History will not look kindly on the apathetic in 2023. It will judge harshly those who are willfully blind to the most consequential juncture in the American experiment. We have come to the hour in our country (and state) that will decide whether we endure as a democratic republic or succumb to authoritarianism.
The latter is a certainty if Americans crawl into their corners and pretend the exhausting tumult we’ve been living through for years will blow over. Jan 6 shattered the illusion that our founding principles were unassailable. It was a chilling wakeup call to complacent citizens lulled into believing the invincibility of their democracy.
But that was two and a half years ago and we have a national attention span of five minutes. A sober reckoning about the fragility of the freedoms and liberties we take for granted coupled with a steadfast resolve for accountability didn’t last long. Allies of the defeated president who tried to seize power he wasn’t given by the people vindicated him in short order.
Today they elevate and endorse him as the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 presidential campaign. Ohio Republican Senator (and snake oil MAGA salesman) J.D. Vance was one of the first sycophants to throw his support to the twice-impeached and now thrice-indicted criminal defendant because “he started no wars” and “that fact, more than any single accomplishment, is the enduring legacy of Mr. Trump’s first term.”
Vance joins a growing list of Ohio Republican endorsers throwing Trump’s unprecedented attempt to overturn a free and fair election into a memory hole and gushing about his “leadership.” Ohio’s blatantly partisan Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a MAGA-embracing deluder running for U.S. Senate, audaciously suggested the disgraced ex-president is the only GOP candidate “at this moment in history who truly gets what’s at stake.”
Another Trump devotee feverishly weaponizing government in the service of Defendant Trump, the always histrionic U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, raved that “no one has demonstrated that they will do what they said and get things done like he did.” Jordan, described by the select committee investigating Jan 6 as a “significant player in President Trump’s efforts” to overthrow democracy, remains a significant player in the Republican whitewash of Trump’s attempted coup.
But the only president to ever actively attempt to obstruct the smooth transition of power now faces charges brought by the United States on behalf of the American people he betrayed. It is a first step to long-awaited accountability for Trump’s plot to overturn the 2020 election and undermine the Constitution he swore to protect and defend.
He was arraigned in federal court on a four-count Jan. 6 indictment. It is the obligation of every democracy-loving citizen to read the allegations outlined in the brief but profoundly disturbing narrative. It is a story of an insatiable narcissist willing to destroy what generations of Americans fought and died to preserve just to stay in office. It will haunt you — and should.
We must never become inured to the enormity of this moment. The political party that still calls itself Republican wants us to become desensitized to what we saw and heard and subsequently learned (thanks to the Jan. 6 investigation and prosecuting indictment) about a former leader of the free world who conspired to steal an election he knew he’d lost.
Vance shamelessly parrots the party line (and false assertion) that Trump is being prosecuted for exercising his First Amendment rights. “They’re trying to throw the former president in prison for saying ‘bad’ things. The regime has crossed a line,” he tweeted deceptively.
Surely the Yale Law School graduate is cognizant of the legal arguments made in the 45-page indictment against Trump and knows full well the defendant stands accused of criminal conduct not speech. The federal government charged the defendant with defrauding the country, with obstructing an official proceeding (the congressional count of electoral votes), and with conspiring to disenfranchise the right of millions of citizens to have their votes counted.
It is a powerful case that details, with jarring precision, a conspiracy orchestrated by an American president “to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by using knowingly (italics, mine) false claims of election fraud to obstruct the federal government function by which those results are collected, counted, and certified.”
Serious accusations of criminal behavior by a man who would be king. One political party is committed to that king. It will likely nominate him, between court appearances, for a second term of promised retribution for those who dared apply the rule of law to him.
One party aligned with a despot instead of democracy, dismisses the Jan. 6 indictment and the grave crimes it alleges as political persecution instead of damning felony counts against a defendant who put himself above the law. Trump, like every other individual criminally charged, will have his day in court. A jury will weigh the evidence and deliver a verdict.
But it will be up to us to stay engaged and educated. To differentiate fact from fiction. To push back on exhortations to “put it all behind us.” We are the generation of Americans who will determine whether this nation “so conceived and dedicated” will long endure or end with an indifferent shrug and Trump’s revenge tour.
Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.
This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.