By Patrick McAuliffe
We’re almost through the madness that is 2020. The presidential election has come and gone, and while Trump will have his day(s) in court to dispute the results, Joe Biden is most likely cemented as the incoming 46th US President. All signs point to a messy transition, and we will need to see how Biden plans to govern America. Hopefully, his tweets about “coming for” gun manufacturers and national mask mandates are pure hyperbole for his base and not policy positions he plans to put through Congress. In all likelihood, we will probably be swearing in President Harris within a year or two, if Biden’s age and declining mental state are any indication of his longevity (Google “Joe Biden Corn Pop,” it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time).
The one thing that scares me more than the post-election celebrations containing hordes of people (which definitely wasn’t a super spreader event, guys, and by the way, don’t have more than 10 people at Thanksgiving) is the reaction from media outlets and high-profile personalities once their candidate won the top office in the land. Three worrisome blips on the radar of political discourse share a common thread: exposing publicly anyone who has contributed to, worked for, or associated with Donald Trump and his administration. From Senate Republicans all the way down to those in your local neighborhood who have given so much as $5 to Trump’s reelection, these people are now assembled in various places on the Internet with the potential to expose them to public shame, ridicule, and discrimination.
The first and, arguably, pettiest public list appeared on CNN a few days after Biden was projected to win the presidency. Senate Republicans have largely been quiet on the issue of Trump’s legal challenges; only Mitt Romney (UT) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) have specifically congratulated Biden, while Senators like Mitch McConnell (KY), Lindsay Graham (SC), and Ted Cruz (TX) have echoed Trump’s claims of voter fraud and supported his legal efforts to review the results of the election. All other Republican Senators have said very little on the issue, most likely as a way to see which way the wind is blowing for the President and act accordingly when the battles in court have nearly finished playing out. It should come as no surprise to anyone that CNN has a liberal bias, and after milking the news cycle dry for days as states continued to slowly report vote counts, they most likely thought a scrolling list of silent Senators would be enough to keep the emotions high. It should also come as no surprise that a good portion of the GOP has not fully signed on to Trumpism, especially when it appears to be on its last legs in the White House. The rubber-kneed pragmatism of the silent Senators is despicable but expected; do they dare play to the Romney-esque conservatives or the Trump supporters? They may still be indecisive, but CNN’s goal to smear them as complicit in Trump’s denials through their silence is decisively clear.
The second public shaming of anything and anyone in Trump’s orbit comes from the Lincoln Project, founded in 2019 by former Republicans aiming to defeat Trump and Trumpism. Their website declares that “electing Democrats who support the Constitution over Republicans who do not is a worthy effort”, and the super PAC raised $39 million in the third quarter of 2020 according to OpenSecrets.org. Their major overstep came on November 10th, when they tweeted the handles of two law firms hired by the Trump administration to represent them in the legal battles challenging the results of the election, calling them “the law firms architecting Donald Trump’s unwarranted and dangerous attacks on our democracy”. In the tweet, they linked a New York Times article containing the anonymous worries of some employees from both firms, with one lawyer claiming to have resigned in protest. Porter Wright has no tweets and no statements on the matter on their website, but Jones Day’s statement (linked on Twitter and posted on their website) claims that they are not representing the Trump administration at all; instead, they are representing the Pennsylvania Republican and Democratic Parties in private lawsuits from April and August 2020, respectively. Despite Jones Day’s wish that “the media will correct the numerous false reports given the facts set forth above, all of which were readily verifiable in the public record”, the Lincoln Project has not deleted their tweet, nor offered a more recent correction.
The November 10th Lincoln Project tweet was retweeted by the third and most worrisome organization exposing members of Trump’s administration: the Trump Accountability Project. Their website (which, I should mention, is quite far down on the list of recommended searches on Google for “trump accountability project”) doesn’t contain much. One is first met with a picture of detained illegal immigrants behind a fence and the words “Remember what they did.” A short few paragraphs containing claims of our democracy’s destruction at the hands of Orange Man follow, headed by “We must never forget those who furthered the Trump agenda”. The paragraphs contain a hyperlink to a ProPublica website titled “Trump Town”, which was last updated October 15, 2019. “Trump Town” is a database for members and staff of the Trump administration, who can be searched “by name, former employer and agency” (the lack of Oxford comma is even more jarring than when Pipe Dream doesn’t use it). The database contains over 3,800 appointees, with several hundred already highlighted as former lobbyists, members of conservative think tanks, and Trump campaign group staff. If a future employer wants to know whether their candidate has been involved with the Trump administration (at least by October 2019), they would simply need to plug their name into the database and see what their role was or what they were doing in government before Trump. The Trump Accountability Project has been advertised online by several high-ranking Democrats, including former Democratic National Committee press secretary Hari Sevugan, usually in response to a November 6th tweet from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, NY-14) calling for “archiving these Trump sycophants” that may “try to downplay or deny their complicity in the future”.
There is no doubt that polarization in the United States has taken a nasty turn over the last few years. It’s hard to say which side first started slinging mud, but making lists of one’s ideological enemies certainly ramps up the animosity. As President-elect Biden repeats his hollow claims that this is a “time to heal”, members and supporters of his own party are compiling databases of 45’s supporters and staffers. Many liberals pretend that they’ve defeated fascism with a single election and some are encouraging the tactics carried out by actual fascists. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez explains away her November 6th tweet with the reply, “Lol at the “party of personal responsibility” being upset at the idea of being responsible for their behavior over [the] last four years [sic]”. Not only is this the talk of a thirsty authoritarian, it is impossible to say, in some instances, who in the Trump administration was responsible for what policy that led to some harm or other. Some members of his staff may have objected to Trump’s actions or the actions of other administration members but did not or could not leave for whatever reason. The list-makers don’t know the convictions and beliefs of the individuals who donated to or worked for Trump, and to paint them all with such a wide brush merely because of the character of their boss is dangerous and outrageous. Biden, as he often claims, wants to be an “American” president, not beholden to any one ideological camp or another; members of his party and his sycophants in the media should heed his words and shut down these registries of Trump associates, or it’s off to the gulags for more than 71 million American people.