The legal hucksters, from Rudy Giuliani to Mark Levin, who promoted demonstrably debunkable claims about electoral fraud, are complicit. All of those supposedly sober-minded conservatives who encouraged the president to “pursue his legal options” (knowing full well they were bunk, but with the assurance that they would settle doubts about the validity of the vote) are complicit. The 126 House Republicans who signed on to the preposterous brief supporting the Texas lawsuit to overturn the election — flicked away in a single paragraph by the Supreme Court — are complicit. Ted Cruz, whom I once described as a “serpent covered in Vaseline” but who turns out to be considerably worse, is complicit. Josh Hawley and the rest of the Senate cynics, who tried to obstruct Biden’s election certification in a transparent bid to corner the market on Trumpian craziness, are complicit. Mike Pence, who cravenly humored Trump’s fantasies right till the moment of constitutional truth, is complicit. (If there’s an argument against Trump’s removal from office, he alone is it.)
Some of these charlatans are now trying to disavow Wednesday’s violence in carefully phrased tweets. But Cruz, Hawley, Pence and the other Bitter-Enders have done far more lasting damage to Congress than the mob that — merely by following their lead — physically trashed it. Broken doors can be fixed. Broken parties cannot.
Above all there is the president, not complicit but wholly, undeniably and unforgivably responsible.
For five years, Republicans let him degrade political culture by normalizing his behavior. For five years, they let him wage war on democratic norms and institutions. For five years, they treated his nonstop mendacity as a quirk of character, not a disqualification for office. For five years, they treated his rallies as carnivals of democracy, not as training grounds for mob rule.
For five years, they thought this was costless. On Wednesday — forgive the cliché, but it’s apt here — their chickens came home to roost.
Every decent society depends for its survival on its ability to be shocked — and stay shocked — by genuinely shocking behavior. Donald Trump’s entire presidency has been an assault on that idea.
There is only one prescription for it now. Impeach the president and remove him from office now. Ban him forever from office now. Let every American know that, in the age of Trump, there are some things that can never be allowed to stand, most of all Trump himself.
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