Earlier this week, in an emotional moment among emotional moments, lead U.S. House Impeachment Manager, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., shared the story of a Black Capitol police officer and the racist abuse he endured when a mob with murder on its mind sacked the seat of government last month.
“I sat down with one of my buddies, another Black guy, and tears just started streaming down my face,” the officer said, according to BuzzFeed News, which first reported it. “I said, ‘What the f**k, man? Is this America? What the f**k just happened? I’m so sick and tired of this s**t.’”
Is this America?
When the Senate votes on whether to convict former President Donald Trump on a single count of inciting that day of violence that’s left a scar on our national consciousness that may never fully fade, and decides whether he should ever be allowed to hold federal office ever again, that’s the question that 100 men and women in that chamber will be called to answer.
Are we an America that normalizes political violence?
Are we an America that abandons its sacred traditions of representative democracy and gives into the lies and fabrications of a narcissistic, would-be strongman?
Are we an America that claims ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ and then turns its back on the heroic sacrifices of U.S. Capitol police officers, it’s now been revealed, that were literally the last line of defense between members of Congress and a mob that had marched on the Capitol to hang former Vice President Mike Pence and to murder U.S. House Speaker Nancy Peolsi, D-Calif.?
Because as much as this is an exercise in holding Trump accountable for the months he spent laying the groundwork — through lawsuits, attacks on elected officials who refused to submit to him, and through easily debunked, but no less corrosive, lies to his supporters — that led to that deadly day, it is also a vote on who we are as a people and the choices we’re making about our future as a nation.
Some Republicans, still in thrall to Trump, either by choice or out of fear for their political futures, have already shown their hand. Even with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., apparently on the fence, it’s unlikely, as of this writing, that there are the 17 GOP votes needed for a conviction.
That apparently includes U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who, after viewing newly released and gut-wrenching video of the siege, told reporters that the trial was a “complete waste of time,” according to NBC News.
“Look, I’ve been clear that I wish the president had said something faster when they broke into it, but, you know, I’ve watched what he said. He’s never said when somebody should break in — [he] actually said that people should do this peacefully,” Scott said, seizing on the one qualifier that Republicans have used to give Trump a free pass on months of gaslighting and direct and baseless attacks on the foundations of our democracy.
“This is a complete waste of time,” Scott continued. “It’s not doing anything to help American families, it’s not helping people get jobs, it’s not helping get the vaccine out… it’s vindictive.”
It’s not a waste of time, Sen. Scott. It’s about making sure the sacrifices of Capitol Police officers that day were not in vain. It’s about honoring the oath that you and your colleagues swore to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution, and not the “weird worship of one dude,” as U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., so strikingly said.
Because, when you get right down to it, the racist white nationalists, QAnon dupes, and pro-Trump extremists who ransacked one of the most potent symbols of our republic committed their atrocious acts because of a lie: That the election was stolen.
It has been proven in no court. There is no evidence to support it. And Joseph R. Biden Jr., whether you agree with him or not, is the legitimately elected president of the United States of America.
And Capitol Police officers, honoring their oaths, ran into the face of danger. Video shows the deadly toll of that day, officers were maimed, crushed against doors and stabbed with a flagpole. One officer, Brian Sicknick, gave the full measure of devotion that day and died. Two more officers, one from the Capitol police, another from the Washington D.C. Metro force, later died by suicide. Another officer, Eugene Goodman, heroically lured rioters away from the Senate chamber.
During her turn at the lectern as a House manager this week, U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, said she planned to outline the “actions of a desperate president,” who would stop at nothing, not even an attack on the Capitol that he allowed to burn for hours, to save his own skin.
“Senators, ours is a dialogue with history,” Dean said, in part, as she concluded her remarks.
“Is this America?” the Black Capitol police officer asked.
How that question is answered in the coming days is how history will judge us all.