We may have underestimated the damage President Trump is doing on his way out the door. In addition to issuing last-minute executive orders intended to continue his policies after he leaves office, undermining confidence in the Constitution by challenging an election he lost by eight million votes and overseeing a rash of federal executions, he is encouraging rioting. Rioting? Yes. The shameful visit of The Proud Boys to DC this past weekend is a case in point.
The Proud Boys are Trump’s pet white supremacist terrorists. A large contingent of them came to Washington to support the president’s increasingly laughable efforts to overturn the election. The idea here is that while the courts (so far) are having nothing to do with Trump’s quixotic efforts to cancel the votes of millions of Americans, maybe a little terrorism would help.
Is it fair to call the Proud Boys DC handiwork “terrorism?” The FBI appears to think so. It defines a “terrorist act” as “a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, in violation of the criminal laws of the United States, or of any state, to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Perhaps not so curiously, while the Proud Boys were in town, the president tweeted, “Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA.”
A helicopter identified as Marine One also flew over the assembled protestors, who were joined by infamous Infowars radio host Alex Jones and recently pardoned former Trump national security advisor, Michael Flynn. From the steps of the Supreme Court, , Flynn told the crowd, “Our sacred honor triumphs over infamy.”
Did Trump telephone the Proud Boys to invite them to Washington for a weekend of stabbing, vandalism, drinking, and racism? No evidence (so far) of that, but the Proud Boys’ head toured the White House. No evidence (so far) that Trump invited Enrique Tarrio, but Tarrio bragged of a “last-minute invitation to an undisclosed location.” The White House press office claims Tarrio was on a public tour, so it must be true. Right?
The last time I tried to get a White House tour, no tickets were available for three months. Excuse me, we are in the middle of a pandemic. Why is the White House holding tours?
In any case, if the only thing the Proud Boys did while visiting the Nation’s Capital was sightseeing, I’d be fine. Instead, there were four stabbings, assaults on police officers, and open displays of racism, among them protestors destroying “Black Lives Matter” banners hanging from various churches. Only prudent deployment of the DC police and considerable restraint on their part prevented more violence.
What will happen as the last embers of hope for the election to be overturned go cold? Will the 126 Republican congressmen, including Rep. Andy Harris, admit Biden won and urge Trump supporters to sit down and face reality? Will giants like Texas Senator Ted Cruz stop talking about the election and start working to combat the coronavirus? We can only hope.
The events in Washington this past weekend remind us that racism and intolerance are alive and well. Our democracy is under attack. Those of us who are offended by the white supremacist message of the Proud Boys and by Trumpism need to speak out. We need to be clear that White Claw chugging drunks brandishing knives and carrying “Trump 2020: No More Bullshit” are not welcome in our communities.
And when we have politicians who are part of the problem or cowardly refuse to acknowledge the Constitution and democracy, we need to vote them out before it is too late.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.