Joe Biden wasn’t my first, or second, or, let’s be real, third choice, but it did feel like something amazing was happening on the day of his inauguration, beyond the obviously momentous occasion of the first female Vice President. And Amanda Gorman’s entire existence.
And it was amazing. It’s rare to kneecap an autocrat through voting, for a nation to buy herself some time. And we did it.
We walked right up to the fucking ledge, all the way to armed insurrection, to “very fine people on both sides,” to years of lies culminating in the Big Lie, to organized right-wing militias, to the beating of police officers and chants of “Hang Mike Pence” and a confederate flag flying in the halls of the American seat of government. We went all the way to domestic terrorists, backed by Members of Congress and incited by the President, storming our Capitol, replacing the American flag with theirs, and roaming the halls with zip ties looking for hostages.
So, yes, when I saw Biden repeat the oath of office, it felt like a damn big deal, like the biggest bullet ever had just blown right past our heads, and I felt proud of what America had done. It felt like a bit of relief, a breath. Some hope for the first time in a long time.
And yet, like the empty seat where the outgoing President normally sits in a symbolic sign of the peaceful transfer of power, Trump’s presence—even in his absence—runs beneath it all.
He’s a damn specter: We can not see it if we don’t want to.
What? That? It’s gone. I don’t see it. All I see is Lady Gaga’s brooch.
On January 6 we had no choice but to look at it all dead in the eyes, but now, if we want, we can go to brunch and never think about politics again. You know, like we used to.
Let’s never do that again. That did not go well at all.
We can “move on” and feel safe again, enjoy “decency” and full sentences in the White House, competence and the lack of name-calling, dog-whistling, conspiratorial, lying tweets.
But, uh, y’all, we had all that right before we had Trump.
And always there’s that empty chair and the 74 million Americans who voted for it.
There’s still Trump and his merry band of lying corporatists (in and out of his family), the nutjobs of Q-Anon, the tiny-men parade of Proud Boys, Boogaloo, Oath Keepers and Three-Percenters.
But mostly, my god there is the “sane” GOP. At least the far-right idiot brigade is clean, clear, and crisply disturbed. They are, quite clearly, fascists.
But the fascist-lite wing, the “we’ll work with the fascists as long as we can get tax cuts” wing, the “surely we can get Trump under control and just use him for court appointments” wing, the “since we can’t win on our ideas let’s appeal to the imagined grievances of white people” wing, the “sure let’s tell them the election was rigged because losing power sucks” wing—those people, the ones who gaslight us until our heads nearly explode—what the fuck do we do with them?
Watching them feels like a direct assault on truth, reason, and sanity because it is an assault on truth, reason, and sanity. Accepting what they’re saying requires us to deny what’s in front of our own fucking eyes, to accept a false version of reality.
As sane people—and I mean that literally as in, “a person who can distinguish fantasy from reality”—we can’t do that.
But there they are, almost like legitimate leaders, walking the halls, getting interviewed on CNN and Fox.
They stand for nothing, dip their toes into accountability via mealy-mouthed rhetoric and only if there’s not a single thing at stake for them personally. (My, my they all get so brave as they walk out the door to quit, retire, or sign a contract for a 7-figure “tell all!” book deal.)
They tell us “The insurrectionists do not represent the GOP” five minutes before they vote against the material manifestation that the insurrectionists do not represent the GOP (see: impeachment).
One hundred and forty-seven of them in the House voted against certifying the results of a free and fair election, mainly votes by Black Americans, after they’d lost sixty court cases on the subject, and four hours after that very lie led to an armed insurrection.
And yet, people talk of “unity” with them. Quick question. What exactly are we supposed to unify with?
The Republicans didn’t even have a 2020 platform, choosing instead to become the official party of Donald Trump. In their words: We “enthusiastically support the president’s America-first agenda.”
And on January 6, the entire world saw where that “America First” agenda led. How the fuck do we unite with a party that is unwilling to unequivocally purge itself from the very agenda that led to a fascistic movement?
It’s not that complicated. You can’t walk both sides here. You can’t say “Trump’s our guy” but also “Coups are bad” when TRUMP INCITED A COUP. You can’t stand behind Trump and his myriad bootlickers for four years as they ramp up fascistic rhetoric and imagined grievances and then, when all of that comes to its ultimate and logical violent end, declare “That isn’t us” while voting to perpetuate it all.
The GOP, in its current form, evidenced by its own behavior, is an enemy of democracy, the rule of law, and the republic until further notice.
And now, now they want us to unify with them while they continue to show the moral cowardice that got us here in the first place?
AGAIN, I ask, unify with WHAT?
Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt guy? “6 Million Isn’t Enough” guy? How about the confederate flag dude, or maybe the ones who built a noose or planted bombs? Do we share a cold one with those bastions of freedom who beat police officers with flag poles and a fire extinguisher?
Do we sit down and really get in touch with the white nationalists and ask how we can help them achieve their domestic terrorist goals? Sure, the FBI classified far-right extremists as the greatest terror threat in America, but you know, maybe if we really hear them out, break some fuckin’ bread, we’ll realize suddenly we’re all on the same team here.
WE CANNOT BE ON THE SAME TEAM HERE.
Or maybe we go the Q-Anon route. There are actual Q grifters in the House of Representatives now! Is that the new Q Caucus? Trumpy called Q folks “patriots.” His lawyer Lin Wood and his main man Michael Flynn are all about it. Anything for power, amiright?
So in the interest of “healing” do we join whatever backwoods website they’re still allowed on and ask them to elaborate on the Soros-run cabal of deep state politicians and Hollywood stars involved in the rape, murder, and organ harvesting of children?
Do we add “The Great Awakening” to our calendars and look for Q drops and cryptic messages from Giuliani, Pompeo, and random YouTube personalities telling us soon, led by Trump, who’s sent by Jesus, all the bad ones will die?
Look, I know, GOP, you aren’t those people. Of course you aren’t.
But you are.
Because they, too, support the America First agenda. And no, we cannot simply ignore them. We cannot just focus on the everyday, guy-next-door Trump supporter (who we all know extremely well due to the 7,000 profiles in the New York Times).
Our ability to ignore them ended the day they stormed the American seat of government.
Our ability to ignore them ended the day we saw all of these radicalized factions unite under the man you “enthusiastically support.”
Our ability to ignore them ended the day 147 of you STILL voted in line with the lie of a “stolen election,” with zero evidence.
Fascistic movements do not just go away, assholes. They don’t release one collective, sad sigh and say, “Oh, well, gosh darn-it, our leader wasn’t elected so I guess we’ll just go back to rubbing our guns and trying to get back on Parler.”
They evolve. They go underground and keep planning. They look for a new leader. And if the GOP refuses to unequivocally disavow Trump and his agenda, they won’t have to look very far, will they?
Look I know the GOP is fucked. They played with fire, thought they could reign Trump in, thought they could use him for those sweet tax cuts and court appointments, thought of him as a useful idiot—they gambled, and they lost. Because yes, if any of them vote for impeachment, they will probably get primaried and they will probably lose.
MAYBE THEY SHOULDA THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE THEY BACKED A FASCIST.
Maybe they should have thought of that before hitching their wagons to a white nationalist shitbag with bad spelling and brilliant rhetorical manipulation skills who effectively convinced tens of millions of Americans that a free and fair election was a left-wing conspiracy against Trump, orchestrated by dead Latin American leaders and “hacked” voting machines that don’t even connect to the internet.
Maybe they should have considered the unsustainability of backing an aspiring autocrat unless you’re willing to ride it all the way to the end of democracy.
The GOP needs to decide who and what it is and then talk to us about unity. And the left needs to settle for absolutely nothing less no matter how soothing it is to see normalcy in the White House.