After the final episode of The West Wing aired, my brother in Texas called me asking, “Are you crying?”
“Me, too,” he added. We had both enjoyed the TV show about an imaginary President of the United States of America fighting for righteous causes. It says a lot about our nation that the next TV series about a President — Scandal — showcased an administration characterized by deceit and trickery.
My heroes have always been the men and women who shaped our nation from its birth. They are the courageous individuals, who, despite the odds, helped turn the nation’s arc in the right direction. John Lewis, Lincoln, Dr. King, and the Suffragettes are just a few.
Heroes are leaders in my book – recognizing what needs to be done and stepping into the fray to get it done. Some lead from behind, others from the front line. But they do what needs to be done or say what needs to be stated when no one else will. For a sports star to be my hero, he or she has to do the same, like Colin Kaepernick.
This week and the weeks leading up to Biden’s election certification, we witnessed many leaders in action. We also saw the complete lack of leadership among people who claim to be national leaders.
I expected the Democrats to speak out against Trump and the Sedition Party. The Lincoln Project uses this term to refer to Trump and the US Senators and Representatives who advanced the Big Lie that the 2020 Presidential election was fraudulent, and that Trump could still win. According to Timothy Snyder, a Yale historian who writes about fascism, a big lie is at the foundation of all fascist regimes. Trump trying to steal the Presidency from the rightful winner was his final fascist-like action after many precursors (like claiming mainstream media is fake news).
I was very moved by criticism from an unexpected voice, that of Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Speaking during the Electoral College tally, he reminded his fellow Senators and the Representatives that America’s heart is not the US Congress but its neighborhoods. Government, he said, exists only to do what people can’t accomplish on their own. National defense, laws, a Court System, and public investments come to my mind. He said Congress must practice servant leadership, supporting people to learn, work, raise families, and have good lives. Our role, he said, demands that we tell Trump supporters the truth: that Biden won, fairly. GOP colleagues should not claim otherwise, according to Senator Sasse.
And what do we say of the others – the 11 GOP Senators and 100+ Representatives spreading the Big Lie (albeit a smaller number protested the vote after the Capitol coup). Although elected to be leaders, they were mouthpieces.
I am angrier at these people than the citizen followers who believed them. The Sedition Party members were elected to represent all the voters in their state, not just Trump voters. Their own State Attorney Generals and Governors had certified their state’s votes. Yet, they elected to advance the Big Lie to prevent a primary challenge or gain momentum for a run at President in 2024. It was performance art at its best and worst.
For years, GOP leaders failed to call out Trump’s egregious actions (like “Lock her up,” the Ukraine call, or asking an Georgia election official to overturn the vote). This complicity revealed, in my opinion, a lack of character. But those who proactively advanced the Big Lie are the worst of the lot. They were willing to break the Democratic system to retain or gain power. They failed to honor their oath to uphold the US Constitution.
The Sedition Party leaders have titles that suggest leadership, but I do not view them as leaders, nor will history. Putin is a leader of his nation, but he does not offer solutions to pull that nation out of its poverty. Instead, he uses followers for his personal gain and that of his cronies, as Fascists do.
Alaska Senator Claire Murkowski is a GOP leader in this time of crisis. In addition to asking Trump to resign, she demands the GOP chastise Big Lie participants. Else, she may canvas with the Democrats. Murkowski called out the elephant in the room: the GOP stands for States’ rights, yet the Sedition Party actively worked to deny states their right to declare the election winner. How can one party hold both officials? If she backs words with action, she will be another hero in my book.
My brother was at a wedding on the day of the coup. Otherwise, we would have also shared tears at the stain on our Democracy by a group of thugs, misled by those in power.
Even Scandal writers could not have imagined this plot.