(American Greatness) — A young friend has been avalanching me with notes about how “disastrously” Trump and his followers misbehaved on January 6. Presumably, if no rally had taken place in Washington to protest the presidential election returns, then the Democratic administration would never have launched a crusade against “domestic terrorism.” It was the populist Right and the outgoing president who apparently caused this era of repression to commence. If they had paid more attention to our beleaguered circumstances, then they would have avoided their rash decision to call for a mass demonstration on January 6.
My response to this widely held opinion is that none of it may matter in the end. Did a Minneapolis policeman’s decision to sit on the neck of George Floyd on May 25 really “cause” the summer of violence, namely the one that Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and their Democratic sponsors unleashed in every major American city? Did a single killing in Minneapolis cause organized wars against “systemic racism” here and in Canada and then in Western Europe, with accompanying looting and burning? Were people canceled and fired, statues toppled, streets and buildings renamed according to quickly ratcheted-up standards of political correctness all because of an event in Minneapolis last spring?
The obvious answer is no.
Crises are generated when those in power decide to generate them. The media can throw oil on the flames whenever they decide it is in their interest to do so. Universities and other “institutions of learning” will then join the fray, together with their comrades in the deep state, who are always eager to fight “prejudice.” The fact is, we are dealing with a power complex that can turn even minor incidents into violent demonstrations and calls for government action to end “discrimination” and to ferret out and punish “white supremacists.”
The reason we face this situation is only quite peripherally related to a speech that Donald Trump delivered to his well-wishers on January 6 or to a previously planned break-in to the Capitol that took place while Trump was speaking. I also don’t believe the seven senators who found Trump guilty of “inciting insurrection” were actually horrified by his supposed insurrectionary actions on January 6. These shameless opportunists are currying favor with the rich and powerful.
To their credit, however, they understand whence power flows in our derailed republic. Since two of them, Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) (whom I’m ashamed to call my senator) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), of insider stock trading fame, plan to change jobs after completing their terms in the Senate, we may assume they were building their post-political careers by going after Trump.
If the populist or any other Right hopes to dig itself out of its present hole, then it should stop worrying about ticking off the town bully. Bullies enjoy manhandling 90-pound weaklings; there are only so many times that weaklings can run away from “trouble.”
It was with utter disgust that I heard the sanctimonious Nancy commend the senators who heroically voted with the Democrats against the “insurrectionist” Trump. These collaborators, as Nancy tells it, were making the Republican Party “strong.” They “deserve our respect,” according to both Pelosi and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, for what? Perhaps throwing their fallen leader under the bus.
I also heard a petulant denunciation of Trump from Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that a Democratic congressional leader would never unload on Joe Biden or Barack Obama. It would be a good idea if the Republican Right removed McConnell as Senate minority leader. Appropriate steps also should be taken to prevent the seven anti-Trump Senators from running as Republicans again. That is exactly how the Democrats would act, if the utterly implausible occurred, and if some of their members broke ranks when the Republicans impeached a former Democratic president.
An opposition on the Right should do better than follow the modus operandi of Pat Toomey. This figure ran for the Senate in 2016 while withholding support from Trump. As a politician, he is almost morbidly careful never to upset, however minimally, progressive soccer moms, LGBT activists, or state employees. He could, of course, list on his vita that he worked to reduce corporate tax rates while associated with the congressional Club for Growth. But I can’t recall Toomey ever sticking out his neck for a truly controversial cause. The Wall Street Journal’s praise that he voted against Trump because of “independent judgment” borders on the ludicrous.
Independent thinking is the last quality I would expect from Pat Toomey. The question is whether the Right should be promoting politicians of his ilk. Perhaps we could come up with more principled fighters, for example, leaders who would appeal to a working-class and small-business base and who would take traditional cultural stands, in defiance of the Left. Like Trump, we should naturally assume the inevitability of having to battle the media and the need for alternative sources of communication. Slinking around the corner to avoid the bully has never worked.
Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.