Jan 11th 2021

Accepting Responsibility for January 6, 2021 

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of the Arab American Institute

 

On January 7, 2021, after two months of denial, false charges of fraud, and incitement, Donald Trump acknowledged that he would be leaving the White House on January 20th and promised a “seamless transition of power.” As welcome as this may be to some, it cannot be the end of the story. There must be accountability for the damage done to what we now see as our fragile democracy. 

One of my favorite philosophers, Jacob Bronowski, introduced me to an expanded understanding of the term “paternity.” For Bronowski, paternity meant more than just “who is the parent of a child?” When looking at the consequences of the injustice, poverty, or violence we encounter daily, he calls on us to ask​, “who has responsibility for this?” Or “who owns this?” For Bronowski, accepting paternity for the evil we do is essential to building a moral society.  

In the immediate aftermath of the nightmarish events that ravaged Washington on January 6, 2021, I thought of Bronowski’s lesson. The siege of the Capitol Building by rioters who shattered windows, invaded the House and Senate Chambers, and vandalized offices, didn’t just happen. It had paternity.

The President of the United States urged them to come to Washington. And once here, incited them with inflammatory rhetoric and literally told them to march on the Capitol. But paternity for this mayhem doesn’t stop with Donald Trump alone. 

We’ve witnessed elements of this tragedy unfolding for years now, with Trump’s coddling of extremist right-wing groups. He fueled their grievances with hatred of minority communities, immigrants, the judiciary, the media, Democrats, and anyone he perceived as standing in his way. He fueled their penchant for conspiracies with an alternate reality about how his many successes were being ​ignored. He insisted that he was always winning (his crowds were larger, the pandemic was being defeated, America was safer and greater than ever, and he had won the election by a landslide), but his enemies not only wouldn’t admit it, they were doing all they could to stop him. Action had to be taken.

He knew that individuals associated with white nationalist groups, armed militias, and the QAnon cult ​responded to his call to converge on Washington. He knew that they would commit mayhem. And yet, he persisted. Donald Trump, therefore, has paternity for what happened. But the responsibility for all that occurred cannot be visited on him alone.

He had enablers who supported his false claims. Some may have believed his distorted view of reality, but many others acted out of the callous political calculation that by courting the President’s faithful followers they could lay claim to be his political heirs.

Over one hundred Republican Senators and Congressmen endorsed Trump’s complaint that the election was fraudulent and vowed to turn the January 6th Congressional ratification of the results into a heated fight. Popular Fox News and radio talk show hosts added fuel to the flames by daily repeating every conspiracy and false charge of fraud that were already rejected by courts across the country.   

And then there were those closest to the President, from his Vice-President and his cabinet on down to his loyal White House staff. They too have paternity for what transpired on January 6th. For years now they should have seen sufficient evidence of the danger ahead. Just listening to his incitement against his foes at his campaign rallies should have provided warning signs.

Some of those in Trump’s retinue, ​including some of the GOP leaders in Congress, may have been “true believers,” but most had made a “Faustian deal.” They were conservatives at heart, and even though they never trusted or even respected the man, ​but ​​as long as they got the tax cuts, deregulation, and conservative judges they wanted, they were willing to hold their noses and remain silent.

What is so deeply disturbing is that after the damage wrought by their silence, these same silent enablers now feign horror. After the shocking scenes of insurrection in the Capitol, Republican Members of Congress have issued statements denouncing the violence. Members of the President’s staff and Cabinet are resigning, and even the President, in his January 7th remarks​, has sought to distance himself from those he now terms as “thugs” and calls for them to be arrested and prosecuted.

But this cannot be the end of the story for two reasons. In the first place, it’s not enough to punish the vandals. Those who lit the fire, fanned the flame, and poured fuel on it, must accept their paternity. Without accountability, there is impunity that threatens to very survival of our democracy.

Secondly, it is critical that we understand that lasting damage has been done. Members of Congress and others may believe that they are now absolved from responsibility by their recent “conversions.” But the reality is that there are millions of followers of various cults and militia, who remain not only unrepentant, but now more deeply aggrieved. They will not go quietly into the night. The white nationalist groups, the armed militias, and the far-right cults angered by what they will perceive as the humiliation of their leader will continue to pose a challenge to the country.

The answer can’t be to pretend that the crisis is now over or to believe that the way forward can be found by simply impeaching the President or using the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. That will not do. January 6th had antecedents. And more than one man has responsibility for what happened.

To understand the roots of this crisis, President Biden and/or Congress must create a national commission – not unlike the Kerner Commission created to understand the root causes of civil unrest in the 1960s.  Only by a full examination of what led us to this tragic state of affairs will we be able assess paternity and make the course corrections needed to move forward.

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More Current Affairs

Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."