Social responsibility of businesses contrasts sedition of Republicans

Apr 15

Florida Times Union, Jan 17, 2021

With due apologies to Sound of Music, how do you solve a problem like sedition? How do you catch the perpetrators and pin them down? How do you decide if to aid it, ignore it, or squash it? The answer should be obvious. The business sector understands this. Unfortunately, too many Republicans do not. They want to skip the first step of accountability and move on to the last of unity.

Following the violent attempted coup by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, a day that will live in infamy, social media companies have finally realized the potential for mayhem their unregulated platforms can bring. From Facebook to Twitter, all have been culpable in giving Donald Trump unfettered ability to spew the big lie that the 2020 election for the president of the United States was “stolen.” Realizing that the big lie spawned an armed insurrection against the U.S. government, these social media companies have finally taken an important step towards dismantling the network of radical white extremists. Despite fear of backlash from a sitting president, they suspended Trump’s accounts. Amazon Webhosting went a step further and took down Parler, the social media platform where right-wingers hatch conspiracies. Owners of right-wing talk radio have sent a memo that their hosts stop talking about the election being stolen or face termination. PGA has terminated its contract with Trump’s golf properties. Other corporations from Marriott to Blue Cross are suspending their political donations to all Republicans in Congress who voted to overturn the results of a legitimate election. Coups are not good for business. It is not good for democracy either.

According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, 7 in 10 Americans are concerned that our democracy is under siege. According to PBS Marist poll, 9 in 10 oppose the actions of Trump supporters who rioted at the U.S. Capitol. But 1 in 5 Republicans expressed support, an ominous sign that recovering from this body blow will take a concerted effort, combining the skills of law enforcement with the imperative of deradicalization. But as the post 9-11 era taught us, none of this is easy, particularly when the enemy is within. The FBI issued a warning that armed protests are being planned in all fifty state capitols and at the US Capitol starting this weekend and continuing till Joe Biden’s inauguration. Trump’s 4-year peddling of racism followed by fanning the big lie of a stolen election has transformed white supremacy into our greatest security threat today.

With every passing day the attempted coup on Jan. 6 appears far more sinister than appeared at first blush. After receiving, as the AP put it, “stirring encouragement from Trump and more explicit marching orders from the president’s men,” the rioters got to work – breaking into the seat of U.S. government, openly chanting about killing elected officials and killing or injuring the few brave police officers who tried to resist. The AP further added, “The FBI is investigating whether some of the attackers intended to kidnap members of Congress and hold them hostage. Authorities are particularly focused on why some in the mob were seen carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs and had apparently accessed areas of the Capitol generally difficult for the public to locate.”

Unless Republicans want fascism to succeed, they must hold all conspirators to this bloody coup accountable. They can do what Republicans did during Nixon. Walk into the Oval Office and demand that a President credibly accused of high crimes and misdemeanors resign. Pressure Mike Pence to apply the 25th Amendment and if that fails, impeach, remove, and permanently ban Trump from public office. After than we can talk unity and figure out a path to never again.

Parvez Ahmed teaches at The University of North Florida.