It’s only been a few weeks since Donald J. Trump fled Washington in a helicoptered huff, but even in this short amount of time, a little perspective has helped. I watched a large swathe of the impeachment trial in the US Senate this week, and it played out to me like a Netflix documentary about a crazy series of events which, at the time, were a little hard to follow, and have gotten a bit jumbled up in what’s left of the memory cells.
It clarified a lot. There were plenty of previously unseen videos, a timeline that made more sense of a lot of them, and the effect over three days was cumulatively persuasive and emotionally gutting. The core issue was laid bare.
January 6 was the ineluctable consequence of a president who was never going to leave office peacefully if he didn’t win. This was not something he ever hid. Many of us saw that clash coming from a mile away, but never quite imagined exactly what would transpire. I just never believed it would happen without shots being fired. And, sure enough, they were. It was the first non-peaceful transfer of power in American history. In over two centuries, it remains unprecedented, the most grotesque assault on democratic processes by a single president in history.
I’ll be honest and confess I don’t quite buy the case that president Trump directly incited a ransacking of the Capitol, and I wish the House had stepped back some more and pursued a broader charge of dereliction of duty and violation of his oath of office. Nonetheless, Trump did directly encourage his mob to march toward the Capitol building, and to rally menacingly outside of it, in order to pressure the Senate and, in particular, Mike Pence, to overturn the clear and legal results of last November’s election. And he was definitely aware of the violent proclivities of his loyal mob, summoned to DC on that specific day. At times, the House managers showed how his speech was echoed instantly in the crowd as it went along, and how instrumental it was in justifying their more violent aspirations.
It seems perfectly clear to me as well that Trump’s tactical silence and inaction as the assault was taking place were designed to keep the violence going and to keep upping the ante. This negligence was appalling. So were his statements later that day praising the rioters, sending them love, and telling them they should remember this day.
And this, of course, is in keeping with Trump’s oft-expressed love of raw violence. Watching the Senators be rushed out of their seats, seeing Mitt Romney nearly come face-to-face with thugs who may well have assaulted him, witnessing the vice-president escorted swiftly out of the building, and some staffers lock themselves in rooms to protect themselves, as if a school shooter were at large, was a chilling manifestation of this comfort with coercion.
The treatment of the cops by the MAGA mob — the expletives, contempt and hatred directed at them — tore off the facade of the party that claims to be the champion of law enforcement. That Trump clearly put the lives of cops, Senators and his own vice-president in danger was, of course, of no concern for him. No lives apart from his own have ever mattered to him.
Sure, there was something pathetic about it all: the bewilderment of the intruders, the lack of any serious strategy, the goonishness of the ring leaders, the depraved blasphemy of their iconography, and the inevitability of their failure. Lame, ball-capped bros yelling “Fuck yeah!” as they toured their conquered territory is not exactly Iwo Jima.
But the violence was real and, in several cases, fatal. And no clownishness should distract us from the gravity of the event, or who was responsible for it. For four years, we had a president who expressed contempt for democratic procedures; who had long viewed every US election as rigged; who refused in 2016 and 2020 to respect the results in advance; who claimed millions of illegal aliens had voted for his opponent in 2016; who attempted to stop the counting of votes after election night; who tried to lean on state officials and legislators to reverse certification; who falsely claimed, without any credible evidence, that he had won in a landslide; who wouldn’t attend his successor’s inauguration; and who has refused even now to concede he lost at all.
There has never been a president who has done any of this: express contempt for the democracy he leads, refuse to accept the legitimate results of an election, and attempt to stay in power by marshaling violence in the streets. There are no parallels among any first-world modern democracies for this kind of behavior by a head of state or prime minister. No Western leader, after losing an election, has ever insisted he actually won it in a landslide — and refused to grant any legitimacy to his successor. It is such a grotesque violation of a president’s oath of office that, only a few years ago, it would have been deemed an impossibly far-fetched scenario.
Impeaching and convicting a president for this is therefore a no-brainer. It is the bare minimum we need to do to restore democratic stability. That any Senator is even considering acquitting Trump is a scandal, a sign that one major party has abandoned even the most basic rules of democratic life. That so many “constitutional” Republicans, like Mike Lee of Utah or Rand Paul of Kentucky, have managed to find some arcane way to justify this excrescent assault on our democracy reveals their moral depravity and intellectual incoherence. That so many ordinary Republicans can justify this in any way — and still insist that the election was stolen — is a sign that one party in our system has effectively ceased to be a democratic one at all.
Do your Constitutional duty, Senators. Quit your rationalizations and your distractions and your willful denial. Marginalize him. Stigmatize him. Convict him.
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of The Weekly Dish. If you’re already a subscriber, click here to read the full version. If you’re not subscribed and want to read the whole thing, and keep independent media thriving on Substack, subscribe now! This week’s issue includes: a ton of reader dissent and my responses over the alleged “whiteness” of the classics; a post about my angst over the bipartisan support of debt; a tribute to my tripawd beagle in lockdown; many Quotes and Yglesias Awards from impeachment week; a number of disturbing or just ridiculous examples of racial “equity”; a Cool Ad for the vaccine; a Hathos Alert involving Leonard Cohen; a Mental Health Break that Gen-X stoner dudes will especially love; more recommended reads; more window views; and of course the View From Your Window Contest. Subscribe for the full Dish experience!)
New On The Dishcast: Kmele Foster
A friend and an inspiration, Kmele really opens up in this conversation. To listen to three excerpts — on the tensions between African-Africans and black immigrants; on the intractable problem of the racial wealth gap; and on the purging of the NYT’s Donald McNeil — head over to our YouTube page. Listen to the whole episode here. That link also contains more great commentary from readers.
Dissents Of The Week: The Unbearable Whiteness Of The Classics
From one of the many dissenting readers over my latest column:
The NYT piece suggested that classical ideas and writers could be taught as parts of other disciplines. And you yourself suggest giving more attention to classics of other cultures. So why is it necessary to have a specific discipline called “classics” limited to the Graeco-Roman world in order to give proper attention to ideas and writers of that era?
Because, yes, they are foundational to Western civilization. And some of us believe it matters that we understand where so many of our ideas and institutions came from — from politics to theater to the law.
Read several more dissents and my responses in the full edition of the Dish. We received too many great reader emails to fit on that main page, so head over to this page to read many more. The erudition of so many Dishheads continues to blow my mind. We have our own little Wikipedia right here. Subscribe to get the full Dish experience!
Married To A Dog
I was asked to write the diary for the Spectator (the English version) this week, and felt somewhat bereft. As I remember that feature from my college years, it was always full of social gossip, party anecdotes, and all the more relaxed forms of human activity one might associate with former editor, Boris Johnson.
But all I can offer is my remaining three-legged beagle, Bowie.
(Read the rest of the post here.)
The Magic Money Tree Of 2021
One of the few lasting legacies of the Trump administration — perhaps the most significant — is the end of fiscal conservatism. It’s become the most striking bipartisan consensus over the last few years: debt doesn’t really matter at all! All those decades worrying about deficits were, we are now informed, a total waste of time. Just because we ran a deficit of — *checks notes* — over $3 trillion last year is no cause for concern.
(Read the rest of the post here.)
The View From Your Window Contest
Where do you think this view is? (FYI, the photo was taken about a decade ago.) Send your entry to email@example.com. Please put the location — city and/or state first, then country — in the subject line. Proximity counts if no one gets the exact location. Bonus points for fun facts and stories. The winner gets the choice of a VFYW book or two annual Dish subscriptions. If you are not a subscriber, please indicate that status in your entry and we will give you a three-month sub if we select your entry for the contest results (example here if you are new to the contest). Happy sleuthing!
The results for the last week’s view are coming in a separate email to subscribers later today.
Feel free to send the view from your own window (just remember to include the location, time of day, and include part of the window frame — and horizontal photos are preferred). If we post your photo, we will send you a free six-month subscription or an extension to your current one.
As always, keep the dissents coming: firstname.lastname@example.org. Though please try to be concise: the new format of The Weekly Dish is much more constrained than The Daily Dish, so it’s more difficult to include your smart criticism when it stretches into many paragraphs.
See you next Friday.