What did we expect when a combative man like Donald John Trump lost the 2020 election?
A president graciously letting go of power for the good of the country? A high-minded discussion of precedents quoting at length from John Quincy Adams? No, that’s not the man that millions of Americans voted for.
In fact, many backed Trump precisely because he was a battler, believing that his indifference to polite norms about high office was a good reason to elect him to the highest of one of all. Still, few could have predicted that the experiment would lead the country into a democracy-threatening crisis.
Now, after deaths and the international spectacle of the U.S. Capitol violently invaded by a horde incited by a vindictive loser, everyone knew that the congressional hearings on the event would be ugly. The facts are ugly. If there's any comfort to be taken in the saga laid out by the investigating committee, it is that many of the men and women around Trump knew just how insane the overturn-the-election schemes were.
Over and over again, witnesses have shown that more reasonable people in the White House and the U.S. Justice Department understood that the scheme of conservative lawyer John Eastman to overturn the election was “nuts,” “crazy,” “going to cause riots in the streets.”
But Trump and his co-conspirators were not only delusional but determined.
To put this in the business language that a property developer should understand, the reputational damage to the Republic was enormous. America’s image in the world suffered gravely that day. It would have been utterly irresponsible if Congress had not empaneled a committee to look into the details.
The responsible bunch does not include most of our Louisiana Republican members of Congress, who were protected from abuse or worse by Capitol Police during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, then went on to feed the fiction by voting to reject at least some swing state results.
Their memories are shorter than third-graders if they can today dismiss the revelations of the committee as political theater. With very few honorable exceptions in the GOP, including Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, and above all U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of America’s great parties fell into grave error that cost lives.
Approve or disapprove of Trump’s policies, and we have often supported them when we thought they were in the interests of Louisiana and the nation, the GOP fails in its duty if it remains in denial over the events of that awful day.
While no one expected an uplifting account of the last days of the Trump administration, the revelations still have the power to shock.
What happens now? The hearings aren’t going to get any better for the GOP but we have our doubts that avid Democrats will get to see what some want, the ex-president in the dock in criminal court. Trump’s business dealings may end up in court in New York or elsewhere, but that’s different.
No matter what happens on the criminal front, we see the committee hearings as healthy for small-d democracy, even as we despair of some of those deaf to the realities they expose, including many in Louisiana’s delegation in Congress and in state and federal office across the land.
Above all, the Republican Party of prudence and responsibility and fidelity to the traditions of the Republic — most vitally respect for the will of the voters and the peaceful transfer of power — must find itself again. To the extent that the hearings show there were people more committed to those principles than Trump, perhaps there is some hope.