Politics

Anyone surprised by Trump this week forgot or ignored 'Liberate Michigan,' says U-M law professor

January 09, 2021, 4:42 PM by  Alan Stamm

Don't feign shock or surprise that the president instigated a mob heard around the world, a University of Michigan legal scholar tells Republicans who "watched what happened in Michigan [last spring] and didn't think the same or worse could later happen in Washington."

Wednesday's Capitol Hill "attack was a natural outgrowth of the assault on decency and democratic government that President Trump has waged for the past five years," law professor Richard Pincus writes in a Washington Post commentrary. "Only people who willfully ignored the damage the president has been doing all along could have been surprised."

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Richard Pincus: "Now they won’t stand for it." (Photo: U-M Law School)

Evidence he presents includes the widely covered drama in the Michigan Capitol nine months ago:

Last April, after several states imposed strong quarantine rules to protect the public from the coronavirus, Trump called for resistance in terms that many understood as courting violence. ... “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” he wrote in another [tweet]. A short time thereafter, a Michigan mob protesting the state's safety restrictions descended on the Capitol building in Lansing.

They yelled and screamed and threatened. Some of them were armed. In fact, some of them carried rifles all the way into the observer’s balcony, directly above the space where legislators sit to debate and vote. As an attempt to intimidate public officials, it was hardly lacking in clarity. It was well outside the bounds of the kinds of political expression that one should see in a well-functioning democracy.

But the president of the United States did not say that the protesters had done anything wrong. Instead, he described the people who stood above Michigan’s legislators with assault rifles as "very good people" to whom the governor of Michigan should make concessions. For the most part, officials from the president's party — in Michigan and nationally — declined to criticize him for encouraging and supporting this armed intimidation. ...

Anyone who watched what happened in Michigan and didn't think the same or worse could later happen in Washington, especially if something (like losing an election) made the president particularly mad, should engage in some serious self-reflection.

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The president, for now. (Photo: Depositphotos)

Without callouts by name, the constitutional law professor zings previously silent lawmakers as selfish cowards who push back only "now, when the people whom Trump's words and actions endanger include the Republican members of Congress themselves — not legislators in Michigan."

Since they were sent scurrying for cover, some Republican officials who kept silent about Michigan last year — and about any number of other gross breaches of decency by the president before this week — seem to have decided that now they must denounce the president’s encouragement of violence. It is good that they have done so.

But to wait until one is personally threatened before one stands up against a bully is some combination of cowardice and selfishness. ... Now they won’t stand for it.

Rep. Tim Walberg of Lenawee County, one of three Michigan House members who voted after midnight Wednesday against certifying two states' Electoral College votes, condemns this week's violence -- but not the bully who instigated it. In a statement, Walberg says he dissented in the 303-121 because of "unresolved concerns regarding [election] irregularities and the overstepping of state laws." 

Yesterday should have been a time for robust and respectful debate on the House floor. My focus for that forum was a method to provide greater transparency and raise concerns on behalf of my constituents who lack faith in the electoral process.

Even after what he calls "unacceptable violence," the sixth-term representative says he sided with the minority "to prevent future irregularities and restore Americans' confidence in the process."

That's how Tim Walberg defends the side he chose after taking shelter during the Battle of Capitol Hill.

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Read more:  The Washington Post


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