PHOENIX — Who murdered Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick?
Sicknick, who was buried last week at Arlington National Cemetery, was killed defending the U.S. Capitol during the failed January 6 coup attempt by a band of rioting Trump-inspired insurrectionists —domestic terrorists and seditionists, really— hell-bent on overthrowing the government.
Realistically, there was no chance they could have gotten away with it without a lot of help from the military. Even if Donald Trump as commander-in-chief ordered them to do so, the military’s top brass only days earlier had issued a statement affirming they had no intention of betraying the nation.
So, although the attack postponed the official certification of electoral votes for several hours and left five people dead, including Sicknick, the insurrection by Trump’s followers failed.
That doesn’t mean the rioters or those who conspired with them should get off easy. If a man breaks into my house and shoots me but I survive, he’s still guilty of attempted murder. Likewise, everyone responsible for the Capitol assault must be held accountable.
It’s a basic tenet of our democracy that no one, not the president and certainly not a marauding band of hundreds of white nationalists, is above the law.
That’s why federal prosecutors are leveling charges against many of the rioters, even as Trump himself is facing a second impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate this week.
But the list of those who deserved to be held accountable shouldn’t be confined to Trump and the violent thugs who stormed the Capitol.
The terrorists had abettors. And some of them are household names.
I’m talking about Republican leaders and others who have helped lay the ideological groundwork for a years-long assault on our democracy driven by a winner-take-all attitude that’s twisted patriotism to mean loyalty to party and not to country.
At the top of the list, of course, is Trump, who has spent the past five years rallying his “troops” and indoctrinating them (as all good propagandists do) into believing that he is “the chosen one.”
Chosen, presumably, to run the country like a despot and remain president beyond his constitutionally mandated four years, if not for life, a sentiment he often expressed while in office.
Hence, the need for the Big Lie, what pundits refer to as Trump’s endless, false assertions that the only way he could lose re-election was if the race was stolen from him as a result of massive voter fraud. (He made the same claim ahead of his win over Hillary Clinton in 2016.)
There was no massive fraud, of course. State and federal courts and election auditors across the country have proven that. Our election system isn’t perfect, but it is among the most efficient and secure in the world.
But every good autocrat needs an army of sycophants willing to follow orders and help spread their Dear Leader’s lies, no matter how outrageous, destructive or reprehensible.
Trump’s personal liars’ club these days is led by the likes of Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley, all of whom would love nothing more than to ride the Trump train straight into the Oval Office in 2024.
Over in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is marshaling more than 200 members of the Republican caucus, most of whom have decided to back not only Trump but his MAGA acolyte of the week, Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose penchant for conspiracy theories includes the fantastical anti-Semitic claim that Jews firing laser beams from space are to blame for California’s devastating wildfires. Taylor Greene may be the Trumpiest of Trump’s backers, but Republican Congressmen like Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Mo Brooks of Arizona are giving Taylor Green a run for her money.
Trump’s abettors abound in elected office far beyond the Washington Beltway as well. They include Republican Govs. Rick DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas, Brian Kemp of Georgia, and Arizona’s Doug Ducey, all of whom have helped promote Trump’s agenda over the years.
Each of them enthusiastically fell in line behind Trump and endorsed what he is. And each dutifully perpetuated Trump’s other big lie of downplaying the lethality of COVID-19 by trumpeting half-measure public health strategies that valued business profits over people’s lives.
If you buy the proposition —and I do— that most of the approximately 450,000 people killed so far by the coronavirus very likely could have been spared if only Trump, a narcissistic, pathological liar, had not been elected president, then it’s fair to say the decision of these governors to cater to Trump’s corrupt political whims and disdain for science almost certainly contributed to the shockingly high death counts in their states.
Living in Phoenix, I cannot help but wonder how many of the 14,000 Arizonans who’ve died of COVID-19 here might be alive if not for Gov. Ducey’s kowtowing to Trump’s white nationalist base for his own self-serving political ambitions?
Ironically, Ducey is on the outs now with Trump. The governor’s decision to certify Joe Biden’s win in Arizona earned him not just the wrath of the former president but an official public censure from the state’s Republican Party.
That’s the thing about sucking up to aspiring dictators and the hardest of his hard-core supporters: You eventually outlive your usefulness. Then all you have to show for it is an abysmal approval rating and a stinking red cap.
Will Trump and his abettors actually be held accountable for the far-reaching damage they’ve done to this country in the name of shameless, self-serving party politics?
I hope so. You’d hate to think people like that can just get away with murder.
James E. Garcia is a journalist, playwright and communications consultant based in Phoenix, AZ, the editor and publisher of the weekly newsletter Vanguardia America, and author of the upcoming book “Vanguardia: The American Latino Renaissance & the Future of Our Nation.” Twitter: @JG_Vanguardia.