“At long last, sir, have you no sense of decency?” With these words the attorney Joseph Nye Welch famously confronted the demagogue, Senator Joe McCarthy, in the Army/ McCarthy hearings, and signaled the beginning of the end of McCarthy’s reign of lies and intimidation.
It seems that we have come to the “at long last” point with the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. At long last, there is no more excuse, no more justification, no more hiding the truth.
January 6, the day of Epiphany — a word which means “revealing” — was truly a day of revealing. We came to a moment of truth.
Protestors, egged on and incited by Trump, morphed into rioters as they launched their assault on the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. I imagine some thought themselves heroes in one or another action movie as they scaled the west wall of the Capitol, flags flying.
What they achieved was a rare unification of Congress in condemnation of “thugs,” a word used by both Democrat, Chuck Schumer and Republican, Mitch McConnell. “Violence” was universally condemned. “Desecration,” was the other most common term. The temple of democracy had been desecrated. Note the religious language.
When the Senate and House re-convened Tuesday evening to complete their constitutionally mandated business, there were so many speeches that the moment was nearly drowned in pious words. But not quite. There was a new unity, among most if not all. Our sworn job, they reminded one another, is to defend the Constitution against, “all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
When those words were first written was it ever imagined that the domestic enemy #1 of the Constitution might be living in the White House, holding the office of President?
Many of the Senators lauded the heroes of the day, the men and women of the D. C. and Capitol police, the Secret Service, House and Senate staffers who kept their heads about them, and whoever it was that thought to secure the actual votes of the Electoral College.
Other heroes come to mind, from the ranks of the Republican Party. Mitt Romney is right up there. He’s been standing pretty much alone against Trump for quite some time. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan stands out, as does the Illinois Congressman, Adam Kinzinger.
Possibly, one adds Vice-President, Mike Pence, who finally told Trump that his allegiance was not to him, but to the Constitution. And, yes, even Mitch McConnell, who seemed actually to choke up as he defended the sanctity of the Capitol and the work of the Senate. But Pence and McConnell, along with so many other Republicans, have enabled Trump and bear responsibility.
Some stood revealed starkly for what they are, cynics and opportunists, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. Their self-justifications were, if thin, shameless. Others, e.g. Kelly Loeffler and Lindsay Graham, did what they do best, go with flow. Now the flow is no longer in the direction of Donald Trump.
In the end — “at long last” — Trump stands pretty much alone. Oh, yes, he has his thousands of intoxicated loyalists, eager to throw themselves on the ramparts for his fraudulent cause. But the ranks of his official and elected enablers is thinning pretty fast now. Late, to be sure, but you know what they say, “better late than never.”
The Senate’s session on Tuesday evening, after the invasion, was really kind of inspiring. Many who had walked their fine lines for too long, now saw that the line had been crossed and drew one of their own. “The rule of law; the Constitution; this temple of democracy,” all were among the lines drawn.
It is certainly ironic, but maybe, just maybe, Trump will have had a hand in “Making America Great Again.” Though not in the way he thought.
Where to next? Trump has fourteen more days to wreck havoc and mayhem. There’s talk about activating the 25th Amendment. Others urge impeachment, which would keep him from running in 2024. His mad (in both senses of the word) millions are still out there.
Someone said, not long ago, “Those who know better, need to do better.” There have been a lot of politicians and others who knew better who haven’t done better over the last four years. As they scurried for safety from the mob, it was hard not to think that some were reaping what they had sown.
But maybe now. Maybe “at long last.”