For a moment it actually appeared that the one thing America would get right in 2020 would be a free and fair election. It was an election galvanized by record turnout in the midst of unprecedented pandemic.
But that obviously is not how it will be remembered. The November 2020 election became the genesis for one of the tragic dates in the American narrative, the precursor for the eventual acts of sedition.
On Jan. 6, vigilantes stormed the Capitol searching for Vice President Mike Pence by name and others, fueled by a hotbed that was created by lies and deception.
On the impeachment question I’m somewhat agnostic. It’s not that I do not understand the rationale for impeachment or the validity. I’m not sold, in the current format, that it will benefit the nation. That’s not to suggest I’m harboring any notions of the reflexive talking points that impeachment will delay the new-found desire for unity. This is merely a red herring to avoid accountability.
Calls for unity in this case suggest that if Democrats cease and desist their hasty actions of retribution against President Trump they could work out their differences with GOP colleagues.
Unity is a civic virtue. It’s the place of shared agreement, where the interest of the nation is superior to personal interest — a collective reclamation of the late Sen. John McCain’s campaign message, “Country First.”
America’s civic virtue has been violated. It cannot be addressed with false equivalencies such as “both sides are guilty” or “what about … ?”
In this specific scenario, unity demands that congressional Republicans publicly denounce the mendacious post-election narratives. Every member, including the infamous sedition caucus — the senators who openly supported Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley’s attempt to transform a ceremonial vote into his personal stage of aggrandizement — must adorn their adult britches and admit the obvious.
Some will not be able to do that for fear they will lose support, which may be the most persuasive indicator they were initially unfit to serve. What occurred on Jan. 6 was a culmination that has been brewing for several decades. How did those elected officials and media personalities that traffic in lies and innuendo think this was going to end? The elasticity of the republic can only stand so much. Wasn’t “Pizzagate” the first salvo of what could occur?
“Pizzagate” was a fake news story that barely missed tragedy. In 2016, an erroneous news story went viral, alleging a child pornography ring led by Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton at a pizza establishment in Washington, D.C. Though the story had been widely debunked, on Dec. 4, 2016, Edgar Welch of Salisbury walked into the pizza establishment targeted by the fake story and fired three shots from his AR-15-style assault rifle before being subdued. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Moreover, GOP members of Congress who seemingly located their moral compass and supported removing President Trump before Jan. 20 does not suffice. Reasons range from moral outrage about the president’s behavior to the simple fact he’s yesterday’s news.
It will take more than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell apparently supporting impeachment, at least privately, or Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking member in the Republican House, voting to impeach the president.
My concerns about fast-tracking impeachment are based on America’s tendency for immediate gratification that could leave many critical questions unanswered. It could be a reenactment of the Warren Commission, established to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy. Though I believe the commission got it right, I also hold that it went in with the preconceived notion that there was a lone assassin, thereby overlooking and omitting critical questions.
For starters, did Rep. Lauren Boebert defy an order by Capitol Police by tweeting the whereabouts of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during the lockdown? After urging the crowd to go to the Capitol, does Rep. Mo Brooks bear responsibility for urging supporters to “start taking names and kicking a--” before the treasonous siege?
Does impeachment answer Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s assertion that the Department of Defense “repeatedly denied” his requests to authorize deployment of Maryland’s National Guard to help quell the violence at the Capitol?
If the impeachment process equates to finality, even if it concludes with the most pernicious punishment for any president but leaves questions unanswered, those who represent us would have failed.
Not even the overwhelming concerns about the coronavirus pandemic that currently has a daily death rate equivalent to 9/11 should create a desire to expedite the process. We need as much time as possible to understand why America’s civic virtue was so grossly violated. The future of our democratic-republican form of government is at stake.
The Rev. Byron Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org), a writer and the host of "The Public Morality" on WSNC 90.5, lives in Winston-Salem.