A Cavalcade of Hypocrisy

Lincoln must be turning over in his grave.  The first Republican President took office and led the country through times so divisive that Americans took up arms to kill their fellow Americans.  Two years prior to his election as President, he had given a speech that advisers and friends cautioned was too radical.  His law partner, William H. Herndon, considered Lincoln to be morally courageous but taking a losing political stand, and lose he did in the 1858 race for the US Senate seat from Illinois to Democrat Stephen Douglas.  It was, and is, known as the “House Divided” speech, the title coming from part of the speech's introduction, "A house divided against itself cannot stand," a statement reportedly made by Jesus as recorded in the three synoptic gospels of Christian scripture.  Lincoln read the speech to Herndon before delivering it, referring to the "house divided" language this way:

The proposition is indisputably true ... I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men [sic] in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.

Another colleague, Leonard Swett, said the speech defeated Lincoln in his campaign for the Senate.  Years later, in 1866, he wrote to Herndon concluding, "Nothing could have been more unfortunate or inappropriate; it was saying first the wrong thing, yet he saw it was an abstract truth, but standing by the speech would ultimately find him in the right place.”

Donald Trump has compared himself to Lincoln, which is laughable on its face.  Yes, they both called themselves Republicans; yes, they both were President.  But the similarities end there — while Lincoln as a statesman, and political philosopher, was willing to put his aspirations to high office on the line to courageously announce an eternal and universal truth, Trump as a charlatan and self-serving narcissist would, and could, show no such courage, using his words to foment the armed conflict Lincoln sought to avoid for the good of the country.

Trump is not alone.  He finds himself in the company of sycophants who share his view that grasping for and controlling the levers of power is all that matters.  Lincoln would sacrifice his ambition for a greater good, not employ every means at his disposal to ensure his own success.  Lincoln took a broad view of history, Trump, conditioned by something as fickle as tv ratings, can only satiate his appetite for adulation with ephemeral fame, with honor owed an office and not his person.

In their speeches in Congress during the impeachment debate earlier this week, the 197 opponents of the measure put on a display of hypocrisy which boggles the mind, a spectacle in which they tried to persuade their colleagues, the country, and maybe even their own consciences, that after they spent months trying to overturn the legitimate results of a democratic election determined by the people of this country, sowing doubt, mistrust, and division, inspiring vicious rhetoric and even more vicious action, suddenly they cared about unifying and healing the nation.  History will record that the second impeachment of President Donald Trump ensured he would forever be remembered as a catastrophically immoral and divisive leader; it will also brand his defenders in the Republican Party as duplicitous opportunists.

Perhaps they think they can convince us that they now believe nothing matters more than coming together, because they spent so much time tearing us apart by claiming that Trump actually won last November.  Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gets points for finally acknowledging that Trump "bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress," and recognizing that Joe Biden won the election.  But it took him more than two months to get here.  He doesn't get a mulligan.  He doesn't get to clear his name after voting against certifying the results of the election even after the coup attempt; with that vote, he supported the goals of the angry, murderous mob.  He rejected impeachment because, echoing Lincoln, he said, "United we can deliver peace, strength and prosperity, divided we will fail."

I’ve got whiplash — this is the same McCarthy who told Fox News on air after the election Trump lost, "we cannot allow this to happen, join together and let's stop this."

Now he wants unity and healing?  And he’s not the only one.  Pick a name at random from the 147 Republicans who voted to steal the election from the American people and you're likely to find someone saying impeachment is just too divisive — people like Debbie Lesko, who voted against certifying the electoral college results, now finds it "concerning" that Democrats are pursuing impeachment "at a time when our country needs unity.”

Or take Jim Jordan, the fiery Trump apologist, whose scorched earth, take-no-prisoners, all’s-fair-in-love-and-war, condescending, filibustering brand of politics won him a Medal of Freedom, this country’s highest civilian honor, from President Trump just four days ago, five days after speaking out in favor of disenfranchising millions of American voters.  "This doesn't unite the country," Jordan declared of the impeachment.

It's not just Trump-defending Republicans who worry about the country's deep divisions.  Most Americans are frightened about the depths and the dangers to which Trump has brought our entire nation.  The right way to heal our divisions, the right way to unite the country, is to repudiate the poisonous presidency of Donald Trump which is still promoting the lie of a “stolen” election.  What better way to do that than by impeaching and convicting him?  Even after he has left office.

In so doing, our leaders will have formally declared the Trump presidency a grave national error, telling future generations, and those looking to America to be an example to the world presently, that Trump's values and tactics are abhorrent to this nation and to free people everywhere; they are the stuff of dictators and despots, and America has no truck with them.

That is the way to bring us back from the brink and achieve a new national unity.  Not a homogenous identity favoring one group of citizens over another.  The claims we're hearing about an impeachment trial being bad for the country are self-serving lies, a way to avoid responsibility, to sweep the filth (and the filthy) under the rug.

When calling the country together, America needs courage from its leaders, not hypocrisy.  Lincoln had that courage — will his party find it in 2021?

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