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Now that Congress has impeached Trump for a second time, what else can we do to improve the current political situation in the United States?

Neither last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, nor the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump by the House of Representatives, and the forthcoming Senate trial to convict Trump, will solve the political challenges that the United States currently has.

The more pressing question is how can we unite the country that is so geographically big and politically and ideologically divided, maintain peace and stability, promote equality, bring prosperity to the our citizens in the coming years, and in essence protect democracy?

There are short term and long-term solutions to consider.

Let’s start with the short term.

First, we should continue with the Senate’s trial of Trump, even if this process extends past the inauguration of Biden. Trump must be held accountable. Not holding a trial will signal that he and others like him can continue to commit any crime they choose and will definitely divide the country further because there are millions who believe he’s not fit to govern. If the trial is successful and he’s convicted (meaning 17 GOP senators will have to defy fear), then we will have held him accountable, deprived him of important benefits that outgoing presidents are afforded, and more importantly reinforced a legal precedent.

Sedition will not be tolerated. Actions have consequences. At the very least, a conviction will signal that no one, not least a president, can incite a mob with murderous intentions to storm the seat of the legislative branch of government.

Second, all individuals who are accurately identified as storming the Capitol should be charged with committing specific federal crimes, afforded due process, and be given appropriate sanctions. Additionally, where possible these individuals should charged with appropriate state relevant crimes. Convictions at the state level will minimize the possibility that they can be pardoned in the future by a sympathetic Republican President.

Third, Section 3 of the 14th amendment of the Constitution, that allows elected representatives that have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion or given aid or comfort to the enemies” of the state, (such as the so-called sedition caucus) should be expelled from public office. This will send a strong message to those elected representatives pushing a false and disproven narrative supporting a stolen election and flaming the fires of insurrection. They have misinterpreted their right to freedom of speech versus participation as governed. Those who outright lie to their constituents and the American people in support of personal gain should be punished. Those who govern by fear that their voters will get mad them have no place in government. These lawmakers are the sedition caucus. Many of who were elected/reelected on the same ballots they claim are fraudulent and willfully encourage rebellion against a lawfully elected president.

Fourth, Social media organizations should continue to crack down on users who foment violence. It was long overdue that Facebook, Twitter and Amazon implemented lifetime bans on Trump and Extreme right organizations. This should be extended to members of congress and state legislatures who spread lies about the recent elections.

Fifth, news media organizations like Fox, etc. that push false narratives and ideological agendas of fear, intimidation, alternative reality must be held accountable, through government failure to renew licenses, and citizen activism (contacting the network, boycotting advertisers, etc.)

In the long term we should continue to do:

– make efforts to implement proportional representation and rank ordered choice voting,

– boycott corporations that enable the spreading of lies, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and try to buy shares in the corporations in order to vote to replace board members and change the policies and priorities of these organizations.

– fund organizations that fight for democratic values such as the American Civil Liberties Union, anti-racism organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, etc.

– adequately financially support our schools and revise what is taught to emphasize a curriculum of emancipatory democracy that emphasizes Classics, Civics and Government, Critical Thinking, Logic, & Information Literacy. We need to teach History in a way that acknowledges the bestiality of slavery, the economic benefit that slavery brought, and that takes a new moral, social, and economic view about its legacy and implications for social and justice for all

I hope that these initiatives can have a positive effect on our country, creating a place where human rights, civil rights, science, and democracy is respected.

All decisions have consequences. Even a failure to act has consequences. This will be long and protracted challenge and it is bound to distract the Biden administrations ability to govern, but it is necessary and moral to punish the President, those who supported or enabled sedition, including the news media, social media companies, and GOP legislators which enabled this dark stain on our democracy.

Photo: “Biden Inauguration – Locked Down Capitol,” by Geoff Livingston

What’s wrong with this picture?

By now, most Americans have seen the footage of the large pro-Trump mob who this past Wednesday, at the president’s urging, stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC.

We saw a thin detail of United States Capitol Police officers haphazardly try to deal with this mob who easily broke through the metal barricades, walked up the stairs, smashed through windows, and breached the Capitol.

Not only were the Capitol Police deployed in insufficient numbers for effective crowd control, their response appeared weak. One of them is caught on camera talking jovially with the rioters while another one is heard giving directions to legislators’ offices. In some photos and videos, other officers appeared to hold open gates, waving the mob through. Meanwhile congresspeople, staffers, and the news media inside the building were led by police to a safe and secure place.

While the melee was occurring, we were left to wonder how, despite the police presence, were these rioters so easily able to break through the cordon and breach the Capitol? Surely the police knew that this was a possibility? Trump’s rally was not a spontaneous event. It had been planned for weeks, plastered all over social media sites, and a cursory glance of right-wing media clearly demonstrated their objectives and the violent threat they posed.

Where was the coordination with the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC)? Assistance from the DC National Guard? Both were mobilized and deployed in Washington, DC, which is a distinct jurisdiction from the Capitol and the National Mall where the rally was held. Where were the United States Park Police? The Secret Service Police or the numerous other police departments that operate in DC?

Coordination does not seem to have occurred until much later in the melee when control was brought back over the Capitol building.

During the mess and Thursday morning quarterbacking, observers started wondering not only about the sufficiency of police tactics at the scene, the lack of mutual aid directives, but why were so few people arrested during the melee?

In sum, despite their injuries and the death of a Capitol Police officer, the officers who were outside the Capitol could do did little to prevent the hoard from entering the building and rummaging through the chambers and offices.

But one of the most galling takeaways from Wednesday’s event was the dissonance between what we saw at the Capitol and what took place during this past spring and summer during the largely peaceful protests, both in Washington, DC and throughout the country, by mostly African-American protesters against the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis.

During these public displays of dissent we saw phalanxes of police, some wearing riot gear, crack down on Black Lives Matter protestors. Police frequently responded with excessive force, rubber bullets, smoke bombs, flash bangs, and teargas. Protestors were injured, beaten, and were arrested en masse. Much of this response was pure and simple an overreaction by the police. In grim irony, the many of the protests against police brutality were met with… police brutality.

Closer to Washington, DC, in June, when law enforcement cleared Lafayette Square ahead of Trump’s bible photo op and afterwards as MPDC police pursued fleeing protestors through the city, 300 people were arrested. 200 of which were done after law enforcement kettled protestors just north of the White House.

In the case of the Capitol breach, perhaps public safety officials were confident that perpetrators would be later arrested based on photo and CCTV evidence. But to the world, it seems like a right-wing mob was easily able to storm the Capitol, threaten law makers, and walk away relatively unharmed.

As selected members of the Republican party try to paint the riotous mob as members of Antifa, one has to wonder if the protesters at yesterday’s melee were African-American would the police have responded so lightly. I think we all know the answer. We have eyes. We’ve seen what law enforcement is capable of.

The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that, despite the presence of African Americans on the Capitol Police Department, one of the reasons why police treated this mob differently has to be racism and white supremacy.

Someone somewhere in the chain of command decided that a rally of Trump supporters who for months have been whipped up in a frenzy against lawmakers of both parties were less of a threat than black and brown people asking to not be murdered and beaten in the streets.

So where do we go from here?

We already know that an investigation is taking place, and both the Chief of the Capitol Police and the Sargent at arms to the Senate floor have quit, but if the recommendations are more hardening of the target, resources, or more training (especially racial sensitivity or awareness), this is insufficient.

It’s not because the Capitol police are underfunded, or poorly trained. We know they have a big budget and adequate weapons. And in terms of sensitivity training, employees, with the assistance of a facilitator, temporarily get in touch with their inner emotions, but then go back to the powerful effects of the organizational culture.

We know that individuals and organizations spouting white supremacy are a threat to our domestic security. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, numerous social justice organizations, and experts, for example, have repeatedly warned us about the recent growth of this kind of activity.

Dissent and political protest are important. They are elements of freedom of expression and bedrocks of our constitution and democracy. But when protests turn violent, appropriate law enforcement actions need to be implemented, and done so without fear or favor. They can’t selectively engage in force, both legal and extra-legal violence dependent on the issues and nature of the perpetrators.

Both the police actions of this spring, summer, and this week should serve as an additional wake up call for a massive and urgent change in American policing, including a serious consideration of defunding the police, and what exactly that means. One that no matter who is in charge of our police, both they and we need to take into account the overt and structural racism in the way that selective police officers can perform their duties.

Photo: Jo Zimny “A Scary Day On Capital Hill”

Stocktaking on this last day of 2020

Like many people, at the end of the year I engage in some stocktaking.

Yes, 2020 was super shitty for the entire planet; no exaggeration. But it wasn’t equally bad for everyone. I was one of the lucky ones and have lots to be thankful for.

Despite the brutality of the events of the last year, there are also some signs that make me hopeful.

To begin with, several pharmaceutical companies have produced a viable COVID-19 vaccine and people are now slowly being vaccinated.
In twenty days, Donald Trump will no longer be in the White House, and a saner, more thoughtful and competent administration will be taking over.
Formal and informal civic engagement in various things, including voting in our recent election is at a historic levels. Many people braved the pandemic to protest in the streets and cast their votes.

There is also some racial reckoning on the horizon, but clearly not enough. The struggle for racial justice is not over and we must hold the Dems feet to the fire to make good on their promises.

These are the hopeful things that we need to continue to build on. I encourage everyone to do a sort of accounting in your own personal lives of how much you’ve done toward having a more equitable just society. I urge you to document not just the bad but the good too. What have you done? Can you do more?

Once you have completed this task, then I urge you to use the remaining time in this year, this day, to make donations no matter how small or insignificant they may appear. If you can’t afford to donate financially, then donate gently used clothing and household items you no longer need or use to shelters and charitable organizations. It’s not too late; it’s never too late. Don’t sweat about it. Don’t worry about the tax implications, just commit to it. Do it before the end of the day. Do it now.

Photo “Homeless” by Rui DuarteFollow