The American right seems oblivious to the seething anger that the 81 million Americans who braved a multifaceted voter suppression campaign and a raging pandemic to vote against Donald Trump feel over Republicans' relentless attempts to silence their voices with Donald Trump's ludicrous election fraud conspiracy theories.
This week, many of them sought to weaponize President-elect Joe Biden's campaign theme of bringing the country together after four years of Trump's bomb-throwing. The very same Republican lawmakers who objected to counting the Electoral College votes that gave Joe Biden a resounding victory claimed this week that impeaching Trump would violate Biden's promise to promote healing and seek greater unity. "Rushing this resolution to the floor will do nothing to unify or heal the country," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) during this week's debate. "These actions, again, will only continue to divide the nation."
But it is not on us to comfort the 74 million Trump voters whom Trump, most Republican lawmakers and the conservative media whipped into a frenzy. These calls for unity are premature--a transparent efforts to obtain impunity for those who brought us to the point where a mob of wingnuts clad in military gear and red hats planned to assassinate a Republican Vice President on Capitol Hill and there are now more troops stationed in DC to defend Biden's inauguration than there are on the ground in Afghanistan.
So it is vitally important for conservatives to understand that while Joe Biden appears to be earnest in his desire to bring the country together, as is appropriate for a president in these circumstances, most of us on the left have no interest whatsoever in "healing" or seeking "unity" with those who have long refused to acknowledge the basic legitimacy of Democratic governance until they undertake a reckoning with that strategy.
Perhaps more importantly, they must understand that the burden of beginning the process of healing our frayed polity falls squarely on them. It is their tribe that stormed Congress, attacked the cops and is engaged in an ongoing, violent insurrection in response to losing an election, and it is on them to figure out how to pull their movement back from the brink.
We will consider their ideas. But there's a necessary order of things that must be followed before we can even begin to "lower the temperature" in this country. We must first establish some truth before we can even begin talking about reconciliation.
At a minimum, that means publicly acknowledging not only that Joe Biden won this election, but also that there were never any serious questions about his victory. After all, making bogus claims of fraud has long been one of Trump's signature moves. When The Amazing Race beat out The Apprentice for an Emmy Award, Trump claimed that the Emmys were rigged; when he lost the Iowa Caucus in 2016, he claimed that Ted Cruz had cheated; he said there had been widespread fraud in the election that he won in 2016 and started claiming that he could only lose in 2020 as a result of fraud back in 2019.
After he trailed Biden by 6-10 points in the polling averages for the entire campaign, and never lead in even a single high-quality poll, Trump's outlandish assertion that he not only won, but did so in a landslide were always laughable.
This week, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), the leaders of what has been dubbed the "Sedition Caucus" in the Senate, tried to have their cake and eat it too by acknowledging that Biden was the winner but continuing to insist that "millions of voters concerned about election integrity deserve to be heard," as Hawley put it. That won't fly because those "concerns" were promoted by virtually the entire conservatives movement--including Hawley and Cruz—and they were always transparent nonsense. So the "we're just asking questions" gambit isn't going to cut it.
Reconciliation is also impossible to contemplate without accountability for at least those who are the most culpable for bringing us to the brink of armed conflict.
Ideally, Republicans would join with Democrats to expel any members of Congress who voted against counting the duly-certified Electoral College results. Given how numerous they are, that's impractical, but certainly those who spurred on the mob or coordinated with the insurrectionists must be held accountable before the GOP can again claim to support law and order without being laughed out of the room.
The standard operating procedure for the right in these circumstances is to claim that investigations into wrongdoing by Republicans can only be politically motivated "witch-hunts," and that Democrats and the left don't really care about the underlying allegations. Healing won't be possible unless the right abandons that spin and acknowledges that our anger and fear are genuine and justified, and that our need for justice isn't merely a quest for vengeance. This shouldn't even be a partisan issue.
This week, a number of Republicans chose to quote from Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address in 1865, when he said, "with malice toward none, with charity for all, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds." But as Colombia University historian Eric Foner pointed out, that snippet was cherry-picked to create a false impression of what Lincoln was trying to express. "He also said that this war, the Civil War, was God's punishment on the nation for the evil of slavery and, that if it was necessary to have every drop of blood drawn by the lash repaid by one drawn by the sword - that's Lincoln's words - that would still be justice," Foner told NPR. "In other words, what Lincoln is saying is reconciliation needs justice to come with it. Reconciliation needs accountability. You can't just wash your hands and say, let's forget about the past and move forward with healing."