America prefers to look forward rather than back. We’re a land of second acts. We move on.
This can be a strength. We don’t get bogged down in outmoded traditions, old grudges, obsolete ways of thinking. We constantly reinvent. We love innovation and disruption.
The downside is a tendency toward collective amnesia about what we’ve been through, and a corresponding reluctance to do anything about it or hold anyone accountable.
Now, with Covid receding and the economy starting to rebound – and the 2020 election and the attack on the Capitol behind us – the future looks bright.
But at the risk of being the skunk at the picnic, let me remind you: we have lost more than 580,000 people to Covid-19. One big reason that number is so high is our former president lied about the virus and ordered his administration to minimize its danger.
Donald Trump also lied about the results of the last election. And then – you remember, don’t you? – he tried to overturn the results.
Trump twisted the arms of state election officials. He held a rally to stop Congress from certifying the election, followed by the violent attack on the Capitol. Five people died. Senators and representatives could have been slaughtered.
Several Republican members of Congress encouraged the attempted coup by joining him in the big lie and refusing to certify the election.
This was just over four months ago, yet we seem to be doing everything we can to blot it out of our memory.
Last Tuesday, the Washington Post hosted a live video chat with the Missouri Republican senator Josh Hawley, a ringleader in the attempt to overturn the results of the election. Hawley had even made a fist-pump gesture toward the mob at the Capitol before the attack.
But the Post billed the interview as being about Hawley’s new book on the “tyranny of big tech”. It even posted a biography of Hawley that made no mention of Hawley’s sedition, referring instead to his supposed reputation “for taking on the big and the powerful to protect Missouri workers” and as “a fierce defender of the constitution”.
Last week, CBS This Morning interviewed the Florida Republican Rick Scott, another of the senators who tried to overturn the election by not certifying the results. But there was no mention of his sedition. The CBS interviewer confined his questions to Biden’s spending plans, which Scott unsurprisingly opposed.
Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson and the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, also repeatedly appear on major news programs without being questioned about their attempts to undo the results of the election.
What possible excuse is there for booking them if they have not publicly retracted their election lies? If they must appear, they should be asked if they continue to deny the election results and precisely why.
Pretending nothing happened promotes America’s amnesia, which invites more attempts to distort the truth.
Trump’s big lie is being used by Republican state legislatures to justify new laws that restrict voting
On Monday, Trump issued a “proclamation” seeking to co-opt the language of those criticizing his falsehoods. “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as the BIG LIE!” he wrote, repeating his claims that the 2020 election was stolen and that President Biden is illegitimate. Most Republican voters believe him.
Trump’s big lie is being used by Republican state legislatures to justify new laws that restrict voting. On Thursday, hours after Florida installed new voting restrictions, Texas’s Republican-led legislature pushed ahead with its own bill that would make it one of the hardest states in which to cast a ballot.
The Republican-controlled Arizona senate is mounting a private recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa county – farming out 2.1m ballots to GOP partisans, including at least one who participated in the 6 January raid on the Capitol.
The Republican party is about to purge one of its leaders, the Wyoming representative Liz Cheney, for telling the truth.
It is natural to want to put all this unpleasantness behind us. We are finally turning the corner on the pandemic and the economy. Why look back to the trauma of the 2020 election?
But we cannot put it behind us. Trump’s big lie and all that it has provoked are still with us. If we forget what has occurred, the trauma will return, perhaps in even more terrifying form.