Attorney General Merrick Garland and President Joe Biden delivered a one-two punch for democracy on January 5 and 6. The Attorney General, on January 5, said: “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.” (Emphasis added.)
President Biden, on the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, said: “For the first time in our history, a President had not just lost an election. He tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob reached the Capitol. A former President of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest and America’s interests.” He then added: “His bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution; he can’t accept he lost.” (Emphasis added.)
It’s been a year since the insurrection, but we finally got the truth, and a rallying cry, from the two men essential to the war against Trump’s attack on democracy. It will be up to the Justice Department to prosecute those who planned, promoted, and led the insurrection. And, it is clearly up to President Biden to lead the charge against the fascism that is creeping into our politics.
I understand that fascism is something we generally associate with the Nazis and World War II, and we don’t include it in our political dialog. But consider, it is defined as a form of government in which most of the country’s power is held by one ruler and uses violence to stop those it does not like. Others have defined it as a cult of the leader who promises national restoration. Isn’t that what Trump, the current Republican Party, and their constituents are all about? The January 6th insurrection used violence from outside the Capitol and votes from Republican lawmakers to try and stop the certification of President Biden’s election. One hundred and forty-seven Republican elected members of Congress, on the same day as the insurrection, voted not to certify Biden’s victory in enough states to give the loser, Trump, the presidency. They did this because their leader told them not to.
As of this writing, more than 40 percent of our country is still marching to Trump’s drumbeat of election fraud, believing Biden stole the election. This despite 86 judges, election officials across the country, and even Trump’s former attorney general Bill Barr saying there was no evidence of substantial election fraud capable of stealing the election.
Trump’s motto is “Make America Great Again,” which means a return to a white, Christian country, not the multiracial, multicultural one the U.S. has become. Nineteen Republican-controlled states have enacted 34 laws that make voting harder for people of color, as well as both older and younger Americans. This, too, is part of the creeping fascism that is infecting our body politic. The antidote to this is sitting in the Senate stymied by two Democratic Senators (Manchin and Sinema) who refuse to reform the filibuster so voting legislation (Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act), which would “trump” (pun intended) this Republican anti democratic movement, can be signed into law.
Senate Leader Chuck Schumer is forcing a vote on these bills on Martin Luther King Day ( January 17) and putting every senator on record is good politics. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely either bill will become law in time for the 2022 midterm elections because of a 50-50 Senate in which the two Democratic Senators refuse to allow filibuster reform. In 2022, if we are to blunt this attack on democracy, each of us who cares is going to have to participate. There are 20 Republican seats up in the Senate, six of which could be flipped — Toomey, Pennsylvania, retiring; Johnson, Wisconsin; Burr, North Carolina, retiring; Rubio, Florida; Portman, Ohio, retiring; Blunt, Missouri, retiring — more than enough to neutralize the votes of Manchin and Sinema.
If each of us does what he and she can: give money, write, get on the internet and engage on social media sites, demonstrate, and of course vote, we can make the difference. The alternative, as we have seen, is ugly. Ultimately, as the founders predicted, it’s up to us, the voters, not those we elect, to preserve our democracy.