The evidence presented in the trial of Donald J. Trump offers a disturbing set of what-ifs.
What if those who stormed the Capitol had gotten their hands on Mike Pence, not long after the mob had erected a maudlin gallows outside the building and once inside had chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” Why? Because he had the temerity to uphold the Constitution and oversee the certification of election results that meant he and Trump would leave office.
Does anybody except the most irredeemable partisan not believe that, in that frenzy, serious harm or even death would have been visited on the sitting vice president?
What if the insurrectionists had cornered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose life has been habitually threatened by the very people who sacked the Capitol?
We don’t have to imagine. One of them, Dawn Bancroft, who was arrested for her role in the attack of the Capitol, posted a video making it brutally clear what they intended to do.
“We broke into the Capitol,” Bancroft said. “We were looking for Nancy to shoot her in the friggin’ brain but we didn’t find her.”
What if Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman had not, by chance, come across Senator Mitt Romney and warned him to turn around and run because he was headed right for the mob?
The day before, Romney had been accosted by Trump supporters on his flight to Washington because he had rightly dismissed Trump’s claims of a stolen election. They chanted, “Traitor!” at Romney.
What if they had gotten their hands on Romney a day later, in the miasma of violent insurrection?
David Cicilline, the congressman from Rhode Island, cataloged the harm done to police officers that day. One was murdered by insurrectionists. One lost a finger, another lost an eye. Two who were traumatized by the attack later committed suicide.
Romney thanked Goodman Wednesday and remarked on what Goodman and other Capitol Police officers endured that day.
“It was obviously very troubling to see the great violence that our Capitol Police and others were subjected to,” Romney said.
It was, however, life-affirming to watch the video and listen to the audio that showed the bravery that many police officers displayed that day, despite being failed by their superiors who were woefully unprepared for the attack.
As Stacey Plasket, the US Virgin Islands congresswoman, former prosecutor, and daughter of an NYPD officer pointed out, Goodman is the same officer who cagily lured the mob away from the Senate chamber, basically offering himself up to save others.
Since the murder last year of George Floyd at the hands — actually, the knee — of a Minneapolis police officer, anti-police rhetoric and sentiment have been common.
What if, instead of the horrific image of Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, the heroic image of Eugene Goodman standing up to a mob of insurrectionists becomes the real face of American policing? What if the actions of most police officers in Washington that day remind us that most cops are like Eugene Goodman, not Derek Chauvin?
House managers on Thursday used not the words of Democrats to indict Trump but those of other Republicans who were politically courageous enough to call Trump out for his words and behavior.
Among them were Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Vermont Governor Phil Scott, who are popular and have been reelected with huge mandates in states where Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans, because they stress competence over partisanship.
What if, going forward, the face of the Republican Party was not divisive, highly partisan senators such as Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, who even after the Capitol was trashed by insurrectionists continued to push the lie that the presidential election was not legitimate, but empathetic, principled politicians like Charlie Baker and Phil Scott?
What if, after hearing the evidence against the most popular politician in their party, 17 or more Republican senators vote their personal conscience instead of their short-term political interests?
We all know that last “what if” won’t happen.
But what if it did?
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.