Never Forget What They Did
Here come the redemption tours.
They were inevitable. The very same people who just a few months ago unapologetically defended Donald Trump and his drive toward authoritarianism now want us to know they still support democratic society. They were just, “doing their job.”
Were they? Doing an unpleasant job rarely requires lying to the nation and acting as a champion for a wannabe dictator. Yet, that is what these people did repeatedly.
Two paths are emerging. Some, like Stephen Miller, are standing by their man. Others seem to be slowly trying to distance themselves. One example of the latter is Trump’s famous fibber and mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway. She is attempting to cleanse herself, so we forget her consistent lying, berating of the press and cruelty. She said as much on Bill Maher, rambling incessantly about how she was a woman in a position of power and shamelessly framing herself as feminist groundbreaker. Her daughter, Claudia, was then paraded onto the nationally televised singing competition, American Idol, and as expected the estranged mother and tearful father showed up in vignettes to give moral support.
Does Kellyanne deserve a seamless return to polite society? As Anand Giridharadas points out in his piece for The Ink: “If people who enable fascism get costless second chances on cable and reality TV, it reduces the price of enabling fascism.”
Conway isn’t the only one. How can we forget former press secretary Sean Spicer delivering a pithy quip at an Emmy’s ceremony, and then competing on Dancing With the Stars? He didn’t win, but the show kept him on long enough -- ignoring his two left feet -- to give him a shot at redemption.
Why reality TV? Aside from the fact that no one else will take them, it's the place where mostly talentless individuals go to become famous. All is forgiven if you can laugh at yourself. These villains count on the public having short memories and a willingness to appreciate a comeback story.
Other bad actors notice this type of redemptive behavior and are likely to continue their actions with reckless abandon, knowing one day they too will have the chance to be absolved of their sins.
This is purely an aristocratic world. It’s as if they live in steely detachment from life’s mundane duties of being good, respectful and law-abiding citizens. Those are burdens for everyone else to endure.
Most people don’t live that way. The majority of us pay taxes and suffer consequences if we behave with such disregard for authority. But, for the elite, the same rules do not apply. Even Donald Trump has reportedly mused over whether he could bring back The Apprentice. We can all shake our heads and assume it won’t happen, but we don’t KNOW that for a fact.
“Trump will get his thousandth second chance,” predicted Giridharadas. “Just as he got after every business failure, just as he got every time he crossed some supposed red line in office.” Conservative TV pundits have already given him a pass. The public is unlikely to do so unless they are already on team Trump, but what about the others? Will the public remember all the enablers and countless Republicans who chose autocracy over democracy? Will they be able to find a path to redeem themselves?
It’s time to rage against what is ingrained in the American psyche, the concept that everyone should have another chance, because it’s rarely the case when it comes to most of us. It’s an honor reserved for the privileged few.
This redemptive acknowledgment and forgiveness should end. Although it may be pleasing to watch these people make fools of themselves in this circus they have created, they aren’t the clowns. We are.