Chances are, had you met Cassidy Hutchinson at a party, say, two years ago, you would not have liked her. On balance and as far as you could tell she would have been no different from any other MAGA slug who worked at Donald Trump’s White House: sans scruples, sans common sense, corrupt and evil, hands dripping with blood. You would have dismissed her as a cliche.
Today she stands as an exemplar for others in the GOP, and as is often true of people who see the light, she is hated by many of her own on that account. While the pseudo-macho MAGA likes of Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Mark Meadows et al., cower behind an ersatz “executive privilege” and a petulant unwillingness to say under oath what they so insouciantly tweet on Twitter, candid Cassidy told it like it was — without fear or hesitation. She did that rare thing: she did the right thing.
So what happened to her and why did she do it? I don’t know, exactly. Each of us is driven by different angels and demons. But it’s a common enough phenomenon that we recognize it in film and literature.
It’s Alec Guinness in “The Bridge on the River Kwai” asking, “What have I done?” before he blows up the bridge. It’s a moment of clarity when you recognize that what you thought was a good thing has crossed a line, and you’re sufficiently self-assessing and critical thinking to realize it when it happens.
It happens to us all from time to time. Occasionally we become so bogged down in the microscopic minutiae of daily existence that we lose sight of the larger picture. It occasionally takes something jarring, something awful to shake us up and wake us up. What set Cassidy apart from her peers was her capacity to admit out loud what many cannot admit to themselves. And she did it before the entire world.
That is the part of many of our Republican fellow citizens that is salvageable, and it needs to be recognized. Not all are salvageable, but enough are. Enough to make a difference. Not all are bold enough to admit it out loud, but that’s okay. Even they are salvageable. Enough perhaps to bind up the nation’s wounds.
One of my favorite stories about Abraham Lincoln — and there are many — is from 1862, when he was visiting General George B. McClellan. Lincoln happened upon a temporary field hospital for Confederate soldiers there.
Lincoln daringly went inside to be amongst them, without a bodyguard and only an Illinois congressman as his witness, turned to the men and said, “I am Abraham Lincoln. I know that you have fought gallantly for what you believe in, and for that I honor you, and for your wounds so honorably gained. I feel no anger in my heart toward you; and trust you feel none for me. That is why I am here. That is why I am willing to take the hand, in friendship, of any man among you.” Many of the soldiers shook hands with Lincoln that day. Many with tears in their eyes.
Lincoln faced a time, not unlike our own, with north and south deeply divided with what seemed to everyone like differences too vast to be reconciled. Yet it was Lincoln’s legacy to us all that we try. Once reconciliation came it had to be “with malice toward none, with charity for all.”
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for us to extend the hand of friendship to those who are capable of taking it, before it’s too late. It may in fact be our only way forward. Because the alternative, civil war, is simply unthinkable.
Certain things have to happen first, of course. Some Republicans, if only within themselves, must realize that democracy is the only road to our salvation. Insurrection, mistrust of the electoral process and the outmoded belief that the rights of others somehow limit our own individual rights must go. We can live with what used to be our small differences, we cannot abide with the big ones.
Many of our fellow Americans who call themselves Republicans realize this on some level. I don’t think we need to get them to admit it out loud. We just need to face the fact that, whether we like it or not, we cannot afford to be at war with each other any longer, and we cannot move forward alone. We must hang together or hang separately by our own hands. That is why we call ourselves the *United* States of America. 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.