An Exemplar for These Times, Wild Bill Elliott
When I was a boy, my grandfather used to take me to the Sunday afternoon matinee. The program was a newsreel, a cartoon, an oater (i.e., a Western), and the feature film, though maybe not in that order. I remember liking Bob Steele, who would mount a horse with a spread-legged leap from the rear, and Wild Bill Elliott. It seems that every Elliott oater found a way for him to declare early that he was a “peaceable man.” Yet just about every Elliot oater found a way for him to be the last man standing after a bloody shoot-out in a corral or a saloon, with dead bad men lying every which-a-way.
Barack Hussein Obama was a “peaceable man,” but he achieved no peace in. In 2012, he announced a “red line” about the use of chemical weapons in Syria—good. Bashar al-Assad crossed it—bad. Obama did nothing, and Assad did everything to maintain his minority’s rule over his country’s people. In 2016, when a mob of armed men occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, Obama did not demand that federal forces remove the occupiers, who remained for over a month. Bundy-like terrorists and insurrectionists have learned the lesson: authorities who seek peace in confrontations lack the will to enforce the law, which they abate or abandon, especially if enforcement requires the use of force against white men. The result: such peacemakers achieve no peace and enable future confrontations. So how much peace do peacemakers make?
The same goes for national unity at any price or payment by one side only. After the 6 January assault on Congress, radical right (aka, “Republican”) representatives have resisted censure, invocation of the 25th Amendment, and impeachment—all on the claim that they promote division. They propose that Democrats abandon these means to deal with Trump’s incitement of insurrection for the sake of national unity. Democrats seem not to take the proposal seriously because they have not asked the proposers what they would abandon as their contribution to unity. For one, would they publicly renounce their lies which fomented distrust, resentment, anger, and rebellion? Their speechifying in the House impeachment debate says they will never.
Meanwhile, the rioters, a part of the base on which Trump relies, to which he appeals, and over which he holds sway, are not going away when he goes away, however he goes away. The Tea Party did not go away; its candidates or others whom it supported won elections. Its members and their successors have urged radical right (“Republican”) members of state and federal legislatures to pursue their white-supremacist, anti-democratic agenda, with tactics of demagogic rhetoric, intimidation, and violent action.
Yesterday’s impeachment vote in the House shows that radical right representatives are not going to change their course, much less change their hearts or minds. They are not going to respect the results of an election two months earlier and sustained by state and federal courts ruling against over fifty frivolous legal challenges. They are not going to denounce the attempt of a mob to seize the Capitol and reverse the election by whatever means occurred to its rioters on the spur of the moment. They are not going to tolerate dissent even within their ranks. And, if it turns out that some of them aided and abetted the rioters, as a few Democratic representatives allege, the proof will be positive of their unyielding determination to overthrow constitutional democracy and establish an apartheid autocracy.
The radical right is going to get only more radical, more rebellious, more dangerous, even if, perhaps because, it encounters defeats in skirmishes and battles; it will hang on to win the war. It does not care about issues, as the lack of a “Republican” platform for the 2020 presidential campaign makes clear. It cares about one thing only: dominance by any means necessary to acquire it, that is, force or fraud. So any “peaceable” person had better be prepared to be the last person standing; otherwise, he or she will be among those lying strewn any which-a-way with others of a Panglossian, pacifistic persuasion.