“The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.”- Jean Renoir, THE RULES OF THE GAME
For years now, fealty to the narrative of American freedom has dismissed the concerns of those who have seen Trumpism for the emergent fascist, authoritarian movement that it is, with many scoffing at comparisons between Trumpist politics and historical authoritarian movements as an “overreaction.” In so doing, they have created a harbor for the normalization of Trumpism. Rather than confront the obvious, something within the hearts of millions– be it racism, economic greed, the thrall of disinformation, a pathetic appreciation of feigned “strength,” egotistical contrarianism, or any of a litany of other “reasons” that have been the subject of endless hand-wringing puff pieces in the national media– allowed them to re-frame Trumpism as a legitimate form of democratic governance; extreme, impolite, a test of norms, but legitimate nonetheless. That normalization has provided harbor to and made common cause with right-wing extremism, whose emboldened sense of entitlement as the sole subjects of our shared institutions of democracy saw thousands of Americans participate in a violent conspiracy to overthrow the legitimate will of the nation and stop Congress from validating the 2020 election.
The exclusivity of this entitlement is crucial, whatever its origin, be it race, religion, or class. At its core is a belief that our collective identity as a nation, that freedom as a concept, exists only to allow the individual to impose her or his own values and needs over the top of everything and everyone else. Freedom is seen, essentially, as freedom from constraint. Holding this idea is how a group of people who literally hate the majority of their fellow citizens, who hate the diversity of ideas and experience that make up American society, have come to believe themselves to be “patriots.” The idea that America exists to serve the interests of a single individual– as a “Christian” nation, as a “white” nation– is, in this case, a mirror image of Trump’s own psychopathic narcissism.
But Trumpism is a void; an endless need for narcissistic validation, an endless destruction of constraints in the name of self-interest. After years of shouting “where is the bottom?” into this void, many who dismissed the earliest, obvious signals of the horrors that awaited us have finally come to realize that there is no bottom at all. After years of breaking rules without consequence, emboldened by the self-validation of a relentless infrastructure of disinformation, the psychological connection forged between Trump’s self-interest and the exclusivity of entitlement among his supporters now imagines America itself as the constraint. Republican loyalists, realizing that the conservative vision of self-interest is insufficient to replace the psychological power of this fantasy of unconstrained exclusive individualism (and whose own history of economic and social policy has fomented this fiction), have decided to use the terrible outcome of this philosophy, a literal terror attack that sought to overthrow the government, and throw it into the void of Trumpism.
The novelist A.R. Moxon, who has been an essential critic of the rise of Trumpism, clearly paralleled the rationale that got us here when he wrote:
“Historians have a word for Germans who joined the Nazi party, not because they hated Jews, but out of a hope for restored patriotism, or a sense of economic anxiety, or a hope to preserve their religious values, or dislike of their opponents, or raw political opportunism, or convenience, or ignorance, or greed.
The word is ‘Nazi.’
Nobody cares about their motives anymore. They joined what they joined. They lent their support and moral approval. And, in so doing, they bound themselves to everything that came after.”
Tens of millions of Americans have made common cause with Trumpism, and now? We cannot afford to pretend to care why anymore. Today, as the House of Representatives convened to consider a second set of Articles Of Impeachment of the President, one Trumpist after the next took to the microphone to declare the effort to hold the President to account for leading an insurrectionist coup as “divisive,” to continue to ally themselves with the myth of exclusive entitlement, to repeat the lie that the election was illegitimate, threatening the rest of us with division if we don’t let them get away with it all. But isn’t this the Republican way, to make equivalence between reason and unreason in order to provide cover for their hypocrisy and collaboration? Underneath it all, a legitimization of grievance and violence, of an insurrection. These were threats that consequences for the crimes committed will only lead to more violence and that it will be our fault.
These are the same fools who refused to wear a mask as they shelter in place during an insurrection and infected their fellow Congresspeople with COVID-19, who took to the floor of the House in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol and maintained their support for the lie of a fraudulent election. They arrived at the Capitol yesterday to find new security screening procedures and balked, confronting and dismissing the same US Capitol Police officers they claimed to support, putting their fellow Congresspeople in further danger. And now, with the Biden Administration on the way in, they use in bi-partisanship as a carrot to avoid accountability for an autogolpe until they can withdraw it for the stick of their continued obstruction of the will of the people.
They cannot get away with this. The nation will not unify with seditionists and their apologists. American will only move on when there is justice. The stakes could not be higher, the action more grievous, and yet, here they stand, once again, terrorized by their own leader, cowering behind indefensible rhetoric, seeking to hold us down in the void they have made. They know their cause is lost in the House and that they can use their vote as cover, and they lecture us on unity and healing. They have their reasons, like all Trumpists. What they do not have is America. Yet.