“I’m suggesting, Mr. President, that there’s a military plot to take over the government.” —Seven Days in May
“People have got to understand the danger of President Trump and the danger that he posed on that day.” —Wyoming Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney
After the Cuban Missile Crisis, where America came within inches of a nuclear war with Russia, President Kennedy read a political thriller whose plot concerned the overthrow of the government by the Joint Chiefs of the military.
Seven Days in May’s translation to film came about because of Kennedy’s combative experience with the Joint Chiefs during the crisis. Believing Kennedy wasn’t forceful enough with Russia, the Chiefs kept pressing the President toward a military confrontation. Kennedy believed that if he was too aggressive with Russia the conflict would end in a nuclear war. We’re alive today because those two countries chose to avoid extinction.
The comparisons between the fiction of the novel and today’s reality are striking: two charismatic leaders incite a crowd to action; both are motivated by egoism; both seeded supporters with doubts and lies; both held secret meetings with collaborators; both attempted to defy the rule of law. In one, the crisis ended without violence. The other ended on January 6, 2020, whose purpose was to nullify the will of the people.
In a CBS poll, “There is 12% of the country, and a fifth of Trump’s 2020 voters, that want Trump to fight to retake the presidency right now, before the next election.”
On the CBS News show, Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan summarized the key findings of that poll in an interview with Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney one of only two Republicans who believe that we need to understand what happened that day and who was responsible.
“There is just a hard percentage of the population that believes what the former president is claiming,” Brennan told Cheney. “Eight million people believe in violence to restore him to office. Seven out of 10 Republicans still believe President Biden’s win was illegitimate, 66 percent believe there was widespread voter fraud. So, these numbers are pretty hard here. Why hasn’t this conviction abated within your party?”
“We are in a situation where people have got to understand the danger of President Trump and the danger that he posed on that day,” Cheney said. “Imagine a man who, while the violent assault was underway, while he was watching television, was sending out a tweet saying that Mike Pence was a coward. This is a man who is simply too dangerous to ever play a role again in our democracy.”
Much of the driver behind the disease of disinformation continues to be amplified by right-wing and social media. Former Republican Ohio governor and presidential candidate, John Kasich said he is shocked to see so many Republican voters believing the lies spread by the former president and his allies.
“They live in this world of politics, they live in this world of intrigue and conspiracies and all of this other garbage that’s out there. . . it threatens our country. . . . people have got to wake up. This is not some joke . . .This is about our country, our foundations, our shared values.”
Putting her political career on the line, Cheney distills the issue for Republicans. “Our party has to choose. We can either be loyal to Donald Trump or we can be loyal to the Constitution, but we cannot be both.”
At the end of Seven Days, the president observed: “There’s been abroad in this land . . . that we have somehow lost our greatness.”
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign began with these words: “We need to make America great, again.”
We never lost our greatness because we aspired to do the right thing, to help our neighbors, help other countries. We trusted each other, supported one another, and we didn’t tear each other down because of who we voted for in the last election. Over the last several years, however, we’ve become complacent. We assume that our democracy will always be there for us, but it will only remain alive if we stand up to those who spread lies. It will only only remain vital if we continue to fight for it.
On September 11, 2001, America suffered the greatest foreign attack since Pearl Harbor.
On January 6, 2020, America suffered the greatest domestic attack in more than 200 years.
We have a chance to change, to get back on track, to stand for principles, to push back against hateful rhetoric, idiotic conspiracies, and unite—when that word used to mean something. The country needs an epiphany where we can see beyond ourselves, to see the potential of destroying everything we believe in.
“Can we?” is not the question. Will we? That’s the question.