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Reflections on America's Most Heart-Wrenching Day

Max Stearns

Yesterday, like so many of you, I was wedded to the TV, shocked and outraged at the violence fomented by the most egregious and vile president in modern history. I am rarely at a loss for words, but I have struggled to write down my thoughts. I am about to begin teaching Constitutional Law I: Structure and Governance, this coming Monday. It is a class I have always loved to teach. And yet, I am coming to grips with the challenge that the core values of our admittedly flawed system, one founded on profound, and racist, human tragedy, yet improved upon through the generations, have, in recent years, been crumbling before our eyes.

I also struggle with the judgment by President Elect Biden not to call for rapid impeachment of the sitting president or invocation of the 25th Amendment. To be sure, he controls neither process, but his leadership is central to the Democratic party. He may view this as his Gerald Ford moment, a call to heal, which might appear better in hindsight, as compared, for example, with the views of with angry Democrats when Nixon resigned in disgrace. Biden's call for unity is characteristic of who the man is, and that is for the good. I'll confess that I'm less forgiving, and I would like Trump identified as the first President impeached and formally removed from office, with an added vote that renders him permanently ineligible ever to run again. My feelings aside, it's quite possible that Biden is far wiser on this and so many other things than I am.

My larger concern is that those who violently broke into the U.S. Capitol live in an alternative reality. For them whatever Trump says is true. Truth is a lie. Lies are the truth. I was on a FB exchange with someone yesterday who claimed the Mueller report was "bs." So I linked an ABC News article listing the number of guilty pleas, and who entered them, and I explained that having read the report, I know it is anything but bs. I was met with laughing emojis and a comment deriding ABC News. I pointed out that I could corroborate each point made in the article with hundreds of sources, including FOX news. This was followed with more laughing emojis. Of course, I could also have supported each claim with court documents, but who has the time? And what is the point? For Trump's base, self-righteousness somehow equals rightness. But those aren't synonymous. Not even close. The self-righteous are so often wrong.

When visceral anger takes the place of reasoned judgment, it is no longer possible to engage. We occupy two worlds incapable of communicating in a meaningful way. I try to be respectful of those with whom I disagree, but some disagreements simply don't allow it. One cannot respectfully disagree over who won the election, whether Trump incited the rioting, and whether the past four years have witnessed a party reveal its leaders as sycophants, not patriots. We also can't disagree that were the protestors African American, the police response would have been dramatically different. And that Trump would have led the charge for that different treatment.

What also deeply troubles me is the considerable number of very intelligent and highly educated conservatives, some but not all whom I know personally, who could never bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or, even if they did, did so covertly, unwilling to use their perches to encourage others to do the same. This might have played a helpful role in making at least some of those who are inclined to accept whatever Trump says think twice. Their inability, once and for all, to call out Trumpism as a horrific mistake deeply saddens me. And watching so many members of the Republican House caucus (and some in the Senate) protest the final Electoral College count, with some then purporting to claim that yesterday's tragic events somehow surprised them, is absurd. Those Republican leaders who suddenly, this week, decided Trump has gone too far are not patriots. They are cowards whose revelation came four (really five) years too late.

I fear that the Republican party is so corrupted that the only solution is for it to come to its natural health. There must be an opposition party, and it's not as if liberals hold the monopoly on helpful ideas. A genuine conservative party might, one hopes, emerge in the GOP's place, but that will take some time. And that's okay. These people are not anywhere near ready to govern. They have earned a decades long time-out. They have amply demonstrated their lack of wisdom and judgment. They cannot be trusted to lead. If the past five years have shown us nothing else, they have made this all too plain.

I wish all my readers a happy new year and a better tomorrow. Your comments are always welcome.

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