By the evening of January 6, 2021 I had received nearly a half dozen queries from friends overseas. “What is happening in your country? Are you okay?”
These are people from countries with a long history of autocratic, authoritarian regimes. They are usually in the news for the corruption rampant at the highest levels of their governments. They recognize authoritarianism when they see it.
They wondered how the United States had devolved so quickly into what we Americans would previously have thought of as a third-rate, third-world, authoritarian dictatorship. How could this happen, they asked me after I assured them that my safety was secure.
As a historian of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president of the United States, it pains me to acknowledge that the reason is today’s Republican party.
I’ve noted that today’s Republican party is no longer the party of Lincoln, and has not been for a long time. I explained the history and metamorphosis of the Republican party in more detail. In the last four years the party has gone even further. They now are the party of the Confederacy. They are the party of Putin. They are the party of dishonesty. They have impeached themselves. They have committed treason.
The Republican party no longer even tries to hide its disdain for most Americans. They don’t hide their focus on white supremacy, on promoting the “superior” caste. Elected Representatives defended white supremacy on the floor of the House. The Republican party helped organize and fund the attack on the Capitol.
This became abundantly clear on January 6, 2021. Normally a perfunctory, ceremonial task, the joint House/Senate counting of the already many-times certified electoral votes to confirm the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was this time going to be an exercise in sedition. Current Vice President Pence, to his limited credit after enabling Trump for four years, refused to succumb to Trump’s treasonous threats to throw out valid votes. More than half of Republicans in the House and 13 Republicans in the Senate decided to violate their oaths of office to placate a psychopathic Trump’s delusions, all because they knew they needed Trump’s delusional and Anti-American cultists to support these politicians’ future political ambitions. These Republicans knowingly instigated and reinforced what they knew not to be true, solely for political expediency and fear of a psychopath.
Now four people are dead after a mob instigated and encouraged and instructed by Trump rampaged the Capitol and attacked sitting Congressmen, Senators, the sitting Vice President, and hundreds of staffers. Capitol police were injured. Offices were ransacked.
So now what happens?
After ridding the building of Trump’s mob, Congress continued through the night to complete the vote counting. A few Republicans backed down and they reduced the charade of baselessly challenging the votes after they saw how their political theater had caused the attacks. But more than half of Republican Representatives and a dozen Republican Senators followed through on their own attack on democracy.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) should immediately resign. If they refuse, the Senate should vote unanimously to expel them and ban them from ever holding federal office again.
All the other Republican Senators who participated in this sham attack on democracy should also resign immediately. If they refuse, they should at the very least be officially censured and removed from any committees they sit on.
Every Republican in the House of Representatives who voted to reject the vote of the American people should be immediately expelled from Congress and barred from holding future seats. If the House refuses take this necessary step, then these Republican members should be censured, lose their committee assignments, and be barred from leadership positions forever. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy should immediately resign his position.
Vice President Pence should immediately coordinate the removal of Trump from office using the 25th Amendment. This must be done today. Vice President Pence should assume status as Acting President immediately upon fulfilling the requirements of the 25th Amendment. Doing so will keep Trump from pardoning himself and his family, which would continue this national nightmare for many more years.
The House of Representatives should immediately bring charges of impeachment against Trump, to be voted on in the House immediately. Trump has provided ample evidence of sedition and treason, so no prolonged debate is necessary. We all know already.
The Senate must convict Trump on those impeachment charges immediately.
Trump must be charge with treason, inciting violence against the government, and a host of other seditious and violent instigations.
Every mob member that can be identified from the myriads of video and photographic evidence as having violently breached the Capitol should immediately be arrested and charged with the suite of felonies for their crimes. The two men photographed violating Speaker Pelosi’s office and the Senate floor should immediately be arrested for those charges and others related to theft of the mail and endangering public officers. They and other leaders of the attack should also be tried with manslaughter for their roles in the deaths of four people.
The West Virginia lawmaker who led one portion of the mob into the Capitol must be immediately expelled by the West Virginia legislature. He should also be arrested and charged with breaking into a government building and endangering the lives of federal lawmakers.
Soon to be former Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should resign his leadership position immediately. He should consider resigning from the Senate entirely. While he spoke out against the coup attempted by his fellow Republican Senators, he is the single most guilty of directing the party to the place it has arrived. Similarly, former Speaker Newt Gingrich should be called out for beginning this insurrection years ago with his dishonest attack on democracy during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, in addition to his continuing attacks on government and support for Trump’s treason via his media presence.
While politicians are naturally hesitant to hold each other accountable, the Republican party has reached a level of sedition so extreme that they must be punished for their Anti-Americanism. The above actions may seem extreme to some, but they are necessary to start the process of restoring America’s place in the world. A place that the Republican party has destroyed through anti-democratic and white supremacist policies over the last several decades. Trump didn’t appear in a vacuum. He epitomizes the autocratic, oligarchic promotion of the Republican party since Reagan. His overt brand of racism and casteism simply makes obvious the white supremacy and casteism pushed by the Republican party for many years.
Trump didn’t create the Republican party. The Republican party created the conditions that allowed Trump to rise to a natural position of authority. Both must go.
I reassured my friends in those foreign places that the United States would not become the kind of authoritarian nations theirs are known for. They assured me that the United States already is such a country. And we have secured that position in the last four years.
Enough is enough.
On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will become the President and Vice President of the United States. Pence should attend the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to demonstrate the “smooth transition of power” that, until now, has been the hallmark of American government. Trump should be in jail.
Only then can we begin to rebuild America.
[NOTE: Edited to add the list of House and Senate Republicans who chose insurrection. See below and CNN link.]
The Senate voted 93 to 6 to dismiss the objection raised by Republicans to Arizona’s results, and 92 to 7 to reject the objection to Pennsylvania.
These are the senators who voted to object to some of the results of the election (and the states they objected to):
- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (Arizona, Pennsylvania)
- Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (Arizona, Pennsylvania)
- Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall (Arizona, Pennsylvania)
- Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville (Arizona, Pennsylvania)
- Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (Arizona, Pennsylvania)
- Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy (Arizona)
- Florida Sen. Rick Scott (Pennsylvania)
- Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis (Pennsylvania)
The House ultimately voted to reject an objection to throw out Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, but over half of the House Republicans backed the effort. The challenge failed by a vote of 282-138.
The GOP House minority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, and his deputy, Steve Scalise, were among those seeking to overturn the results.
[Note: Added the following quote from Abraham Lincoln]
Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.
David J. Kent is an avid traveler, scientist, and Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World as well as two specialty e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.