Sarah Sanders, one of the numerous press secretaries who served under former president Donald J Trump, has announced a bid for the 2022 governorship in Arkansas this morning. During her time as press secretary, Sanders often subverted norms: failing to hold regular press conferences, responding to the media with vitriol and regularly promoting lies from her bully pulpit. While we consider the ramifications of a political world that has finally seen the danger in the Trumpian worldview, it’s necessary to remember every person who aided and abetted him – and prevent them from being successful in taking control of our country again.
Sanders will be running in a primary in Arkansas, a state known for its conservative politics in the post-Clinton era (Tom Cotton, a far-right Trump supporter, holds one of the state’s two Senate seats, and Sanders’ father, Mike Huckabee, himself a polarising right-wing pol, served as the state’s 44th governor from 1996 to 2007). Whether or not Sanders is elected to that state’s highest office depends on how much accountability remains after Trump’s exit. Although many high-profile Republicans have come to agree that Trump’s behaviour in the days that followed the November 2020 election were causally related to the 6 January insurrection, few have conceded that other members of the party are equally culpable.
These members are not just the expected sycophants, like Ohio’s Jim Jordan or California’s Kevin McCarthy. They are also people like Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who recently won re-election and faces no political stressors in the coming six years; former combatants of the president, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who was nicknamed “Lil’ Marco” by Trump during the 2016 primary season and who is clearly now afraid that Ivanka Trump might make a play for his seat in 2022; and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who made an impassioned speech following the insurrection in which he attempted to distance himself from the president’s actions. “I’m out,” Graham said at the time. In announcing her own run, Sanders wrote on Twitter simply, “I’m in.”
— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) January 25, 2021
These politicians want to hold a place for Trump’s politics in Congress, while washing over the damage caused by Trump himself. They want the followers, though not the responsibility of the destruction said followers wreak.
Others, still, like Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, are attempting to winnow support from Trump devotees by committing to the crazed narrative of the former president. These men, who have presidential ambitions, have moved on from their desperate cries of election fraud to base obstructionism. They hope to appease Trump’s fiery coterie while still remaining in office.
But there should be no amnesty extended to any person who helped shape the trajectory of Trump’s presidency, or any person who continues to lean on it for personal gain. Included in that basket of, shall we say, deplorables are the people who lied for Trump, who helped advance the notion that the president’s behavior did not matter as long as he was doing the party’s bidding.
Sarah Sanders is a prime example of this type of bad actor. In defending the president and promoting the rhetoric that got people killed, she is more than just complicit in his reckless presidency. She is a partner in it. Rewarding her with a future in politics would do nothing but signify that the past four years – indeed, the past 40 days – have taught us nothing at all.
If Republicans truly seek unity, they will have to reconcile with the worst members of their coalition. This includes Trump, of course, but it also includes the facilitators, the liars, the politicians bent on breaking the system if things don’t go their way. The survival of the United States as a representative democracy depends on the mutual decision to cast out those who have been reckless with our freedoms and who have tested the fragile composition of democracy in favor of self-promotion.
Every single person is accountable for what comes next. Sarah Sanders – and people like her – deserve no place in government. They are not patriots. They are not decent Americans. They are opportunists whose opportunities we must quash. It’s time to force the monster out, one liar at a time. That’s an idea on which we can unite.