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I begin with an apology for what I’m about to share.
It’s been my intention to avoid sharing any photos of Individual 1 in these dispatches. I’m breaking that plan this morning because this photo not only encapsulates so much of what’s wrong with that man, but also because it so tragically illustrates how much millions of Americans were and are willing to tolerate. It’s a reminder of why we are where we are—why so many elected Republicans have chosen to emulate the sociopathic way, confident that their core voters will tolerate this kind of ugly, demagogic hostility toward vulnerable people. This photo may seem to drudge up old news, but the mindset continues to infect our body politic.
While Trump attacked, mocked and punched down on Twitter and in rally after nasty rally for everyone to see, many of his current acolytes more typically tidy up the visuals. But they got the message and are pursuing anti-democratic policies to ensure that only the “right” kind of people have their voices heard and their votes counted. This insidious form of hostility is driven by their determination to do what it takes to get and keep power, even if it means tossing the American democratic experiment in the ash heap of history.
We have a responsibility to document what’s happening. We have a responsibility to say what we think and feel, to not normalize the downward spiral toward autocracy, to push back against the numbing and the outrage fatigue that allows Republicans to accelerate democracy’s demise without a sufficient fight.
But I’m also mindful that we need to keep sight of the concrete actions that can make a difference: That requires recognizing that, even as the GOP aims to take back power in 2022, Democrats can vehemently voice their opposition, can increase voter turnout (despite the onslaught of anti-voting legislation), and can battle now for passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act. These outcomes are not predetermined, not now, especially not while Sen. Joe Manchin states his opposition and he and Sen. Kirsten Sinema insist they will not vote to end the filibuster.
And let me just say that I’ve been heartened by how many people on social media have responded to this question—Where is Merrick Garland?—voicing their frustration toward the DOJ silence. No sensible person wants the Attorney General to place the investigation at risk by revealing targets or practices and undermining the eventual legal case. But as I noted, it’s possible to share priorities that can assure a fearful country that he is still committed to pursuing insurrectionists at every level, including the organizers, funders and inciters.
That has become only more important after Garland’s Justice department filed a brief on Monday in the case of E. Jean Carroll and her defamation lawsuit against Trump, who she has accused of raping her. The DOJ essentially backed the Trump administration’s position that he could not be sued for defamation, even though he made comments about her that were “crude and disrespectful,” because he had made these statements as part of his official duties as president. This has incensed justice-seeking people.
It was never my intention to cause people to give up on Garland; I surely have not. I remain hopeful that the unprecedented events of January 6 remain his top priority. But at a time when our democracy is hanging in the balance and doubts are mounting that justice and the rule of law includes those in power, it’s high time for the Attorney General to speak out.
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