January 6, 2021

The most important task of leadership is to correctly define reality; to tell the truth. The insurrection and mob overrun of the U.S. Capitol that disrupted the counting of the Electoral College votes that officially marked him as the loser, was incited by the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. He and others clearly and plainly incited the violence yesterday during a rally, but it did not start at Noon. His entire political candidacy and Presidency has been one ongoing incitement, that found plenty of fertile soil and craven opportunism in the modern Republican Party.

President Trump’s jump from reality show celebrity to Presidential candidate had as its essence the Racist Birther lie that President Obama was not an American citizen and thus ineligible for the office he held for eight years. In a crowded primary field, this was the kernel of his support, that never wavered, and likely will now be transformed into a type of Trump-centric lost-causeism that will haunt this nation for years to come. A new manifestation of an old idea that some people are more human than others. All Republican’s did not and do not share in the Birther lie, but only a very few were uncomfortable enough with it to depart from the vehicle (Donald Trump) that they saw as most likely to advance their public policy interests, rendering their long claim that “character is destiny” perhaps true, but also only showing it to only be a tactical tool for partisan uses.

The events of January 6, 2021 were despicable, scary and are cause for lament and reform moving forward, but they were not surprising or shocking. President Trump told us exactly who he was from the start, and he never stopped saying out loud what used to only be whispered. He laid the ground work for yesterday by saying he was cheated in the popular vote in 2016, and then saying over and over, the only way I can lose in 2020 is if they cheat. His campaign went to court in several dozen cases across several states and they won one case in Pennsylvania. There have been detailed investigations in numerous states, easily the most investigated election in U.S. history. In Georgia, they have found two cases in which they believe someone fraudulently voted a dead person’s name. No election could be perfect, but in 2020 they were well done under very difficult circumstances, yet the President continues to lie and say he won in a landslide because that is what he believes is best for him.

In numerous public statements, tweets, and comments by his children and other surrogates on TV, January 6, 2021 was identified as a key day, the last chance to change the result. And Senators Cruz and Hawley, both Ivy League trained lawyers, a former Supreme Court clerks, who want to be President, groveled about nonsense, and knowingly lied to a mob because they thought it would help their political aspirations. There was nothing surprising at all about the goal and inevitability of the effort to interfere in yesterday’s counting, though the effectiveness in stopping the process was surprising and sobering on numerous fronts. The counting of electoral votes concluded this morning about 4 am, and roughly half of the elected Republicans in the U.S. Congress voted to not accept the electors from several States, even after they saw the fruit of what they had helped to create. They now must acknowledge lying, or continue to lie, and they are the opposite of patriots.

I have been working on a book that has turned into a memoir of Race, of my personal reckoning with how racialized my life has been, especially my growing up in rural, Eastern, North Carolina. My primary insight is that for how clearly I see the effects of Race on me and our country now, I did not for the first half Century of my life. There was no penalty for me not understanding or acknowledging the truth, because I am a White man. This is not a statement of guilt, just an observation. A fact.

My personal reckoning was been spurred by my finding a case of land theft in the 1920s of the descendants of an Enslaver and an Enslaved woman where I grew up, and coming to understand that while everything is not about Race, just about everything important has Race cooked into the cake. When White people say “this is not us” they show themselves to be ignorant of United States history. The reason the election of 1876 was disputed was directly related to violent efforts to keep freed Slaves from voting, just a few years after we said we would not do that in the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The “Commission” Senator Cruz invoked as the model for what he wanted this year ended with a political deal that ended Reconstruction, and began a near-Century delay in making the Reconstruction era Amendments to the U.S. Constitution more than just words on paper. Listen when people tell you who they are.

In 1871, Governor William Holden of North Carolina, a Whig turned Democrat turned Republican, became the first Governor in United States history to be impeached and removed from office. His sin was taking over two counties (Alamance and Caswell) to try and stop the KKK’s campaign of murdering Blacks and White’s seeking to live into the 13th-15th Amendments, and provide a more equal chance at a better life. Alamance County is the place where Black and White protesters held a march to the polls on October 31, 2020, but never made it.

In 1898, there was a coup d’etat in the vibrant port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, an event designed to put a stop to a multi-racial political and economic coalition and society that was being built. A Black man owned the biggest newspaper in town then. In 1921, Blacks were murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma to stop a successful Black business district and to stem rising economic and political power among the descendants of freed Slaves, by Whites who had been deputized by law enforcement to put a stop to what they did not see as progress.

These are just four examples, spread over the half Century after the Civil War showing that White people resorting to violence when outcomes they did not like were in process, is not a new thing. Please note that in each case, they were opposing what could only be understood as seeing to the 13th-15th Amendments to the Constitution being made real in the lives of freed Slaves and their descendants. They were stopping progress toward what we said we were going to do, making us a nation of liars.

Unfortunately, this has always been us.

(edited next to last paragraph to fix a typo & edit for clarity)

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University https://academiccouncil.duke.edu/ . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: