Around 3500 years ago in ancient Egypt, there lived a pharaoh who didn’t believe there were multiple gods ruling the universe. Pharaoh Akhenaten believed there was only one god — Aten the sun god. As you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with a lot of people. Priests who made a living assisting in the worship of other gods lost their livelihoods and since religion was a big deal in Egypt, a lot of important people connected to other gods lost quite a bit.
Akhenaten had sort of a co-regency with his son, Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who also believed in the one god. After their deaths, the priests and those who worshipped other gods took their revenge on both of them. They systematically erased both pharaohs from history — literally. They scratched out their names on carvings, they chiseled over their names on stone tablets, they destroyed every scroll where their names appeared, they toppled any statues that bore their likenesses.
How effective was this erasure? When a bust was found of Akhenaten in the 19th century, nobody could figure out who he was.
Not even the Soviets, who became famous for scrubbing their history books of Communist leaders who had fallen out of favor, did such a fabulous job in erasing history. This is all relevant because Trump, and those even just tangentially associated with him, are about to be erased from history by those on both sides who see a political opening to destroy their opponents.
Senator Josh Hawley has been fingered as the scapegoat in the mob attack on the Capitol. It’s not exactly clear why. It could be that he was the most visible Senator who, in a completely legal and constitutional fashion, challenged the results of the Electoral College. You may believe he was right or you may think him crazy. Whatever your opinion, what he did was perfectly legal.
Hawley’s sin was they he didn’t sit down, shut up, and accept without question the verdict of authorities. He decided to legally challenge the Electoral College results. No one knows if he really believed the cockamamie conspiracy theories about magic voting machines, altered votes, and a stolen election. It was enough that a picture of Hawley was published showing him outside the Capitol building shaking a clenched fist at the protesters in support of their demonstration — a demonstration which was peaceful until it wasn’t.
There were thousands of Trump supporters peacefully demonstrating in front of the Capitol — just like the majority of protesters last summer were peacefully demonstrating against the police. But there were those on Wednesday in Washington and across the country last summer who sought to use the peaceful protesters to disguise their intent to commit violence.
Of course, a few minutes later, some in the crowd breached the Capitol building and the insurrection was on. But trying to cancel Hawley for his legal challenge to the Electoral College or support for peaceful protests has nothing to do with standing up for democracy. Hawley and other Trump supporters will be purged from society not because they supported violence as some Democrats did last summer, but because a chasm has opened up in America and anything and anyone associated with Donald Trump will be thrown in it. On the left, it’s not enough to defeat your political opponents. They must be destroyed.
The same treatment given to Hawley will be given to other supporters of Donald Trump, including ordinary people who might have a MAGA bumper sticker on their car or a Donald Trump coffee mug at the office. How many will lose their jobs, be shunned by neighbors, or kicked out of organizations? This is not the way to protect democracy or defend the integrity of elections.
We are about to enter a very dark period in American history. It won’t be Robespierre’s “Reign of Terror.” Guillotines won’t be set up on the mall or gallows erected in Central Park. But there will be terror nonetheless. And it won’t be the Josh Hawley’s or political big shots who will be terrorized. It will be people with everything to lose who will fear being purged.