In the last 24 hours (as I write this) 2,079 Americans have died of coronavirus. The prior 24 hours saw 1,999 Americans die of coronavirus. That’s 4,078 Americans in two days, a staggering figure with no end (until the 20th of January) in sight.
But what strikes me about that figure is it’s more than a thousand Benghazis. To revisit, Republicans created a connecting line from four American deaths from a 2012 terrorist attack against two United States government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to Hillary Clinton. Republican-controlled House committees investigated her (and other members of the Obama administration) for Benghazi no less than six times. Since no investigation turned up anything inculpatory against Secretary Clinton, they settled for converting “Benghazi!” into a one-word excoriation, a battle cry as damning to her as Gallipoli was to Churchill.
All this past counterfeit outrage and pearl-clutching on the part of Republicans over Benghazi is thrown into recent sharp relief by the crickets chirping in the Republican camp at the prospect of thousands of Americans dying every day from coronavirus. This is the legacy of Republican policy. The ultimate consequence of Republican bigoted intolerance and religious hypocrisy is death. And it’s going to get worse if it’s not thoroughly prosecuted.
America failed to prosecute McCarthy. From McCarthy onward the chain of non-prosecutions left behind the certain knowledge that subsequent criminals could always get away with it. And McCarthy begat Nixon who begat Reagan who begat Bush pere who begat Bush fils who begat Trump. The unbroken chain of Republican criminality has now brought us to where it always was going to bring us: genocide.
One impotent catch-phrase that emerged from the impeachment of Donald Trump was, “no one, not even a president, is above the law.” But indeed they are, and we can thank (and blame) a single Department of Justice memo from Nixon-era 1973 for saying as much.
Well it’s time for it to stop. People need to go to prison, and not just minor spear carriers but some of the top people, including the president. Donald Trump must be sent to prison, not only for his financial crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering, but for his complicity in the deaths of a quarter million Americans. Because if Trump isn’t sent to prison specifically for that crime and similar political crimes the chain of madness will never stop. Republicans will take away from it the lesson that the worst that could happen to them is early retirement.
For Trump, being a one-term loser is going to be more humiliation than he can endure. But he can endure it because he lives in an ocean of lies and denial, and he will go on insisting until the day he dies that he won the election and his victory was stolen from him by Democrats. But prison is impossible to deny. What’s more, it will be impossible for other Republicans to deny. Donald Trump in prison for his political crimes, for his crimes against humanity, will make future Republican criminals think twice about their own criminal activity once it starts to carry the threat of a prison sentence.
Either America is a nation of justice under the law or it’s not. Either no one in America is above the law or some are. You can’t have it both ways. If Trump goes to prison then Americans can at least rationally believe that the ideal of equal justice is achievable. But nothing short of that will make even the possibility of fair justice equally applied a rational goal. Trump must go to prison, because between now and January 20, 2021, as many as 120,000 more Americans will die because of Trump. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.