Under a Reconstruction-era statute, a new lawsuit aims to hold former President Donald Trump and others responsible for the events of Jan. 6. But can it succeed?
Making sense of the events at the Capitol on Wednesday, unpacking the right-wing "Lost Cause" myth and its historical antecedent, and revisiting "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
On this week’s On The Media, journalists struggle to find the words to describe what happened at the capitol on Wednesday. Was it a riot? A mob? An insurrection? Plus, why supporters of the president’s baseless election fraud theories keep invoking the “lost cause” myth of the confederacy. And, taking a second look at "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
1. Brooke [@OTMBrooke] and Bob [@bobosphere] on the events at the Capitol on Wednesday. Listen.
2. Caroline Janney [@CarrieJanney], historian of the Civil War at University of Virginia, on the evolution of the post-Civil War Lost Cause mythology. Listen.
3. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw [@sandylocks], professor of law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, on how post-Civil War appeasement allowed for the perpetuation of white supremacy in the United States. Listen.
4. Jack Hamilton [@jack_hamilton], associate professor of American studies and media studies at the University of Virginia, on the mixed and missed messages in the rock anthem "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" by The Band. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Invitation to a Suicide — John Zorn
Sneaky Adventure — Kevin MacLeod
Glass House/Curtains — David Bergeaud
The Last Bird — Zoe Keating
Lost, Night — Bill Frisell
Using the Apostate Tyrant as His Tool — Kronos Quartet
The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down — The Band
The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down — Richie Havens
Insurrection aftermath: Don’t absolve yourself
After watching many Republicans on the Sunday morning shows and hearing a few on the radio this morning, I notice that they’re actively preferring only one or two of the three solutions after Wednesday’s insurrectionist coup attempt.
The three broad options that everyone is talking about:
- Trump resigns
- 25th Amendment removal of Trump
- Impeachment in the House possibly followed by conviction in the Senate
Generally Republicans are looking more closely at options one and two (in that order) and then they’re immediately shifting the discussion to the appalling nature of the events themselves.
The important question we need to ask ourselves is why are they preferring resignation or the 25th amendment? The answer comes down to who is actively receiving the blame and who has to actively do the work to make the system function properly.
In option 1, Trump and Trump alone takes the blame and initiates the action. This lets all his Republican supporters off the hook for allowing him the bullying free reign he’s had for more than four years now.
Presently the chance that Trump resigns is hovering around zero because he is so loathe to smear his own reputation or take responsibility for anything. Resignation is too closely associated with the idea of being a “loser” which Trump cannot admit himself to be at any cost.
In option 2, Trump still takes the blame and only a small handful of primarily un-elected leaders needs to take the action.
As we’ve already seen this past week, cabinet members are either still too loyal to Trump, or have chosen to jump ship to save themselves rather than take the necessary proactive action against him.
In option 3, Trump takes the blame, but a large number of people need to take action. While almost all Democrats and a handful of Republicans can easily take this route, some Republicans are loathe to want this option.
In particular, most Republicans won’t want to take this route because it also means that they must take some of the blame for so actively supporting Donald John Trump’s lies and views for so long.
Not a single Republican I’ve seen was willing to take even an iota of responsibility for supporting Trump, his outright lies, racist policies, or insanity for the past four+ years much less the last two months. Two months in which they either actively supported his lies that the election was stolen or supported it with their acquiescence by silence. They’re still abjectly holding to the belief that the emperor is fully dressed, while only trying to admit that he’s taken off one glove. They may not want to say it but they know better.
We need to be able to admit that the Emperor is naked and that far too many of us are only half dressed at best. We need to ardently press for all three solutions to happen. We also need to advocate for a fourth option that requires sanctions of the members of congress who voted to continue to support the lie even after the insurrection.
To be the Americans we say we are or want to be, we need to hold power to account. We can’t leave the message that a future leader can do the same thing and get away with it. We need to admit our complicity in allowing Trump to pretend to lead us. We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility.
We can’t absolve ourselves without true penance
If you’re still unsure of why we cannot absolve ourselves (and honestly even if you aren’t), then I highly recommend reading a short Twitter thread/essay from earlier this week by Lili Saintcrow. It’s a highly illustrative parable about what has been going on in America and why it continues.
Let me explain something to those of you who didn’t grow up around violently abusive white supremacists.
*They absolutely do not believe their own bullshit*, but it’s useful for them to pretend they do.
— Lili Saintcrow (@lilithsaintcrow) January 7, 2021
And for those who don’t click through, I’ll excerpt two tweets in the thread which are very important to her searing point:
Domestic abusers, white supremacists, and religious bigots all operate off the same thin but very useful playbook that exploits other people’s politeness and (I’ve got to say it) “civility.”
“Obama was born in Kenya.” “She provoked me, I had to hit her.” “Biden’s followers stormed the Capitol.” “It was Antifa.” “I thought that black child was going to shoot me.” These are all the same species of lie, and they serve the same purpose–to absolve the speaker.
Republicans (and let’s be honest, really all of us) are going to have to individually and collectively do some very hard work here, take responsibility, and stop attempting to absolve ourselves.
Without it, we’re just repeating the mistakes of ending Reconstruction after the Civil War which ushered in the despicable Jim Crow laws and have kept our nation mired in racist ideas and racist policies. If we’re not careful we’ll be heading back to an actual and far more costly Civil War. Let’s take this opportunity to admit our mistakes and actually move forward.
We all deserve better. We all need better. We all require better.
We should all demand better.
1/ What's so unsettling about happened on Wednesday is it marks the beginning of a new cycle of violence, & not the end. This is the physical manifestation of @johnrobb's concept of "Networked Tr...…
Platforms are rapidly removing Trump’s account or those affiliated with pro-Trump violence and conspiracies.
A different sort of NASCAR problem…
Listen to the full Jan. 2 phone call. This audio has been edited to remove the name of an individual about whom the president makes unsubstantiated allegations. (Obtained by The Washington Post) About 3 p.m. Saturday, President Trump held an hour-long call with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, in which he repeatedly urged him to alter the outcome of the presidential vote in the state. He was joined on the call by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several lawyers, including longtime conservative attorney Cleta Mitchell and Georgia-based attorney Kurt Hilbert. Raffensperger was joined by his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, and Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs. The Washington Post obtained a copy of a recording of the call. This transcript has been edited to remove the name of an individual about whom Trump makes unsubstantiated claims.
Interesting to note that Trump does 95% of the speaking on this call and most of it both bullying and repeating the same small handful of lies. What an abhorrent loser clown he is.