The bad guys

Published December 15, 2022

By Thomas Mills

When I was a kid, we played army a lot. We ran through the woods, building forts and digging foxholes, brandishing toy guns. Our enemies were usually the Germans or Japanese. We were defenders of democracy, saving the world from authoritarian dictatorships. 

Back then, we thought Americans were the good guys, at least those who were our leaders. Today, that’s no longer true. The bad guys are among us and in government. A trove of texts from Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s former Chief of Staff and a former North Carolina Congressman, proves that Members of Congress and the Trump administration tried to end our democracy. They tried to stop the legitimate transfer of power. Without some sort of accountability, there’s no reason to think that they wouldn’t do it again. 

Mark Meadows encouraged Republican members of Congress to try to stop the certification of the election based on blatantly false allegations of voter fraud. Ironically, or maybe just pathetically, Meadows seems to have committed voter fraud himself. He listed his residence as a burned out rented trailer in Macon County, but his landlord says he never lived there. He had his absentee ballot sent to an address in Washington, DC. Meadows was also registered to vote in Virginia and South Carolina. 

Meadows is a bad guy, but he’s far from the only one. The Republican Party is riddled with people who are grifters or authoritarians. And the ones who aren’t, won’t call out the ones who are.

Marjorie Taylor Green this week told a crowd at the New York Young Republicans Gala that if she and Steve Bannon had led the January 6 attack on the Capitol, it would have been successful and “armed.” She got cheers and applause. She told critics she was joking, but she was also expressing a sentiment that’s accepted in the GOP. Marjorie Taylor Green is a bad guy and so is Steve Bannon who has been convicted of contempt of Congress. 

The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Patriot Front, and other White nationalist militia groups routinely use violence and weapons to intimidate their political opponents. They also identify with the Republican Party and Donald Trump in particular. Trump called them “fine people” when they marched in support of White Supremacy in Charlottesville. The Oath Keepers founder and leader is going to jail for sedition. They are all bad guys. 

Donald Trump is a bad guy. The January 6 committee showed that he wanted to undermine the election. He was hoping that the coup attempt would be successful. He encouraged Mike Pence to violate his the Constitution. He oversaw a company, the Trump Corporation, that devised “a 15-year scheme to defraud tax authorities by failing to report and pay taxes on compensation for top executives.” He withheld classified documents after he left the presidency and then lied about it. He’s not just a bad guy, he’s a former President of the United States with all of the cache that brings.

With the release of the Meadows Texts, we know that Congress is full of a bunch of bad guys. North Carolina Congressman Greg Murphy urged Meadows to tell Republican-controlled state legislatures to appoint electors loyal to Trump, regardless of the vote in states the president lost. Ted Budd was texting Meadows claiming wild conspiracy theories about voting machines and George Soros. 

Other Members of Congress were urging Trump to declare “Marshall Law.” They not only wear their ignorance on their sleeves, they put their seditious leanings in writing. These are the bad guys. 

Unfortunately, few of the bad guys will be held accountable. When Republicans take over the House next year, they will end investigations into the attempted coup and focus instead on Hunter Biden’s laptop or #TheTwitterFiles. Republicans will try desperately to convince the American public that Democrats are as corrupt and unpatriotic as they are. 

Today, the Republican Party refuses to hold the bad guys in their midst accountable. Even the ones who may privately abhor what Meadows and other members of their party have done refuse to take any action. They gave Donald Trump a pass. They won’t openly criticize their seditionist colleagues. They don’t even have the moral fortitude to stand up for courageous Republicans like Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger. They may not be bad guys, but they are morally challenged cowards. 

The GOP hasn’t always been this way. The lasting legacy of the Watergate investigation may be that Democrats and Republicans came together to hold a corrupt administration accountable. They forced the resignation of the president and they sent top members of his administration to prison. The party didn’t pay much of a political price. While Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford lost the presidency to Jimmy Carter, by 1980, the Reagan Revolution shook up the country with a renewed GOP cleansed of the stench of the Nixon White House.  

As long as modern Republicans try to bury the crimes of the current administration and live with the accomplices still in positions of power and influence, they will have trouble putting the Trump years behind them. The 2022 midterms should have been a warning. The American people don’t want the grifters and election deniers running their country or their states. The GOP should purge their party and cut their losses. 

The bad guys should be America’s enemies, not American citizens.