The question which has occupied Americans for the last four years, and especially since November 3, 2020, has been, “Is the United States a nation of laws or a cult of personality?” When we use the term “of laws,” most people immediately think of the Constitution and federal, state or local statutes. But the rule of law is subject to interpretation and context, otherwise there would be no need for Article III of the Constitution, courts or lawyers.
Even the Ten Commandments are not absolute. For example, remember when then-candidate Jimmy Carter confessed in the November 1976 issue of Playboy magazine, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” Was he struck down by a bolt of lightning? No. But he was sentenced to a four-year term in a federal facility.
There are only two absolute laws to which we are all subject. Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” And the law of unintended consequences, “Any action has results that are not part of the actor’s purpose.” Both have been on full display. There used to be a third, Mile’s Law, “Where you stand depends on where you sit.” As hard as Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Kevin McCarthy tried to affirm this adage; Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and nine other Republican members of the House of Representatives challenged its universal application.
Let’s start with Murphy’s Law. How can we forget Dave Chappelle’s opening monologue on Saturday Night Live the weekend after the 2016 election. Despite Trump’s victory, Chappelle reminisced about a recent White House occasion during which the Obamas celebrated black art and culture.
I looked at that room, and I looked out at all those black faces, and I saw how happy everybody was. These people, who had been historically disenfranchised.
…it made me feel hopeful. And it made me feel proud to be an American, and it made me very happy about the prospects of our country.
In that spirit, I’m wishing Donald Trump luck. and I’m going to give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.
Like so many people who voted for Trump the first time, Chappelle believed the next four years could not be as horrific as Hillary Clinton warned us. Give him a chance. He cannot be THAT bad. And Chappelle was right. He was not as bad as Clinton made him out to be. He was worse. Murphy’s Law confirmed again.
Which brings me to the law of unintended consequences. To understand what Donald Trump intended, one need only read the following excerpt from Liz Cheney’s remarks during the House impeachment hearing.
On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes.
That is correct. The intended purpose of the mob Donald Trump “summoned” and “assembled” (again Cheney’s words) was to intimidate Democrats and the minority of Republicans who refused to cater to lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. But that is not what happened. None were intimidated. Why? Because the mob was asking for something that had no basis in law as had been explained over and over again except on Fox News, NewsMax, OANN and alt-right social media.
They intended to halt the mandate in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, “The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. ” Although this imperative has been clarified by amendment and statutes over time, the ceremonial nature of this rite has not been challenged with one exception, an instance where two or more slates of electors had been certified by a state’s legislature. For those who have not been paying attention, this was not the case in the 50 states or District of Columbia in 2020.
The intended targets of the insurrection did not flinch from fulfilling the oath of office they had taken for the first time or re-affirmed just three days earlier. But it did find a new mark, the 121 representatives and eight senators who voted to overturn the popular votes in Arizona, Pennsylvania or both.
After hearing those at the gate demand Mike Pence be hanged, they capitulated to the domestic terrorists. They feared for their lives. Some have since confessed they were more concerned (and still are) about the personal safety of themselves and their families than for the future of their Republic. Do not tell me terrorism failed on January 6th. It scared the crap out of 129 duly elected cowards whose commander-in-chief summoned and assembled a volunteer army of faux patriots. As it turned out, the mob did not keep Democrats and rogue Republicans FROM crossing a line at the door of the House chamber. They are keeping Cruz, Hawley, McCarthy, et. al. IN line.
Fortunately, Mike Pence and others escaped unharmed. That is not however true of everyone in the Senate and House chambers that day. There was a hanging. From the gallows of history and public opinion hang the souls and reputations of the 129 individuals who refused to speak truth to power or to their constituents. And their physical presence is suspended in a state of purgatory where they have an unpleasant choice. Either hold on to the “big lie” and their cultist devotion to Trump or repent and face the “friendly fire” from that very mob they emboldened that has now turned on anyone who abandons their “lost cause.”
For what it’s worth.