Believe in truth: To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights. (On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century. Timothy Snyder)
We have been sliding away from our country's democratic principles beginning with the campaign for the 2016 presidential election, although I will leave it to students of political science to debate the nuances of whether we were creeping towards an authoritarian or totalitarian state with Donald Trump. No matter. Either way, we moved awfully close these last four years to losing what has made this country that “shining city on a hill” often admired by other countries around the world.
The voting public (less than a majority) four years ago surrendered to a national leader who did not respect the balance of competing powers in the other branches of our national government, nor the laws that have long governed society, let alone common ethical standards which we had often accepted as the basic principles for our representative democracy.
Trump tapped into the underlying societal insecurities in areas such as race, nationality and class to weave a tale of “national carnage” – then sold the country a bill of goods, claiming only he could address what ailed the nation, bolstered by a disinformation campaign the likes of which we have not seen in our borders.
But he was not alone. There is plenty of guilt to go around on the part of those who enabled him during his term in office. Despite 2016 campaign trail critiques by many in the GOP, politicians smelled the alluring scent of power and saw the ability to expand their share and retain it once Trump got into office.
How convenient that the Republican members of Congress quickly called for “unity” days after the recent failed siege on the nation's Capitol. Forget that only a few within the party over a four-year period had the gumption to speak out against Donald Trump. Forget that the tacit support for attempts to overturn the vote of the electorate in select states, including Michigan, lent itself to mob action ignited by Trump and his minions, drawing out a menagerie of violent groups that included the Boogaloo Bois, Last Sons of Liberty, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and that ilk, familiar figures given legitimacy in this president's term of office.
From our state, we had our fair share of elected officials who jumped on the Trump disinformation train. From the halls of Congress, Republican Representatives Jack Bergman (Watersmeet), Lisa McClain (Bruce Township) and Tim Walberg (Tipton) voted to to reject presidential electors from the states of Arizona and Pennsylvania. Had they been successful, they could have disenfranchised nearly three million Michigan voters who had cast ballots on behalf of President Joe Biden.
From the Capitol in Lansing, there were over a dozen state lawmakers who helped stoke the false narrative that voting fraud was so rampant that Trump actually carried the state of Michigan, some even lending their names to failed lawsuits to overturn voting returns in Michigan.
Among those in the state legislature it's important to single out two Michigan House members from Oakland County, Republican Matt Maddock who represents the local communities of Milford Village, and Milford, Highland, White Lake and Springfield townships, along with part of Waterford; and John Reilly, who resides in Oakland Township and also represents Orion, Addison, and Oxford townships, along with Leonard and Ortonville.
Maddock should get special recognition for initially supporting one of the lawsuits filed to block voting returns here and for weeks of aiding and abetting the proliferation of lies from the Trump campaign relative to the November voting returns. He, along with his wife Meshawn (soon to be the state GOP co-chair), were among a group that attempted to enter the state Capitol building the day Electoral College votes were being cast, claiming that their Republican group should be allowed to cast electoral ballots for Trump (they were denied entry). Maddock, who introduced a resolution to impeach Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, has a history of heavy involvement in far right causes and groups, including his reported joining a new Facebook group where civil war has been a topic.
The lot of them persisted in promoting to the public an alternate reality about the election returns, even though 86 judges in 60 lawsuits saw otherwise.
So, watching democracy unravel at the nation's Capitol in recent weeks, my first thought was not about unity. Justice and accountability before reconciliation has to be the order of the day if we are to prevent what took place recently from ever being repeated, let alone what we have endured for the past four years.
Major corporations have already announced they will be withholding – some temporarily and others more long-term – future political donations to Republican candidates who were part of the effort to overturn the returns from the November election. Smaller individual donors, who are increasingly the lifeblood of campaigns, should think twice before giving to the GOP or anyone from the county and state who took part in this charade.
But elected officials who lent credence to the “stolen election” conspiracy theory should be made to pay a higher price. It would be virtually impossible to recall anyone from office, thanks to never-ending amendments over two decades to recall law in this state by lawmakers who were intent on making it increasingly tough to pull this off.
At best, and it's a long shot, is a pair of pending resolutions by state House Democrats calling for appointment of a special committee to investigate and possibly expel Maddock from that chamber – or at a minimum a censure for his heavy involvement in attempting to undermine voting returns in Michigan.
The newly named Republican House Speaker, Jason Wentworth, has already said he has no intention of bringing the resolution to a vote. No surprise there. But if you agree Representatives should at least have the opportunity to weigh in on this proposal, send him an email at JasonWentworth@house.mi.gov.
This is one of those situations where no one should be sitting on the sidelines.