It’s stamped on our coins and paper currency, passports and treaties. It adorns our official national emblem, the Great Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum; “Out of many, one.”
Since 1782, it’s been the traditional motto of the United States of America. It’s come to symbolize not only the 13 colonies that dared unify as a nation but the wonderful mashup of disparate peoples that so enriches this nation.
But what about today?
After four dark, divisive years, we’ve fired an incompetent, dishonest divider and hired a competent, honest uniter to lead us. A sigh of relief resonates across the land. We’ve recovered our bearings and reset course.
We’d like to close the door on a nightmarish episode of misrule and just move on. But after a mob stormed the United States Capitol, that option vanished.
The attack by Americans on American lawmakers was incited by a rogue president and his enablers who lied to misinformed, gullible –and not so gullible — citizens. The goal was to do the unthinkable: orchestrate a coup to overturn legally certified results of a presidential election. What we saw was unprecedented in our history: our government’s executive branch — our president — fomenting a violent attack on the legislative branch.
Enough is enough.
Even our Rep. Dan Newhouse, a faithful Trump enabler who finally voted to impeach him, seems to get that this cannot stand. That someone who for so long so slavishly supported such a flagrantly unfit, profoundly anti-democratic president could recover his wits is best read as a hopeful sign. Send the man a note of thanks.
After dancing with the devil, Newhouse now awaits being primaried by the ever-ungrateful, vengeful Trump, who threatens revenge on lawmakers who voted to impeach him.
Trump’s finger has been removed from the nuclear button. But it remains poised over another weapon, his “base,” which he promises to deploy from the ballot box. This political blackmail is how he means to remain a potent player in American politics.
The threat of being targeted by Trump-funded candidates in Republican primaries resonates in the Senate chambers as its Republican members — who’ve always caved to Trump’s bullying –- now deliberate whether to convict him. We’ll soon see if any of them hold a democratic republic dearer than their jobs.
Republicans who oppose holding the former president accountable for inciting insurrection argue that the tumor has been excised from the body, so it’s unnecessary — and unwise — to stir up more trouble in a troubled land. Yes, the tumor may be gone, but not the disease that triggered its growth. How, pray, are we to prevent its return if Trump escapes scot-free? Hello?
The Trump administration has been a toxic tutorial in how to deploy disunity to commit national suicide. We’ve discovered how surprisingly fragile and vulnerable our democracy is and how much patching and filling must be done to shore it up against authoritarianism.
Which is why it’s imperative to lay down an unequivocal marker of consequences for the next Trump — who surely will arrive if we don’t smarten up. When much more than the crackpot fringe of a society is awash in delusion, marinating in willful ignorance, something besides the internet is in play.
Democrats, who abandoned the working class, bear their share of responsibility for this mess. But with its emphasis on coddling the rich, it’s the Republican Party that, for 40 years, has been setting the table for a Trump. Republicans take pride in advertising themselves as anti-government and urge citizens to view their own government as their enemy.
Since the Reagan administration, there’s hardly been a measure to improve the well-being of ordinary Americans that Republicans haven’t opposed. Their war on government has produced a slow-motion national tragedy that’s hollowed out the working class and, safe to say, helped produce 74 million angry Trump voters — though signing on with Trump only got them more of the same callous disregard. Even as they were doing his bidding inside the Capitol, Trump reportedly complained that they looked too “low class” on TV.
Not a leader
Trump showed where anti-government philosophy leads. Because he did not believe in government, Trump did not govern. Instead, he dismantled regulations that protect the public.
He had a sworn duty to protect the nation but refused to stem a national pandemic — something that only a central government, not 50 separate states, can hope to do. Aside from military defense, Republicans want our federal government to be as weak as possible and do as little as possible. The pandemic shows how well that works.
Trump sat on his hands, and the pandemic crippled the economy. Millions lost their jobs. On the day he skulked out of town, Trump left 400,000 dead Americans behind. More of us die each day of COVID-19 than were killed in one day on 9/11. The United States has 4% of the world’s population but 20% of the people killed by the virus.
That’s Trump’s Republican governing legacy.
Sedition is too kind a word for it.
With Trumpian leaders whose rule depends on provoking citizens to mistrust one another, can we really unite to function as a successful nation?
Says COVID-19 czar Dr. Anthony Fauci: “… being united is much, much better than being divisive. Because divisiveness has really failed. I mean it has failed us in every single way.”
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.