimate media from day one of his now shipwrecked political adventure.
Steve Lingeman says
Dear Mr Sykes:
The damage Donald Trump has done to our country is deep and wide. In almost all categories, Trump has torched any sense of normalcy. But his actions this week of “testing his power and control” of his followers was extraordinary … and almost beyond belief, but plausibly expected.
According to some accounts from insiders on his staff, he returned to the White House and watched with glee as the “mob” ravaged the Capital Building. He was making a point.
His point: Nearly 50% of the US electorate wanted him back in power AND, some of these people were loyal enough that they are willing to die for him.
This moment in the History of the USA should be seen the societal equivalent of a four(4) way stop sign in the crossroads of our society. One of the roads leading to this 4 way stop sign at this intersection is called “The Enablers”. Those enablers include Rupert Murdock (FOX News), Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh …and many other entities who are primarily “repeaters” of each other’s message. Repeating the drumbeat of lies and very slanted opinion are enabling ego driven men like Trump to assume power and attempt to retain power even though a Biden/Harris victory was clear. Furthermore, politicians like Andy Harris want to serve their own political interests (and ego) by hiding behind the what they believe is “Superman’s Cape” in the hope that they can capture these voters for themselves.
Andy Harris, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and many other US Representatives and Senators believe they will survive this political fiasco and reap the benefit of “Superman’s Cape” (Trump’s political largess).
Andy harris needs to be very careful politically. We have a number of very wealthy and ‘well to do” people in Talbot County. It only takes a few of them to band together with some money and a great candidate to eliminate Andy’s future in politics.
Richard Marks says
All words and actions that normally would have been considered self-inflicted wounds by Trump left him unscathed. If anything, the outrage by those of us offended and appalled only emboldened his followers. Think of all the wasted breath from media providing him with more ammunition to manipulate by using his Twitter weapon to bully GOP members who dared to speak out. What a shame, for as Susan notes, it only served to empower him further. At least now, after being given mire then enough rope, he has hung himself. Unfortunately, we have not yet seen the end of this travesty. In driving home from upstate New York yesterday and through many towns in Pennsylvania, Trump flags and signs were still flying and standing.
Amazingly, despite his seditious rhetoric, he still has support. Moving on will not be easy, but at least now there is a chance. While I do not always have faith in our judiciary system, I am in favor, absent the exercise of the 25th amendment, in giving Trump his day in court. Having abused the law and used the legal system as a weapon his entire life, he will now get to pay the price for his crimes. Assuming, of course, he is not given sanctuary in some country that will let him have a Twitter type account.