Trump, A Martyr?
Joseph Stalin popular? Yes, the respected Levada Center polled Russians aged 18 and above in 137 Russian towns and villages; the result: “51% respect, like or admire Stalin. If you are interested in how many millions of Russian deaths are attributed to Stalin, check out this Wikipedia entry.
Yes, I have gone to an extreme, to another country and to an even deeper strain of nationalism to put the events of 1/6/21 in context. History shows an almost unfathomable fusion of timing, circumstances, decisions, demographics and strong personalities that shape and sear personal memory. Stalin, you might recall, was given credit for defeating the Nazis in the standoff over Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) that began in the summer of 1941 and lasted for 900 days.
In the immediate aftermath of the assault on the Capitol after a rebellious speech by Donald Trump, critics searched the thesaurus for words and phrases to demonize him. The criticisms have been bi-partisan.
Even though his term expires in a few days, forced removal from office is said to be essential. It is also said that the Congress must pass a law to ban him from again holding office. If I were in the U.S. Senate, depending on the articles of impeachment, I would vote to convict. Having said that, I find a certain irony in the rhetorical aggression and a troubling prospect.
Impeachment and conviction are, to strain the comparison, somewhat like a grand jury proceeding. The jury hears evidence, then it chooses to indict or not and if indicted the defendant is given the privileges of the accused in a court of law. My guess is that Right, Left and Center there is agreement in this fair and sensible procedure. There is no way the anticipated impeachment proceedings can comply with that judicious order.
When it comes to barring Trump from running for office, for whose benefit? Republicans are going to have to resolve their internal cleavages and it must be remembered that Trump won just over 74 million votes (many of those votes reflected Right-of-Center preferences). They are going to have to reflect on Trump’s post-election behavior and the fact that he was complicit in the losses in Georgia. This is democracy at work; often it is messy. Recall Kamala Harris’s allegations against Joe Biden and his choice of her to be his running mate.
We should also recall the history of Watergate. President Richard Nixon was almost universally believed to have been complicit in multiple criminal acts. Nixon, of course, resigned (as Trump should) and Gerald Ford, the Vice-President who succeeded to the Presidency, pardoned Nixon. The media and much of the advocacy world was apoplectic. Yet historians now cite Ford’s actions as courageous and far-sighted. Looking back it is clear that the prosecution and trial of Richard Nixon would have placed him in the center ring of a circus with all eyes on that ring. The functions of government would have been sideshows.
And Trump is a performer in ways that Nixon was not; best that his performance is left to the golf course. Censure him and then leave to civil and/or criminal proceedings in courts of law to resolve any civil or criminal charges.
Political parties are profoundly weak. The Republican National Committee met in the aftermath of November’s loss and on the eve of Georgia’s election and re-elected Ronna Romney McDaniel, the Party’s Chair, unanimously.
The Democrat Party concluded its more consequential leadership search this last year. The passion was on the populist Left; had Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren faced off against Trump he would have won notwithstanding his toxic personality and erratic leadership.
It is my hope that President-elect Biden does as he promised, works to unite Americans. If he does he will look for balance—he will govern from the Center. And I want the world and certainly this nation to be fully informed about the directions of our new President. President Biden should not be overshadowed by our appetite for political circus.
As to the Republican Party—while it increased it’s House of Representatives strength in November, it must now contend with the blood-letting on and over 1/6/21. Will Trump’s populism command the future or will some return to basic principles shaped by Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, but updated by 21st Century realities, prevail?
Since the Party hierarchy is powerless, the jockeying for the Presidential nomination, which has already begun, will ultimately define the future. The first two jockeys, Senators Cruz and Hawley, are not off to a promising start or if they are the Republican Party is in deep trouble.
There is no question that Trump put the principles of the Republican Party in play. He used race, the national checkbook and a wide range of free market interventions to breach what turned out to be walls of sandstone, not granite.
And what about the so-called Republican Establishment? There is no Establishment. The world has been disrupted. Technology has redefined communications and privacy. Technology and global supply chains have destroyed millions of jobs. Establishments to prevail in a democracy need some level of stability. Stability no longer exists.
While I could engage in gross speculation, I won’t. The Party is in play; momentum will swing wildly. I will, however, go back to history and would counsel today’s instant prosecutors, judges and juries to be careful. Trump martyrdom would ill-serve America.
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.