The GOP Is America’s Abusive Partner

It’s hard — sometimes deadly — to break up with a bad actor, but we have to

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

“I thought I was going to die.”

When Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez uttered those words on her Instagram Live last week, it immediately invoked the once unthinkable scene of our Capitol building under siege by White domestic terrorists. As the world watched the images of violence and terror unfold, Ocasio-Cortez was living through it—hiding in a bathroom, holding her breath, and hoping to God that she wouldn’t be found by the people hunting her.

American carnage. This is the America Trump and his sycophants delivered on January 6, 2021.

As a result of the insurrection, five people died and others were maimed — eyes lost, fingers lost, spinal cord injuries—and even after all this mayhem and trauma, Republicans want AOC and America to move on. Move on from our sacred halls of democracy being smeared with feces. Move on from windows riddled with bullet holes. Move on from the chants of “hang Mike Pence.” That’s what abusers usually do after they cause harm. That’s exactly what House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did when he took to TV to tell the American people that everyone was to blame for the attack on our Capitol — everyone except the man with the bullhorn. Abusers urge you to forget. They even try and blame the victim for causing them to hurt you, and then the cycle begins anew.

Republicans are America’s abusers.

For four years, they have been gaslighting us into believing that Donald Trump was a great president. That his behavior was acceptable and his policies necessary to make America great. A man who can’t string together a cohesive sentence, who ripped infants from their breastfeeding mothers, banned Muslims from our shores, and threatened countless politicians, including the Ukrainian president. With each horrific action, Republicans backed his behavior and his policies 100%. And now, after years of toxicity, lies, and threats, Trump’s words finally led to what we knew was coming: bloodshed. The emotional abuse we have endured for four years turned violent. When AOC recounted her trauma after being sexually assaulted and compared what happened at the insurrection as an example of similar abuse, that comparison hit like a ton of bricks.

Much like an abusive girlfriend would tell you she will be better next time — Republicans continue to tell us the same lie. They kept telling us Trump would learn from his first impeachment, that he had been taught a lesson. They kept telling us that he would soon turn presidential. He never did, and our suffering as a nation only got worse. The lesson learned is that he could cause harm again and again, because there are no consequences. And now five lives have been lost and millions more traumatized by what we witnessed. And while it should never have gotten to this point—the point of seeing our democracy go up in smoke—we are here, and we cannot and should not be told to move past it.

What’s worse, however, is that even though Trump will go down in history as the most disgraced president — having been impeached not once but twice—he will likely get off without a conviction, which is appalling. For the next week, we will be forced to relive the nightmare of January 6, 2021. We will bear witness to new videos of the smug, entitled White supremacists who tried to overthrow our government and then got to go home afterward.

We end the cycle of abuse not with pleasantries and euphemisms, but with the truth.

While it is necessary to move through these motions of the trial, we know that the likelihood of 17 Republicans standing up to Trump is slim at best. If an attempt on your life doesn’t get you to break with Trumpism, nothing will, and that is what is scary. We wanted to believe that with Trump gone, we could find our way back to normal. That we as a nation could move on from the fear, anxiety, and trauma of the past four years and start anew, but we can’t. To break ties with an abuser, you have to set up boundaries and protections. They must be confronted and held accountable for the harm they caused. In just four years, the damage that has been caused is almost immeasurable.

No amount of executive orders can undo the hate that was unleashed.

America can’t heal without a reckoning. We can’t move forward without responsibility and accountability taking place. Trump was the mirror America needed to truly see itself. Had we dealt seriously with racial injustice, with misinformation, with the vast amount of lies that were allowed to spread like wildfire through our TVs and social media, we wouldn’t be here. The Obama years allowed for a glimpse into who we could be; the Trump years showed us who we are. We are a misguided nation that has struggled to live up to its creed. A nation that teaches generation after generation that we are great, while discounting the very people who make this country great.

If we want the abuse to end, we have to be the ones to make it stop. We make it stop by telling the truth — the entire truth—about America. Trump didn’t invent White supremacy or White domestic terrorism; he capitalized on it, with Republicans as his willing accomplices. America is a nation that was built on the lie of White supremacy and White fragility. We can’t change what we refuse to face. Those terrorists who stormed the Capitol believed it was theirs for the taking, that they could do what they want when they want because their Whiteness would protect them. We need to address the ways we continue to feed this lie. We can’t fix what we refuse to see is broken. The former president of the United States, enabled by the Republican Party, sent a violent White mob to hold our democracy hostage and beat our Constitution into submission. We end the cycle of abuse not with pleasantries and euphemisms, but with the truth.

is the host of #WokeAF & #PMMood & co-host of the podcast #democracyish. She covers all the news and happenings at the intersection of politics and pop culture.

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