As Jill Lepore writes in her recent piece at The Washington Post, several politicians, pundits, and commentators are calling for a truth and reconciliation commission to deal with Trump and his supporters after the president leaves office. Here is Lepore:
In the aftermath of the Trump administration, whenever it ends, the need for a full and accurate historical record will be especially great. There is every reason to fear that the administration will destroy the evidence of its malfeasance and incompetence, especially its abuses of human rights, its violations of the Constitution and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump routinely tears up notes, papers and other documents — aides call this his “filing system” — in violation of the Presidential Records Act (historians’ actions against the administration on this score have so far been unsuccessful). He has also ignored warnings from the National Archives and Records Administration as early as 2017. This year, the Department of Homeland Security requested the destruction of “records developed to track and monitor complaints that are or will be investigated by DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties regarding alleged violations of civil rights and civil liberties.” The American Historical Association has protested the destruction of these and other records, joining two lawsuits against the administration. Stopping the destruction of records is where the real fight lies. The rest is noise.
Many Trump critics will find this suggestion maddeningly insufficient. Given the scale of the administration’s mendacity and cruelty, taking back the White House, if that happens, doesn’t seem like quite enough of a victory. But the appetite for vengeance is a symptom of the same poison. After Watergate, the parties pursued what the political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg has called “politics by other means” — the politics not of elections but of investigations and indictments of members of Congress and other elected officials, including the president. Beginning in 1981 with Ronald Reagan’s presidency, members of Congress have introduced impeachment resolutions against every single president. Democrats brought Supreme Court nominations to the public, in 1987, running television ads against Reagan nominee Robert Bork. Getting rid of a political opponent by these means might work, but it comes at the price of faith in democratic institutions, including elections. Do that kind of thing long enough, and before you know it you get people carrying signs reading “Not My President,” meaning first Obama, and only then Trump. Journalism has become more prosecutorial, too. “Democracy dies in darkness” became The Washington Post’s motto weeks after Trump’s inauguration, but under Obama it was, effectively, the motto of Fox News. “Lock him up” cannot be the answer to “Lock her up.”
Read the entire piece here.