Bergman’s words, actions remain dangerous to our country
The editors of the Marquette Mining Journal, in their February 8 editorial, which was reprinted in the Daily Mining Gazette on February 10, ask when the political climate will improve in this country? They suggest that the Trump impeachment process and our Defund Bergman Campaign will not make any difference and will further divide a divided country. They mention the pandemic and sound weary. We all are.
The Mining Journal editors and the Daily Mining Gazette editors greatly underestimate the threat to our democracy Donald Trump still poses. They see him as repairing to Mar-a-Lago and entertaining the likes of Rudy Giuliani and Roger Stone. We see him as continuing to control the approximately 40% (about 66% in the First Congressional District) of the electorate who supported him for four years and in the current election. Why did Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy visit him there? Why is QAnon believer Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, with close ties to Trump, bringing in large sums in donations? Why are the 147 Republican congresspeople who voted to decertify the election still supporting him? Why is the disinformation Trump spewed every day still with us?
Our country is indeed in the midst of a crisis as serious, and in many ways more serious, than others I have seen in my lifetime, and I have lived through a lot. My father was fighting in World War II when I was born in December of 1944; Germany would surrender six months later. President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, my second year of college. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April of 1968. As a graduate student, I was on the campus of The Ohio State University when students took over the administration building in the spring of 1968. The National Guard occupied the campus shortly thereafter, and at nearby Kent State, not long after that, four innocent students were killed. My late husband was drafted, fought in Vietnam, and lost sight in one eye when his hill was overrun in 1969. The Watergate scandal culminated in the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. My late husband died of cancer in 2000, perhaps a result of his exposure to agent orange in Vietnam. In 2001, 9/11 occurred. In the national tragedies I mention, the country united around a common moral outrage–Adolph Hitler, the assassins of Kennedy and King, the National Guard, the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon’s transgressions, the 9/11 terrorists. If we are not united now after the 1/6 tragedy, it is because large percentages of the population, and clearly a majority of our Republican Senators, refuse to recognize the danger Donald Trump posed and still poses to our democracy.
A comparison between the 1972-4 Watergate scandal and the siege of the Capitol building on January 6 suggests that the latter was far worse. Watergate occurred at a time when citizens would condemn breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and then trying to cover it up. No one was killed at Watergate. As tapes that Nixon made of encounters with members of his administration made clear, he was aware of the illegal break-in to the Democratic Committee Headquarters and was directly involved in the cover-up, which went on from the spring of 1972 until Nixon was forced to resign in August of 1974. By then, a majority of congresspeople from both parties in both the House of Representatives and the Senate were set to impeach him and to convict him. The American people were scandalized by the cover-up and fully supported his resignation.
The attack by thousands of Trump supporters on the Capitol building on January 6th, in contrast, resulted the deaths of five people (seven if subsequent suicides of police officers involved in the siege are counted) and injuries to many others. This was not merely a cover-up but a coup attempt, using force to reverse a fair and free election with the Big Lie that it had been stolen from Trump. The invasion of the Capitol building was a direct threat to our democratic processes and to the lives of our congresspeople. The contrast makes clear how far we have devolved as a country since 1974.
When it was determined that Nixon and those who broke into the Watergate Complex were guilty of crimes sufficient to send them to jail, and many went, the American people united in their condemnation. Democrats and Republicans came together in a common cause, to protect our country and its institutions.
Today, though, as we saw in the impeachment hearings, many Republicans refuse to acknowledge Trump’s role in inciting violence. The crimes are far more serious than those of Watergate, but many protect Trump, perhaps because they fear him. Michigan Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey was caught on a video claiming that the January siege was a “hoax.” He explained later that the siege was not a hoax, but it was a hoax if Trump and his followers are blamed for it.
Many lawmakers and citizens seem to have lost their moral compass. We are indeed at a low moment of our nation’s history, but it is not because there was an impeachment trial or is a Defund Bergman Campaign, but because Trump and his followers are unable to make judgments based on moral principles. Unlike the reaction to Watergate, the public seems as divided as ever now with many unwilling to join the majority and accept Biden as our legitimate president.
The impeachment of Donald Trump had and the Defund Bergman Campaign has the highest motives, to make Trump, his followers, and Representative Bergman accountable for their actions. Rather than dividing our country, they have the potential to heal us because they have concern for the welfare of others as their center and thus promise to transform the irresponsibility and self-centeredness that are destroying any sense of community and common humanity upon which a healthy society depends.
According to Donald P. Bellisario of the Arthur Page Center in the College of Communication at Penn State, responsibility involves morally based obligations to others and to ethical moral codes. Accountability involves a preparedness to provide an explanation to others for one’s judgments, intentions, and actions. The impeachment trial presented incontrovertible evidence that Trump was responsible for the January 6th uprising and must be held accountable. The technicality that the impeachment was unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office was an excuse for senators loyal to Trump to vote to acquit him. Mitch McConnell said as much. The Defund Bergman Campaign, which is comprised exclusively of individuals from the First Congressional District, calls for Representative Bergman to take responsibility for his actions and to explain why he voted to give away the votes of his constituents, voting being the most fundamental principle of a democracy, and why he decided to violate his oath of office and the Constitution of the United States. We are optimistic that the historical record that results from the impeachment hearings as well as the Defund Bergman Campaign will lead to greater healing rather than greater division because both will make clear the damage both have done to our democracy.
Bergman’s political career has depended on Trump’s support and on the support of Trump’s followers. When Donald Trump Jr. visited the Houghton County Airport prior to the election, Bergman spoke behind a podium that had a large Trump sign. His career has been rooted in fealty to Trump, and in many ways it still is. His base is Trump’s base, and he knows it. That is why he voted against certification of the election on January 6th. As he and his fellow congresspeople were cowering in fear for hours in the Capitol building, Donald Trump was watching the invasion on television in full appreciation that these were his followers; they were doing this for him. Jack Bergman’s vote for decertification was for Trump as well. Donald Trump’s role in inciting the January 6 uprising needs to be acknowledged and condemned, and Jack Bergman’s donors need to defund him so he never serves as our representative again.