Trump’s autocratic rule should not be forgotten
EDITORIAL | 2/18/2021, midnight
We certainly support the lawsuit filed Tuesday, Feb. 16, in the U.S. District Court by Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi that accuses Trump, Rudy Giuliani and two extremist groups with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump, much to our chagrin, was acquitted of the impeachment article that sought to kill any future political aspirations, but he is not immune to criminal and possibly conspiracy charges. This one filed by Thompson in conjunction with the NAACP and a major law firm could be just the first of several to come.
This civil lawsuit takes its impetus from the 1871 Ku Klux Klan act in which the Klan and other extremist groups were prevented from violating the constitutional duties of congressional members. In effect, it was a guard against the early vestiges of domestic terrorism.
Additionally, we are pleased that the lawsuit includes the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, who were apparently in the vanguard of the riot that ultimately claimed six lives. They symbolize—and not to exclude Trump—the Klan of the 19th century when the Act was passed. It was officially called The Enforcement Act of 1871, but gained notoriety as the Ku Klux Klan Act. It basically empowered the president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to combat the Klan and other white supremacy organizations.
Thus the lawsuit is right on point in the connection of white supremacy and domestic terrorism from one long ago era and today. What it clearly signals is the extent to which repulsive American history is given fresh currency—and needs fresh adjudication.
As already announced, the Trump team will resort to the same defense they used during the impeachment trial that he was protected by the First Amendment and freedom of speech. Such a tactic is freighted with irony and hypocrisy since he was such a devout opponent of our constitutional rights.
This lawsuit may prove no more effective than the impeachment process, but it’s good to keep him embattled and occupied with lawsuits and allegations. These actions, for however long they proceed, will constantly remind us of how terribly repressive his reign was. His legacy of autocratic and anti-democratic rule should never be more than a moment from the nation’s memory, particularly as he plans to renew his march on the White House