Biden Has A Dysfunctional Kind Of National Healing In Mind-- And It Will Just Make Everything Worse

"It's (Still) Alive" by Nancy Ohanian

Most of the country has moved on, as best they can, from the Trump melodrama. 88% of Americans want to see Congress approve another one-time payment of $1,200-- already killed by Ron Johnson (R-WI)-- in the pandemic relief bill. Only 9% oppose it; in fact only 15% of Republicans oppose it. Trump is foremost in his own mind, but people are trying to move on and clean up the mess he's leaving behind.

But Trump, who some people-- many, many people, in fact-- think should be put down like a rabid dog, keeps stirring the pot of sedition. On Friday, the NY Times reported, Trump was still conspiring with the kooks and nuts in his inner circle. Maggie Haberman wrote that on Friday Señor Trumpanzee discussed naming lunatic "Sidney Powell, who as a lawyer for his campaign team unleashed conspiracy theories about a Venezuelan plot to rig voting machines in the United States, to be a special counsel overseeing an investigation of voter fraud." Even Giuliani recognized it as a terrible idea. Instead, he "has sought to have the Department of Homeland Security join the campaign’s efforts to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss in the election. Giuliani joined the discussion by phone initially, while Ms. Powell was at the White House for a meeting that became raucous and involved people shouting at each other at times. Ms. Powell’s client, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser whom the president recently pardoned, was also there."

During an appearance on the conservative Newsmax channel this week, Mr. Flynn pushed for Mr. Trump to impose martial law and deploy the military to “rerun” the election. At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea.
Ms. Powell’s ideas were shot down by every other Trump adviser present, all of whom repeatedly pointed out that she had yet to back up her claims with proof. At one point, one person briefed on the meeting said, she produced several affidavits, but upon inspection they were all signed by a man she has previously used as an expert witness, whose credentials have been called into question.
The White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, and the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, repeatedly and aggressively pushed back on the ideas being proposed, which went beyond the special counsel idea, those briefed on the meeting said.
Mr. Cipollone told Mr. Trump there was no constitutional authority for what was being discussed, one of the people briefed on the meeting said. Other advisers from the White House and the Trump campaign delivered the same message throughout the meeting, which stretched on for a long period of time.
...Trump, egged on by supporters like Ms. Powell, has never conceded and, holed up inside the White House, he continues to assert that he actually won-- even though the baseless claims Ms. Powell and others have made of widespread fraud have been thoroughly debunked and even many of Mr. Trump’s closest allies have dismissed as preposterous her tale of an international conspiracy to rig the vote.
...Ms. Powell accused other Trump advisers of being quitters, according to the people briefed.
But the idea that Mr. Trump would try to install Ms. Powell in a position to investigate the outcome sent shock waves through the president’s circle. She has repeatedly claimed there was widespread fraud, but several lawsuits she filed related to election fraud have been tossed out of court.

After The Times story broke, Axios' Jonathan Swan spoke with his own sources, who told him that they "are increasingly alarmed that President Trump might unleash-- and abuse-- the power of government in an effort to overturn the clear result of the election. These officials tell me that Trump is spending too much time with people they consider crackpots or conspiracy theorists and flirting with blatant abuses of power. There are 32 days until President-elect Biden's inauguration. Their fears include Trump's interest in former national security adviser Michael Flynn's wild talk of martial law; an idea floated of an executive order to commandeer voting machines; and the specter of Sidney Powell, the conspiracy-spewing election lawyer, obtaining governmental power and a top-level security clearance. A senior administration official said that when Trump is 'retweeting threats of putting politicians in jail, and spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal, it’s impossible not to start getting anxious about how this ends. People who are concerned and nervous aren’t the weak-kneed bureaucrats that we loathe,' the official added. "These are people who have endured arguably more insanity and mayhem than any administration officials in history.'"

On Thursday, public intellectual Umair Haque wrote that America Shouldn’t Try to Forget Trumpism Happened-- It Should Bring His Whole Administration to Justice. His essay is called "Fascism. A Coup. Mass Death. This is Why the Trump Administration Should be Prosecuted." He's disappointed that Biden is already mumbling about "healing" by "turning the page," in effect brushing the last four years under the rug; pretending they were an aberration, an anomaly, not the culmination of long-term socioeconomic trends and cultural biases. "That the Democrats should essentially keep the peace-- by letting the Trump Administration get away with it."

The Trump Administration should not be protected from alleged abuses of power. An endless list of them. Many of which seem to rise to the level of “high crimes.” What’s a high crime? There are two kinds, and they both mean “crimes which require extraordinary justice, because they are committed by people in high power, and are extraordinary abuses of it.” The first kind of high crime is Constitutional-- like an attempted coup. The second kind of high crime is international-- like a crime against humanity. Don’t take my word for it that the Trump Administration seems to have committed those, that’s what the last living Nuremberg Prosecutor-- the man who prosecuted the literal Nazis-- says.
...Biden says that America should heal. What he means is that America should forget. And on that score, he is badly wrong. Because that is exactly backward.
How do you “heal” a democracy? A society? You don’t do it by forgetting about the potential commission of high crimes.
You heal a democracy and a society through exactly the opposite: bringing the highest crimes to justice. Why is that? There are three very good and very clear reasons why. If you don’t prosecute high crimes, you don’t deter them. Don’t punish today’s coup-- what’s to stop the next one? If you don’t prosecute high crimes, you don’t break the backs of the movements which commit them — when you create consequences for being a fascist, for example, you make it less likely that people will want to join such movements tomorrow. And when you try high crimes, you send a clear message socially and culturally. Such things are grave violations of our norms, values, and codes, which our laws only reflect.
What is the message that every survivor of fascism and authoritarianism-- like me-- will always, always tell you? Never forget.
The Jews will say: never forget about those who perished at the hands of the Nazis, dehumanized, demeaned, brutalized into genocide. Those of us who have survived far less extreme forms of fascism and authoritarianism will say: never forget, too. Never forget the way anyone who opposed the fanatics became “enemies of the people,” the way the most violent lunatics came for the journalists, liberals, and intellectuals, the way the religious police came for the “heretics,” how the madmen let-- or made-- thousands upon thousands die.
Never forget. Never forget the eternal sequence of ruin. A majority hates a set of minorities already, perhaps for centuries. That majority begins to fall into poverty as a result of poor governance. Instead of holding elites responsible, they punch down, aiming their resentment and fury at those long-hated minorities. A demagogue arises to lead them in their crusade. Society erupts into stupidity, violence, and rage. The rest is history-- over and over and over again, from Weimar Germany to the modern-day Islamic World to…America, 2016–2020. All that is just the merest inkling of what never forget means.
So when Joe Biden says that the way to heal American Democracy is to forget about the Trump Administration’s terrible, grave abuses of power, he is wrong. Not just badly wrong, or even foolishly wrong. He is disgracefully wrong. He is intellectually, socially, and morally wrong, too.
You cannot heal society by forgetting. Where and when has that ever happened? It’s a nice sentiment-- at least if you’re like Joe Biden, a member of the majority social group that, as a whole, backed the potential commission of high crimes. Biden didn’t, sure-- but white Americans did, and do.
It’s easier that way, isn’t it? To forget. Nobody has to do the difficult work of having a necessary reckoning. With monstrosity, evil, stupidity, depravity. We can hope that it just…fade away. Like mist on a summer morning, that hides the bodies on a battlefield. But those bodies are still there, and when the mist vanishes-- what we see is something ugly, that goes on poisoning us.
To hope that healing comes from forgetting is trying to take the easy way out. It is saying: we don’t have to do the hard work of reckoning with all this politically, socially, and culturally. Politically: legally bringing wrongdoers to justice. Socially: reflecting on the values that created a situation that disgraced us as a nation. Culturally: letting it be known that people who are fascists and authoritarians deserve to be shunned, disgraced, and held at a firm distance from civil society, not worthy of jobs, friends, or trust.
To hope that healing comes from forgetting is to not want to do any of that work. But if you don’t do that work as a society-- what stops fascism, authoritarianism, meltdown, a coup, hate, violence, stupidity…from happening all over again…tomorrow? In 2024?
The answer to that is: nothing does.
We would always rather forget. Always. America’s been forgetting for centuries now. White People still don’t reflect enough on how monstrous a slave society truly was. Imagine having your kids taken from you, and then being maimed, and then having your spouse taken from you, and then being whipped, and then falling ill, and being discarded, and dying in the dirt. That’s slavery. It is one of the gravest crimes to ever happen in human history, American slavery-- a centuries-long genocide so horrific, we can hardly imagine its horror today.
Because it’s been forgetting for so long, America’s very, very good at forgetting. Especially American Whites. They would always, it seems, rather forget. So when Joe Biden says “let’s turn the page and heal,” White America instinctively knows he means “forget”-- and they enthusiastically back him, sighing in relief, especially good White America. They sigh in relief because they don’t have to do any of the work.
...And if that message-- this isn’t permissible in our society-- isn’t sent, another one is, by its absence. It goes like this.
It’s OK. You can do all this here. From the camps to the kids in cages to the hunting of the hated in the streets. From the ignorance to the lies to the stupidity to the violence. From the attempted coup to the 300,000 and counting dead. You can get away with all that here.
Why? Because we’re morally weak. Because we’re politically corroded. Because we’re socially destroyed from within. Because we’re culturally impoverished and intellectually empty. Because we would rather forget than never forget.
There is much more to be said on the topic of how a society heals from fascism-- so much more. About how it takes cutting edge political innovations like truth and reconciliation commissions and mechanisms like that to both create trust while enforcing accountability.
But I will stop here because I want you to understand the most basic point of all, which it seems to me, Americans-- especially too many White Americans, led by the chief of their social group, Joe Biden, don’t comprehend at all.
Joe Biden wants America to be a society that would rather forget than never forget. You must not let America be that society.