The New York Independent

Failure to Act One Year After Jan 6 Mob Violence is Biggest Threat to Democracy

Donald Trump is determined to create a right-wing autocracy. (Illustration NYI)
Donald Trump and Republicans are determined to create a right-wing autocracy. (Illustration NYI)

It’s been a year since the Jan. 6 insurrection and mounting evidence links Donald Trump and his cronies to the violence. But the threat to Democracy remains as visceral today as it was on that day of infamy.

Watergate had tapes. January 6th has tapes, meetings, phone calls, live video and plans for the coup laid out on PowerPoint. Yet, here we still sit.

Those who have been calling for justice for the architects of Jan. 6– not just for the 750 or so deluded “patriots” who have been arrested for storming the Capitol–have been frustrated by the lack of progress over the past year.

The circumstantical evidence is clear that a conspiracy to incite violence to prevent Joe Biden’s certification as president was planned and excuted at the highest echelons of Trump’s inner circle and involved more than 140 Republicans in Congress.

Yet, the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress are taking a “business as usual” approach to the threat, while Republicans are working overtime to obstruct justice and lay the groundwork for a coup in 2024.

Trump showed his contempt for democracy with his “unusual endorsement” this week of right-wing autocrat Viktor Orban in Hungary, who is facing the most serious challenge to his power in more than a decade in office.

The situation in this country is equally fast approacing critical mass. Trump continues to incite renewed violence with false and thoroughly debunked claims about the 2020 election, and by portraying the Jan. 6 rioters as “patriots.”

Republicans in Congress are complict in those efforts through their repeated mischaracterizations of the Jan. 6 insurrection, their role in attempting to decertify the election and their embrace of Trump’s lies about a “stolen election.”

Republican lawmakers in 43 states have proposed at least 250 laws that would limit mail, early in-person and Election Day voting with such constraints as stricter ID requirements, limited hours, or narrower eligibility to vote absentee, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice.

Even more proposals have been introduced since then–all of which are designed to prevent minorities and others from voting and solidify Republican power at every level of government up to the White House.

Biden Attorney General Merrick Garland finally gave an update yesterday (Jan. 5) on the Department of Justice’s efforts, but his message was nothing if not muddled.

Garland is a play-by-the-book prosecutor, who respects the need for prosecutorial process and confidentiality. But his statement recalled Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s similar stance during his examination of the 2016 election.

In the end, Mueller tied his own hands and produced a report that failed to answer fundamental questions about election interference on Trump’s behalf by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Garland’s statement forced pundits, once again, to read between the lines to try to discern what the DOJ is up to.

Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance insisted his rhetoric was “prosecutor speak for ‘game on.'”

But MSNBC’s Matt Miller said Garland’s press conference was designed to be more of a “get off my back, already” speech.

Garland is a judicial conservative so terrified of accusations he’s politicizing the DOJ, you can understand his reluctance to provide more transparency. It also makes it difficult to take him at his word.

He should be more concerned about what happens if the shoe is on the other foot. Bill Barr politicized the DOJ at Trump’s behest until even he could no longer stomach Trump’s attempts to subvert democracy.

Should Republicans find themselves back in power in Congress, they will do everything they can to render Garland nothing more than a neutered puppy, like Barr did with Mueller.

Senate loose cannon Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, is already boasting about impeaching President Biden without charges as a form of political payback.

What makes matters even more frustrating is the literal elephant in the room–the sad reality that we now live in a country where facts and truth depend entirely on which party’s in power.

As such, the ticking clock of the mid-terms is fast approaching. Democrats need to stop squabbling and playing into the hands of obstructionist Republicans, with fond wishes for bipartisanship. Those days are over on Capitol Hill.

Voting Rights legislation must be given the highest priority. Pursuing Republican voter supression in court is too time consuming and plays into the hands of Republicans trying to “run out the clock” on reform.

A case in point is Steve Bannon‘s contempt case; a judge gave him until July, 2022, nearly ten months, to answer the seemingly open-and-shut charges of criminal contempt of Congress for failing to answer a Jan. 6 committee subpoena.

By the time we get around to prosecuting – let alone, convicting – a Mark Meadows, a Mo Brooks, a Jeffrey Clark, the 2022 mid-term elections will have come and gone. Then, all bets are off.

Filibuster rules in the Senate must also be reformed.

At very least, adopt Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-Mont) proposal to return to traditional filibuster rules that required lawmakers to actually conduct marathon debates. As it is now, filibuster rules give the minority party veto power with a simple vote.

The situation is not a yes, no, maybe so, proposition; it’s an immediate four-alarm fire. Anti-democratic elements are working feverishly to return Trump to power in a Russian-style autocracy–by force if necessary.

That said, there are hopeful signs that all is not lost.

D.C. district judge Amit Mehta went as far as to call out the Garland DOJ, on the record, for its failure to hold those accountable who “created the conditions for Jan. 6 in the meaningful sense of the word.”

And the Jan. 6 committee continues to make inroads into the machinations of Trump and his cronies leading up to the insurrection.

But what about the other 6,867 crimes against the Constitution committed by Trump and his minions on a daily basis during his administration — the Comey firing obstruction of justice (forgot that, didn’t ya?); the child/parent separations at the border and the fact Trump, through negligence and malfeasance in office, caused more than 250,000 COVID deaths.

The Jan. 6 committee could go a long way toward answering the public’s right to know by moving forward with public hearings.

Keeping evidence and deliberations behind closed doors, with such extraordinary and historic consequences at stake, does nothing but confuse and frustrate all parties, creating nothing but uncertainty.

Private hearings leave those of us who are desperate for accountability, scraping the proverbial rug for the few scraps of breaking news, subpoenas and the next bombshell release of Ivanka’s text messages.

It also doesn’t help that so many of our institutions have zero ability to discipline or criminally charge those in power for crimes or malfeasance in office.

How many times have we seen an agency Inspector General (IG) reveal myriad crimes committed by Trump, or Pompeo, or Kushner, or Barr, and yet nothing happens?

Even former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Moscow Mitch McConnell’s nepotistic wife, was let off the hook by Trump’s crooked A.G., after the IG recommended a formal investigation. That, alone, should warrant an investigation.

But, delays, subpoena and hearings aside, at the end of the day, what are we really fighting for here?

It’s not just to see Trump behind bars. Although, that would be great.

When you get right down to it, we’re fighting to prevent what happened in 1939 Germany from ever happening again–anywhere–including here.

Those of us who think it couldn’t happen don’t realize how close we came on Jan. 6. As one wag said, Trump just didn’t have enough Rudy Giulianis to pull off his coup.

But with a few more and the likes of Jeffrey Clark, Trump may have been able to declare himself President.  

Although critics say comparisons to the Third Reich are overwrought, Hitler didn’t just come along and begin slaughtering millions of Jews. It took almost two decades and a confluence of political and economic events for him to rise to power.

What the nation is facing now is a similar slow moving coup. Republicans have repeatedly shown their determination to create civil unrest, sabotage the economy and spread an avalache of misinformation to creat the conditions for a an autocrat like Trump.

The practical effect of this campaign is reflected in the level of death threats, hateful comments and ethnic slurs elected officials are facing at almost every level across the country.

Nearly every facet of government–from school boards to the White House– are riven by political strife, even when it’s against the best interests of the country.

Should this despicable excuse for a human being be allowed to run in 2024, there’s no telling where it will end–especially when you consider more than a few former generals have already publicly expressed concern over how many in the military continue to support the human Chernobyl.

But the crux of the problem is not just Merrick Garland. 

No matter much power he has, one man alone cannot save us. It’s up to all of us to save our experiment in democracy.

That includes the voters, the marchers, the local officials and the social media giants who allow hate speech to flourish openly for their own self-interest.

Lawmakers can make it tougher for lie-spewing propaganda machines like Fox News, OANN, and Newsmax to continue their 24/7 War on Truth, and, yes, rewrite our Constitution so corrupt presidents and their minions are immediately charged with crimes while in office.

Radical times require radical measures. If we continue to refer back to a centuries-old document that never envisioned anything like this, without adapting to the changing tide, we’re toast.

For over 250 years, we’ve been bragging to ourselves, and anyone who’ll listen, that “No man is above the law, not even a president.”

If Garland’s DOJ fails in its mission to secure democracy, and soon, we may as well refer to each and every president going forward as, “Your Majesty.”

After 9/11, The New York Times came out with the headline that read, “A Democracy Isn’t Good at Preparing for Something That Hasn’t Happened Yet.”

Nothing could be truer now, without swift and certain action to hold accountable those who are attacking our democratic norms.

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