Syndicated columnist Susan Estrich: When a president and his aids incite violence
Long before his "army" stormed the Capitol, the president and his team were guilty of inciting violence against state election officials. In the fourth day of testimony, the House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots heard in-person and taped testimony from those who were called, cajoled and threatened by the president of the United States in his effort to undermine the election results.
The president asked them to lie, and when they refused to join his Big Lie, he attacked them publicly, knowing full well that it would make them the targets of threats and worse. Like falsely crying fire in a crowded theater, the president falsely claimed that the election had been stolen when he himself was the thief.
Between the fake electors and the threats to state officials, President Donald Trump was guilty of nothing less than an effort to subvert our democracy.
Because what could be more fundamental than a president in a democracy refusing to yield to the popular will?
And make no mistake. The Big Lie was not the work of just one man. He could not have done it without his own kitchen cabinet of enablers and impostors, liars and thieves like him, to carry out his bidding. They knew. They risked our democracy to serve their master.
Where is the outrage?
I know. Inflation has taken a bite out of all our savings; the market has taken a bite out of all our pensions; the price of gas takes a bite every week when you fill up; and with all of that, Donald Trump can easily seem like history.
It may be the economy, stupid, but we are also stupid if we don't realize that it is our democracy that has been at even greater risk. This man was president of the United States. He was surrounded by aiders and abettors, accessories before and after the fact, who chose to humor him or play him or join him for reasons having nothing to do with the integrity of the political process. They proceeded to attack innocent people who were doing their jobs; file frivolous lawsuits and then attack those who opposed them; put people in fear of their lives if they fulfilled their oaths of office. All of this with the imprimatur of the president of the United States.
Where is the outrage?
Dismissing Trump as history misses the point. The forces he unleashed have not gone away. The pathetic timidity of Republican leaders in confronting the president is still on display.
Where is the Republican Party?
The committee has done a masterful job. But does it matter? Will those who most need to face the reality that was Trump be willing to see it? Will they understand that the Republican Party is responsible for the outrages incited by its leader, that they have a special responsibility, precisely because Trump was and is a Republican, to make clear that the party of Lincoln still stands for democracy?
Where is the sense of betrayal?
One need pay only scant attention to the hearings to come away with the understanding that the liars knew they were lying. There was never any evidence of systemic election fraud. Joe Biden won Georgia and Arizona and the other states that were targeted based on arithmetic, not evidence. The whole thing was a Big Lie, designed to plunge our country into a chaos that would leave the loser in office. Knowing that, aiming for that, they did what they did.
And the sad truth is that the Republican Party is still afraid of him. What will it take? How much worse could it be? If incitement to violence is not enough, what is?
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