Trump’s Minnesota accomplices should be judged | Opinion

January 7, 2021 8:36 am
President Donald Trump and Pete Stauber, then a Republican candiate for the US House

Rep. Pete Stauber, Republican from the 8th Congressional District, seen here with President Donald Trump in 2018. Rep. Tom Emmer is pictured behind Stauber. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

There was never any doubt about President Donald Trump’s character. He cheated on his taxes; paid a porn star for her silence; fleeced lenders and customers and contractors; lied with impunity about every subject under the sun. He dishonored American heroes; accused the innocent of murder; sought to have the innocent killed; insulted the homeland of millions of American immigrants; manipulated people’s worst economic and racial insecurities for his own political and financial gain. It’s all been out there, for all to see, for years. 

And when it came to his fitness for elected office of a constitutional republic, he has shown himself for decades to be dangerous, from the time he applauded the Chinese authoritarians for their Tiananmen crimes, to his lover’s embrace of strongman Vladimir Putin and bended knee to the murderous regime of Saudi Arabia. His willingness to use the levers of government to punish his political enemies and protect his co-conspirators added to the heap of evidence that he belonged nowhere near any seat of power. Like many authoritarians, his soul is a squid ink cocktail of narcissism and resentments. But in Trump’s case, the mixture is splashed with the incompetence of a failson who blew his father’s fortune. 

And now it ends with his goons storming the temple of democracy in Washington Wednesday, carrying Confederate battle flags and flags bearing his name as if he were a supreme leader. They forced the Congress to flee in a ludicrous attempt to interfere with the final tally of the Electoral College. Custodial staff — many of them Black — were left to clean up the wreckage caused by these white seditionists after they were allowed to walk away freely, most of them anyway. 

That it’s all ending with Trump inciting a violent mob to attack the Capitol to retain his hold on power is not, however, surprising in the least. It was foreordained by his character, which is, as always, destiny. 

My father told me once, ever so gravely, you will be judged by the friends you keep. So, what kind of person would join hands with Trump and his crowd? 

That’s what Minnesotans should be asking themselves today. 

A little more than a year ago, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, published a selfie he took in the back of Trump’s limo during a visit to Minneapolis. He wasn’t satisfied with his own obsequious performance during his brief visit with Trump, so he took to the Star Tribune op-ed page to gush some more: “I’d like to expand on my thanks to the president.” He also condemned the “hateful, disrespectful and lawless behavior” of demonstrators outside the Target Center. Amusing in retrospect. 

Then there’s U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer of the 6th District, who was an early backer of Trump and was rewarded with Air Force One rides and all the affection the coal-hearted Trump is capable of. 

Just last month, right before he signed on to a disgraceful lawsuit to overturn the November election results, Emmer applauded Trump’s connection with the true volk of central Minnesota: “Donald Trump brings a lot of things up that I hear in the middle of the country that people are thinking, but nobody here in Washington is saying,” Emmer told Bloomberg

Like how America has too many immigrants from “shithole countries,” as Trump once said to a flabbergasted room of aides and lawmakers? 

U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach, newly elected from the 7th District, is culpable for her irresponsible words in the days after the election, when she went on national TV and smeared election officials, falsely claiming that “they’re just finding votes at this point.” When in fact they were counting votes. What did Fischbach think would happen when she put this idea into the minds of the mob? When people believe — in this case, falsely and foolishly — that an election has been stolen from them, they often take up arms. 

I can’t be sure how much to blame U.S. Reps. Jim Hagedorn and Pete Stauber, who seem less shrewd than Emmer; more like dumb little puppies proud to know the powerful man with the golden toilet. 

Gazelka, Emmer, Fischbach, Hagedorn and Stauber sent out statements condemning the violence. Too little, too late. 

Closer to home, Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Mary Franson, Eric Lucero, Glenn Gruenhagen, Steve Drazkowski and Susan Akland, appeared at a rally outside the State Capitol Wednesday. As captured by Star Tribune videographer Mark Van Cleave, the lunacy in St. Paul matched that in the nation’s Capitol, even if the thugs never got up the nerve to storm the Quadriga.  

Some fascist at the event, which, again, was attended by Minnesota state legislators, wowed the crowd with this pseudo-intellectual drivel: “We are at the threshold of civil war,” he intoned, before endorsing violence, referring to the far right’s enemies as “weeds.” 

“The only time we’ve ever progressed, the only time we’ve gone forward, technological advances, economic advances, the only time we’ve evolved as a society is after a war. We have reached that point … We cannot evolve as a people because we are being choked off by weeds … Weeds of leftist liberals. We cannot grow if we have weeds choking us off. We need to pull the weeds.”

He’s mistaken. We aren’t weeds. We are roots, as in the Book of Job. 

“For there is hope for a tree,
When it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And its shoots will not fail.”

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children