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OPINION

The lawlessness of the ‘law and order’ party

Forget GOP calls for unity. What they want for Trump and his enablers is immunity without accountability for fomenting an attempted coup.

Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; Adobe

The president of the United States incited a deadly insurrection against the United States, and a lot of Republicans would really like us all just to move on.

Sure, it’s a shame that five people died, including a Capitol Police officer who was killed by a ruthless mob. And yes, white supremacists attacked the first branch of our government because the racist they chose as their messiah was deposed by 81 million voters.

When Republicans speak of unity, what they want is for Trump and his GOP conspirators, especially Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, to wriggle free of any responsibility for their seditious crimes against democracy.

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More than 100 GOP legislators tried to overthrow a fair election to keep Trump in power. Their lies fomented an attempted coup, but they want it treated with all the gravity of a guest using the wrong fork at a dinner party. In a nation accustomed to overlooking its atrocities, there can be no unity without accountability, no peace without justice. Yet the party that loves to talk about law and order suddenly has no use for either.

President-elect Joe Biden “has a historic opportunity to unify America behind the sentiment that our political divisions have gone too far,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted. He’s demanding from the incoming president what was never expected from Trump. Those responsible for “this terrible national tragedy” include many of Rubio’s GOP colleagues and the president to whom he remains slavishly devoted. For more than 50 years, Republicans have relentlessly inflamed those same political divisions.

Among right-wing buzzwords, unity is the new civility. Rather than conciliatory, it’s a tool to shame their opponents into silence. Republicans set fire to a house and walk away, then complain about the noise when its occupants cry out.

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Republicans said nothing when Trump supporters plotted to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. They stayed silent when, days before the election, Trump cheered his supporters for menacing a Biden campaign bus on a Texas interstate. With Republicans, law and order is something reserved for their enemies; mercy is the reward for shared ideology of pernicious white victimhood.

Burying culpability under disingenuous unity is another layer of trauma — pain inflicted becomes pain ignored. Republicans speak of healing, yet leave open wounds vulnerable to future intrusion. If this insurrection had been launched by left-leaning groups, the so-called law and order party would be building the gallows themselves — like the one someone constructed during the Capitol coup, spurring the chant “Hang Mike Pence!”

At last summer’s Republican National Convention, Pence said, “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” It turns out the vice president was barely safe in Trump’s America after the president filled his followers with resentment toward anyone unwilling to bend to their dangerous will.

No one should soon forget the haunting stories of legislators and their staffers hidden under furniture for hours in barricaded offices, or those who texted loved ones they feared they might not see again. Windows were shattered, offices were trashed, and lives were lost. The insurrectionists even wiped their excrement on walls, perhaps assuming that Black and brown people would probably be assigned with literally cleaning up white people’s mess.

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During the evacuation lockdown, some Republicans even refused to wear masks; now at least three Democratic lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19. The GOP will bear no responsibility for this either.

On “Fox & Friends” Monday, Brian Kilmeade admonished not Trump or Republicans, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for pursuing impeachment. “Good leadership [from Pelosi] would bring down the temperature a little, look to turn the page, be inclusive.” He neglected to mention that, for the sake of law and order, Trump could have done that months ago. He didn’t. Now much of the GOP is blindly following their mad leader off a cliff.

For unity, Republicans would join Democrats to impeach Trump a second time. They would stand with colleagues across the aisle demanding the resignations or expulsions of Hawley, Cruz, and others whose mendacious rhetoric fed a lethal attempted coup — one that has yet to be fully quelled, according to the FBI.

If they gave a damn about unity, they would finally carve out this nation’s bitter heart of white supremacy, one that has long threatened law and order and democracy, and has again pushed this nation toward the sharp edge of civil war.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.