Three Tom Petty songs to help us recollect how January has changed things—but almost didn't.
A few officials with principles are all that stood between us and a second term of Trumpian autocracy, or even a third.
It's been over three years since Tom Petty passed away, but hardly a day goes by when I don't listen to some of his music. And with the month we've had so far, some of it seems uncannily appropriate.
1. Drivin' Down to Georgia🎸
January 3 seems like a year ago, mainly because of all that has happened since, but that was the day our desperate and lunatic former president called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with a simple proposition—find me some votes so that I can win the state. In Trump's own recorded words: "What I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state." (He didn't win the state—he lost by 11,779 votes.) Raffensperger held firm and then, spurred on by Trump's own inflammatory words and bogus organizations like "Stop the Steal," underwent threats to him and his family from harebrained Trump supporters. (Yes, that is a redundant phrase.) But if Raffensperger, a Republican, had given in, it might have begun a tsunami of other challenges in other states where the election was close. Raffensperger's heroism was really only a man doing the job he was hired to do, but with today's Republican turncoats leading the party, calling him a hero is not such a stretch.
2. Don't Come Around Here No More🎸
For years every time some Democrat wanted to pull down the statue of a traitor or a bigot, Republicans would squawk about cancel culture—the seeming mania of the Democratic Party to besmirch all the old Republican heroes from the Confederacy or its sequel, the Jim Crow South. Those G.O.P. members may have complained, but they learned also; and soon to realize just how well they learned will be Liz Cheney, Peter Meijer, and eight other House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. They will now be primaried for their disloyalty to Dear Leader, and will probably find themselves in heated battles with QAnon members who will be running on the Stop-Hillary's-Child-Sex-Ring platform. (Order your hats and T's now.) In the backlash against Cheney, et al., Trumpsters willing to overlook the former president's malfeasance and sedition may actually win, but in the election itself, where people are less likely to cast ballots for the certifiably brainless, Democrats may actually gain an advantage.
3. I Won't Back Down🎸
Yesterday we learned on better authority what we had already suspected: after Trump released Attorney General Bill Barr who had agreed that the November election had exposed no provable fraud, the White House plan was to retain Jeffrey Rosen as the Assistant Attorney General and appoint a Trump loyalist, Jeffrey Clark, to lead the Justice Department and overturn the Georgia presidential vote count. Justice Department officials then convened on a conference call and asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed? The unanimous answer? They would all resign. Mr. Rosen had already refused the president’s entreaties to appoint special counsels to overturn the election results, and seemed uninterested in buttressing Rudy Giuliani's asinine courtroom antics or giving credence to the dreamy imaginings of QAnon and other conspiracy cabals. Advisors then warned Trump that a group resignation of the entire Justice Department might further impugn the "integrity" of his battle to undo the legitimate election results. Rosen remained. Trump didn't.
All these machinations preceded the terrorist attack on the Capitol, the refusal of Mike Pence to commit an unconstitutional act, and the eventual swearing in of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. None of it was a slam dunk. For us to be rid of Trump required people to commit to their oaths of office, not to some megalomaniacal demagogue. With more than 400,000 American deaths attributable to Covid-19, claiming we were lucky borders on sacrilege. But with people like Cruz and Hawley making decisions, far-right news outlets still pushing bizarre conspiracies, and a second attack on the Capitol thwarted by a show of force, we were...well...fortunate.
4. Time to Move On🎸