REFLECTIONS/Jonathan Gramling

Jonathan Gramling

It Ain’t Over

As the late Yogi Berra, former New York Yankees’ catcher and profound expresser of the obvious, once said, ‘It ain’t over until it’s over.” While this is an obvious statement, it also reveals a more profound observation like the 2020 election is over and America moves on to another election in 2024. Donald Trump lost and Joe Biden won. The decision has been made and let’s move on.

But it ain’t over as the U.S. House of Representative’s January 6 Select Committee has pointed out. I’ve watched all of the hearings live, harking back to my college days when a group of us — strangers to each other — watched the Watergate hearings at the Brook Street YWCA. By the time the hearings ended, we were strangers no more.

I have been enthralled by the hearings. While it is Democrats who control the House and set up the January 6th Committee, the hearings themselves have been about the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

Rep. Liz Chaney (R-WY), the vice-chair of the committee, has — in many ways — been the de facto chair of these hearings. She has perhaps sacrificed her political career in Wyoming because of her perceived “anti-Trump” behavior although I feel that it is about more than that. I do not care for Cheney’s conservative views. She could be as draconian as any other conservative politician. And yet I can’t help but admire her because she has laid it all on the line. She has pushed all of her political poker chips into the middle of the table and has said, ‘I see your $100 and raise you $1,000.” Not many politicians do that these days.

And so I admire what Liz Cheney is doing although in a post Trump world, I will vigorously oppose anything she might support.

As a political scientist — I have an undergraduate degree in political science and came within three papers of achieving a master’s degree, both from my beloved UW-Madison — my eyes have been glued to the screen. In essence, I have been following this story since the November 2020 election.  And over the subsequent two plus months, we got bits and pieces ion the news of what Trump was up to. He didn’t believe in democracy, only his narcissistic self.

I knew we were in trouble when Trump said, during a presidential debate, “Stand back and stand by’ to the Proud Boys, which began the wholesale organizing of right-wing militias under Trump’s command. I say under his commend because they reacted every time Trump tweeted about the election or upcoming events. This is the first time in American history that an insurrection was organized through Twitter.

I and millions of others knew exactly what he was doing. Trump always manipulates people to do his bidding while he keeps his fingerprints off of the “weapon” so that he can’t be accused of a crime, but his patsies take the fall, whether it is his former attorney Michael Cohen who is behind bars or Stephen Ayres, one of the January 6th rioters who has pleaded guilty and lost his house and family. While their lives are destroyed, Trump raised over $250 million after the November 2020 election and didn’t spend a plug nickel on the defense of the people who came to his aid to contest the “stolen” election. They were the same fools that Trump considered to be fools for sacrificing their lives and health in defense of the United States.

And I remember remarking when Trump came back to Washington in early January 2021 that no good was going to come of this. And of course I, and millions of others, watched in real time as the mob raided the U.S. Capitol and disrupted the peaceful transfer of power that the United States has been admired for the last 250 years or so.

And while I knew the bits and pieces of what was happening, the January 6th Select Committee hearings — all seven of them — have skillfully connected the dots.

The hearings have — with some exceptions — have been Republicans testifying about Republicans. And I think there are millions of Republicans out there who are appalled by Trump’s dictatorial tendencies and are committed to democracy and believe in playing by the rules. And the implications for them in terms of future elections, is honing their conservative message and platform in a way that speaks to communities of color beyond the political posturing that peals away voters of color here and there.

As I have said before, the Republican Party was at a crossroads in 2009 when Barack Obama became America’s first African American president. It could either create a bigger tent that attracted voters from across the American spectrum or it could retreat to America’s past and incite the racist and violent elements of that past. It is evident to all except the gullible and closed-minded that they have chosen the latter.

But what I have truly appreciated about the January 6th Select Committee was its connecting of the dots from November 2020 to January 6th and the Capitol insurrection. While I had connected the dots all on my own since November 2020, it was all in my head — the connecting of the dots — although there were plenty of dots, facts, to fuel my worst fears. And plenty of other people had connected the same dots.

But now, not only has the committee connected the dots, it has also revealed so many facts that I could only assume so that now my original grid of a few dots now has hundreds of connecting dots.

I think Trump is scared because all of a sudden, he released Steven Bannon, a Trump co-conspirator, from the executive privilege that never existed for Bannon so that Bannon can work his way into the committee’s proceedings to disrupt it or create an alternative reality about what the committee is doing. Something might result from the committee after all.

But the threat to American democracy is not over. Trump will fight to the death — and destroy thousands of lives in the process — to prove that he has never lost, that he is not a loser. And he could just usher in an era of American totalitarianism in the process.

All of us have to stand up for democracy or live with the consequences. Freedom forever!