We’ve just passed through one of the most momentous weeks in U.S. history. A violent mob scaled the walls of the Capitol with ropes and make-shift ladders like medieval castle invaders, teargas and gun shots filled the halls of Congress, and legislators sheltered in place, hiding from camouflage-clad insurrectionists, some armed.
Thus, played out the beginning of the end, the initial climax of a grand and classic story and, as with all bigger-than-life sagas, it involved what the ancient Greeks called hubris— arrogant pride that ultimately leads to a retributive downfall. It all began with an immensely flawed hero descending a golden escalator a little over four years ago. His subsequent actions altered the American psyche in ways that are still rippling out in the fetid pond he created.
On his arrival, our hero conquered all rivals in his path, using a combination of Queens, N.Y. swagger and bully-boy tactics from a middle school playground. He wasn’t smart in the conventional, book-learning sense. In fact, he disliked reading, lacked an inquisitive mind, and possessed a limited vocabulary. But he owned and cultivated qualities much more useful to his purposes — a towering ego, a total lack of empathy and morality, and a feral sense for targeting an opponent’s weakness.
To batter and defeat his perceived enemies he wielded not an enchanted sword but a simple iPhone. Insulting and threatening tweets destroyed unfriendly politicians, encouraged distrust of the press, impacted financial markets, destabilized foreign alliances, spread lies and conspiracies, and energized a base eager to have a strongman to follow. King Arthur’s Excalibur blade would have proven no match for the power of Twitter.
Our hero drew many followers who seethed with resentment over how a steady influx of immigrants, the offshoring of manufacturing jobs, and the use of robotics to replace workers had changed the country. They were joined by a core of Christians who believed their faith was under attack by secular media and mass culture. Though the hero was deeply flawed spiritually with a history of adultery, lies, and corrupt business practices, they embraced him as the anointed one because he promised to appoint judges to stem society’s laissez-faire attitude toward morals. (The irony was lost on them.) The hero’s base also shared romantic notions of the past and desperately wanted to return to those glossy times to “Make America Great Again.”
With many enablers in Washington, the hero insulted our foreign allies, ripped up climate and trade agreements, obstructed justice, attacked the courts, threatened the free press, weakened environmental regulations, ignored subpoenas, thwarted the right of oversight by Congress and multiple inspector generals, tried to extort an ally, lied about and mishandled a pandemic, and enriched himself and his family at the expense of taxpayers. He also had a highly unusual reverence and respect for dictators.
There were crucial points in the arc of the hero’s tale when he could have been defeated: at two conventions when he was selected as leader despite his flaws, at his Senate impeachment trial at which no witnesses were called, and by the exercise of the 25th amendment which permits his removal from office if proven unable to perform his duties. The hero’s unstable mental condition and string of nonsensical acts and statements were surely proof enough, but none of this happened because of the power of his tweets and blind ambition of his enablers who enjoyed the absolutely corrupting nature of absolute power.
And so, it was left to the people to decide his fate in a second election, the alternative to impeachment recommended by his own supporters last year. Except when the people did deliver their verdict by a majority of 7 million votes and a 306-232 edge in electoral votes, the hero refused to accept it. He chose to wield his phone to tweet over 450 times that the election was rigged and stolen from him.
The U.S. Department of Justice disagreed and deemed it a fair and honest election. Regardless, the hero had his advocates appeal to 60 state and federal courts to jiggle the election numbers but never presented evidence of voter fraud. The courts demurred. The hero then tried to convince one key state to criminally change its official tally by somehow “finding” 12,000 votes.
With the tallying of the Electoral College results, it should have been over, but it wasn’t. The hero became more self-deluded and persisted, encouraging his most militant followers to descend on Washington on Jan. 6 for “wild protests” and pleading with his vice president to overturn electoral college votes. The hero’s desperate endgame had spooled down to the disenfranchisement of millions, the overthrow of democracy, and the triumph of authoritarianism. He is guilty of sedition and must be lawfully removed from power.
When all is said and done, this republic will have survived because of the wisdom of the voters, the fortitude of the courts, and the courage of state election officials. And as for the hero? He will have experienced the ultimate proof of the ancient truth: “He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind, And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.” Proverbs 11:29
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Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Friday. Email him at email@example.com.