By Daniel Rose
Historians will debate endlessly the ramifications of the American elections of 2020, but all will agree that January 6, 2021, was the nadir, the appallingly lowest point of democratic practices in modern times.
Televised images of frenzied mobs storming the nation’s Capitol complex – breaching police barricades and scaling walls, forcing entry to threaten Congressional leaders – will not be forgotten.
Militant followers of President Trump had been urged by him to rally in Washington, as Congress debated certification of election results. “Give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country,” exhorted Trump. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani shouted to the crowd “let’s have trial by combat,” and they cheered. The mob smashed doors and windows for access to Congressional offices, which they vandalized as Senators hid in locked bunkers.
Watching approvingly on TV, the president tweeted, “We love you. You are very special.” Only after three hours of havoc did Trump reluctantly concede to his advisors and release a video instructing his militant supporters to “go home,” while he still fulminated falsely about a “stolen election.”
These traumatic events bewildered and stupefied a profoundly polarized, distrustful and suspicious American public. Bipartisan outrage greeted Trump’s performance. Democrats reacted as expected, but forthright, candid Republicans proved to be the heroes of the day.
Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Mitt Romney, former president George W. Bush, former Attorney General William Barr and others spoke out loudly and clearly, condemning what some called “an insurrection.” Many distraught current members of the Trump Team immediately resigned, so as to dissociate themselves from Trump’s affront to decency and propriety.
If the aforementioned are authentic heroes, the “anti-heroes” of the day are those senators and representatives still refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the 2020 national election. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley’s militantly pro-Trump book “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” scheduled for publication in June, was abruptly cancelled by an embarrassed Simon and Schuster. Texas Senator Ted Cruz will eventually be judged by voters.
Thoughtful observers ponder where we go from here, but there are no clear answers to several pressing questions.
First of all is the widespread fear of possibly destructive acts by Trump before January 20th, when he will be out of office. The nation looks to Vice President Pence for protection.
Secondly are the prospects for the effective “centrist” governmental administration advocated by incoming President Joe Biden.
Pragmatic compromises leading to prudent, widely acceptable consensus on major issues will be possible if responsible leadership of both political parties accept it as a goal. Civil, patient, mutually-respectful discussion of divergent views, conducted by knowledgeable competent and results-oriented spokesmen would be a major achievement, as a wide spectrum of social, economic and political views are debated and their short-term, interim and longer term ramifications are explored. The trade-offs, the costs-vs-benefits, of important proposals – dealing with first, of course, the virus, and then with employment, education, healthcare, housing, criminal justice and climate change – require the kind of mature, reasoned considerations that a responsible “centrist” national leadership can provide.
A lowering of voices, an effort to seek reasonable accommodation, is clearly called for and looking ahead, not backward should be a joint goal.
NOT seeking national adjudication on punishment for Trump transgression, but leaving to state authorities any indicated actions, would be an important indication that the incoming administration seeks a spirit of cooperation rather than of partisan battle.
Thirdly, and most important, is a poignant challenge: Restoring Social Harmony
Diminishing the painful fragmentation, divisiveness, and cleavages that plague America today is in everyone’s best interest. “The greatest good for the greatest number” has become a cliché that all accept in principle but ignore in practice.
Today we think economically of “I, me, my” vs. “we, us, ours”; and socially, the “we” reflects only our respective narrow subgroups of ethnicity, color, religion, educational level, geographic region or economic level. A Modern multi-cultural society must have broader perspectives.
The effective “centrist” administration advocated by incoming President Biden should be – and be seen to be – concerned not with “big government” or “small government” but with “smart government”, one that fairly, justly and competently addresses the fears, anxieties and legitimate concerns of all segments of our varied public.
In Ancient Rome, the brilliant Emperor Marcus Aurelius noted “What is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bee.” Today we must consider what is best for our American “beehive”.