Warren Zevon is one of my muses. I’ve called upon him once again as I await the end of Donald Trump’s shameful term, contemplate the future of American politics, and consider the fate of the Republican Party which has allowed him to bring our country to the precipice of collapse.
Assembling pieces from his song, “The Sin,” Zevon wrote, “If I may remind you of the time when you did something you knew was wrong even if it wasn’t called a crime. I’m talking about the time that you were cruel for cruelty’s sake. How you gonna pay for the sin?”
The Republican Party has sinned. Mightily. Malevolently. Mortally. When you make a deal with the devil the story never has a completely happy ending.
Trumpism is a virus every bit as deadly to our politics, laws, and culture as the coronavirus has been to our people. The Republican Party and its leaders are as much to blame as Donald Trump is. Trumpism has manifested itself deep within the DNA of the Republican Party and mutated and warped its ideology, its purpose, its integrity, and its soul.
Let’s, for the moment though, set aside most that has transpired since Trump descended gaudy golden escalator to announce his candidacy in June 2015. Consider instead what has happened during just the 37 years since this past Sunday, when the audio of Trump’s call with GOP Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger became public. (Seriously, that was just six friggin’ days ago.)
We’ve seen the 10 living former Defense secretaries – both Republicans and Democrats, including those who served during Trump’s term – take him to task for jeopardizing the security of America with his recalcitrance and roadblocks related to the President-elect Joe Biden transition team.
We saw the epic sweep of both Georgia Senate runoff elections flipping control of that chamber to the Democrats. We saw the prelude to the ceremonial count of the presidential electoral votes bastardized by Trump and demagogues like U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
We saw the president of the United States summon a deranged mob to Washington for the express purpose of preventing Biden from being declared the winner of the election. We watched and heard his tiny failson son, Don Jr., his deranged and buffoonish acolyte, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump himself call upon the assembled mob of MAGA morons and mutants to storm the United States Capitol and “fight” for him. Then we watched in astonished outrage as the insurrectionist cult minions did precisely that.
While our incredulity and rage at this premeditated deliberate attack on America are righteous, none among us should claim to be surprised it happened.
It has been building since 2015. It was publicly plotted, planned, and provoked by Donald Trump et. al, smack before our eyes and ears for months. Then it happened. Precisely as he said it would. Just as he demanded it should.
It is arguably the dastardliest attack on America that has ever occurred because it came directly from the White House and from within our people; deranged and seditious citizens intent on subverting and overthrowing the government.
Fortunately, Trump is a lunatic moron and many of his cultists aspire to even reach Trump’s lofty levels of idiocy and incompetence. Most couldn’t manage to find their own asses with both hands and a flashlight, let alone topple the American Government. However, their incompetence and failure do not absolve the enormity of their sins.
While some Trump enablers have finally met their breaking point, most have not. YouGov released a poll yesterday that found 52% of Republicans blame — get this — Joe Biden for Trump’s failed clown-coup at the U.S. Capitol. That bears repeating: Most Republicans watched Trump incite a mob of his supporters to riot but blame the mayhem on Biden.
Reality matters not to the majority of Republicans. The crisis in our country has not been fueled by failure to listen or understand them; it is rooted in their inability to adapt to a changing world or comprehend (or acknowledge) facts and truth.
There must be a reckoning, not just for Trump, but for the damage his conspirators in power have willingly abetted or impotently allowed. All criminal, civil, or political recourse against them should be pursued. Absolution or pardons for these offenders must not be offered or tolerated.
As for the Republican Party and its elected members who’ve actively or passively participated in Trump’s corruption, Trump has already wrought some punishment or set their demise in motion. Most of what Republicans held in Washington and in state capitals when Trump took office is now gone. I believe more soon will be, hastened especially by redistricting reshaping the political landscape in the U.S. House and state legislatures later this year.
To answer Zevon’s question, “How you gonna pay for the sin?” posed at the opening of this column, I see the Trump-Republican Party facing looming political hellfire and Old Testament legal brimstone. Fever can burn away a virus and mythological fire can cleanse sin. What survives is purified.
I realize redemption may be too lofty a prospect. Purity certainly has no chance to emerge in politics. But we’ve stood at the edge of the abyss and not fallen. The American system requires vibrant and viable center-left and center-right factions.
It will take time, but we can restore that essential balance – but only if we are willing to mete out justice to those who’ve sought to destroy us.