IMAGINE BEING MIKE LEE*
Untitled, Acrylic on Panel, 18" x 24 ", Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
Yes, I have read both of Rick Wilson’s books and, yes, nearly everything Trump touched is quite literally dead. For those lucky enough that only their reputations and careers are on ventilators and closing in on their last breaths – many of whom likely wish they were dead – I implore you never to claim Trump did this to me, thereby intimating you had no choice in the matter. That has become tiresome tripe. You did this to yourselves.
That will be especially true of the 43 senators whose defining legacy, the ultimate betrayal of the United States and their oaths to the Constitution, is the first, and possibly only, thing history will care to remember about them. (Some seem to have forgotten that they spoke, many eloquently and forcefully, of the grave danger – “is there any other kind” – a Trump presidency posed to the country and its delicate constitutional order.) They had the ability, indeed the solemn responsibility, to prevent the destruction they’ve now helped bring about. Instead, their enablement and sycophancy, their servile complicity and confederacy, many as accomplices, are direct causes of this unprecedented attack on the United States and its fragile institutions of government. And rather than recuse, they double-crossed by taking oaths to “do impartial justice . . . so help [them] God,” then ignoring the law, precedent, original intent, the senate’s vote confirming constitutional jurisdiction, and the unrebutted, irrefutable, devastating facts.
I live in Utah. As I have written (and what may be obvious to many), living here comes with its share of embarrassments.
Imagine, if you will, descending from Mormon privilege and conservative legal and political royalty, with all roads paved and carpets rolled out before you. Imagine the doors that opened wide, doors that otherwise would have remained closed to you, because of your heritage, with your resume as the direct beneficiary. In other words, imagine being Mike Lee.
Imagine successfully campaigning into national office on lofty personal and national platforms, championing a discrete selection of Christian values, the sanctity of life, constitutional originalism, limited government, the rule of law, fiscal conservatism, and, of course, individual responsibility and personal accountability.
Imagine publicly recognizing, once you’re well into office, the risks a Trump presidency and his shameless dishonesty posed to the citizens of your state and the country. Imagine speaking openly and eloquently against Trump and his first candidacy, while candidly admitting Ted Cruz was your “best friend.”
As Justice Scalia’s seat remained open, imagine your delight when Trump placed you on his pre-election list of prospective Supreme Court nominees, even though everyone knew it was little more than a transactional political ploy. After the disqualifying October 7, 2016 surprise – “ . . . grab ‘em by the . . .” – imagine mustering the personal strength, the courage, to call for Trump’s immediate withdrawal as the GOP nominee. After Trump refused your entreaty, imagine the courage to publicly admit you did not vote for him.
Flash forward some four years to when the failures of a Trump presidency more clearly exposed your substance, your true mettle, and those of your party. Imagine a principled party platform for 2020. With four years of Trump, what could the GOP possibly craft with a straight face, something that would not immediately be judged as laughable parody? Nothing. Zero. Nada. Every principle compromised and abandoned.
Now imagine: the head of a criminal enterprise headquartered in the Oval Office, a monstrous failure of that head’s stewardship (causing hundreds of thousands to die – unnecessarily), an economy in a downward spiral, and a divided country on the verge of civil conflict and domestic terror – yes, imagine, imagine persisting as Trump’s campaign co-manager in your state.
Imagine, during the leadup to the election, tweeting your cultish support for Trump’s (and your) authoritarian desire to disenfranchise a majority of the electorate and maintain a (shrinking) minority rule in the United States:
"Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prospefity [sic] are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”
Nothing less than taking your originalism quite literally, i.e., certain, select white men who know what’s best should decide for everyone.
Then, of course, imagine the temerity of campaigning for Trump to Mormon fence-sitters in Arizona by making the incredulous comparison between Trump and a beloved Book of Mormon prophet and military leader Captain Moroni who shares the name with the angel who appeared to Joseph Smith in Mormon lore, the latter represented by the east-facing golden figure who stands atop Mormon temples throughout the world, ready to trumpet in the Second Coming of Christ:
"To my Mormon friends, my Latter-day Saint friends, think of him [Trump] as Captain Moroni. He [Trump] seeks not power, but to pull it down.
"'He [Trump] seeks not the praise of the world or the ‘fake news,’ but he [Trump] seeks the well-being and the peace of the American people.”
Yea, Trump didn’t seek power. Yea, Trump didn’t seek the praise of the world. Yea, Trump sought the well-being and peace of the American people.
What in the fuck did you pull that one out of? I don't want to imagine.
Imagine being on Trump’s and Giuliani’s speed dial and receiving separate calls from them, mistakenly or otherwise, in the middle of the clearly foreseen domestic terror attack that Trump and his enablers had fomented for months, an insurgency meant to cripple and replace the constitutional order and form of government you swore an oath to uphold, protect and defend.
Please remind us: When was it you spoke out against Trump’s Big Lie, when did you called him on it, when did you denounced it, when did you say it wasn’t true, was corrosive, dangerous and un-American, when did you distance yourself from it?
Before or after the wreckage?
Given all of this, your remonstrations drawing attention to yourself during the impeachment trial in the face of open collaboration with the defense team, despite having taken the oath of impartiality so help you god, were, alas, no longer so hard to imagine. As entirely expected, you hitched your wagon to Trump, his legacy and memory, and the corrosion the investigations has yet to, but inevitably will, uncover.
And so, by the powers you squandered with prejudice, history hereby seals you to Donald J. Trump for time and all eternity.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com. Rob’s second novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming and Norway, dropped on November17, 2020 fall. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Bookstore and your favorite local bookshop, this novel, The Contortionists, which Rob himself narrates for the audio version, is a psychological page-turner about a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community. I have read the novel and listened to the audio version twice. It is a literary masterpiece. The Contortionists, however, is not for the faint of heart.
**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers