There is a consensus that the Democrats made an extremely good case against Trump and his defense team was terrible. Fortunately for Trump, his defense team could have consisted of a possum hissing into the mic while his racoon colleague rummaged about in Ted Cruz’s beard and Rand Paul’s hair looking for bits of food. As expected, Trump was acquitted—only seven Republicans had the moral courage to defend the rule of law and American democracy.
In response to once again not being held accountable for his wrongdoings, Trump released a statement that read, in part, as follows:
It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree. I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.
Trump’s assertion that one party has been given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, cheer mobs and excuse rioters is true—but it is a description of his party. The Democrats made an overwhelming case for what is obvious: Trump is morally accountable for the attack on the capitol and he attempted to overturn the results of the election.
When considering my fellow Americans, I endeavor to be charitable. For those who profess to believe that Trump won the election, that the election was stolen by widespread voter fraud, and that the attack on the capitol was either justified or done by Antifa (or somehow both), then the most charitable view is that they have been deceived by the wicked and suffer from grave epistemic defects that prevent them from forming true beliefs about these matters. The least charitable view is that they are accomplices to the lies: they know that Trump lost, and they know that he attempted a half-ass coup, and they are morally fine with this. That is, they explicitly reject the rule of law and democracy in favor of fascist authoritarianism. Or, put another way, they are evil.
In the case of the Republican members of congress who back Trump, I do wonder who they think they are fooling when they use moral language and the language of democracy in their lies—after all they know they
are lying, and we know they are lying. But perhaps they think they are fooling the most foolish of Trump’s base? That said, perhaps it is a positive sign that they still feel the need to tell such lies—they might think that there are still Trump supporters and Republicans who are not in on the lies and need to be convinced. Or perhaps there is a faint flicker of a conscience that demands a feeble effort at rationalization.
Trump, as expected, appeals to the myth of victimhood—the idea that people who belong to dominant classes (such as rich, white men) are somehow the real victims of systematic oppression. This goes along with passionate denials that people in the other classes (such as poor people or minorities) are victims of systematic oppression. Put crudely, this is the claim that the rich and powerful are the victims of the poor and powerless—something whose absurdity is revealed by even a moment’s reflection.
While there is debate about the bugbear of cancel culture, the banning of Trump was justified. He violated the terms of service agreements and was actively harming people with his social media activities. Free expression, as everyone argues, is not absolute and Trump clearly acted in ways that warranted restricting his ability to do more damage. Likewise, for many others who have been banned. This is not to deny that people are silenced—as I have noted in other essays, employers have considerable freedom to use their economic power to silence employees. That is, they can fire employees for expression outside of work. I, of course, do favor free expression (see my many essays on this subject) but I also favor holding people accountable for their words and deeds. As others have said, freedom of expression is not freedom from consequences.
It goes without saying that Trump does not care about the rule of law—for him, law and order are tools to be used for his own advantage. One merely needs to examine his dealings with the law and review the list of the people he pardoned to confirm this fact.
As far as peacefully debating without malice and hate, this is certainly a noble ideal. However, even a cursory look at Trump’s Tweets will reveal how committed he is to peaceful debate without malice and hate. And, of course, one can also review videos that also show his malice and hate. There is also the obvious fact that he incited a mob to attack the capitol on his behalf—an act of malice, hate and violence directed at the very heart of democracy.
I would, as sad as it is, prefer to think that millions of my fellow Americans are basically good people who have been deluded by evil liars. If you are backing Trump, perhaps you do believe in your pure heart that what I have written is untrue and Trump and his fellows have been speaking the words of angels. If so, you give me hope: if you still have a moral sense, then there is a chance you will see through the lies, embrace the truth, and fight the evil you once held close to your pure heart. Or perhaps you are a Trump backer who knows the truth and you are fine with his evil. And, one assumes, your own.