By Mayor William Peduto of Pittsburgh and Mayor Thomas Westphal of Dortmund
In this Jan. 6, 2021, photo, President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally in Washington. By his own words, he hates losing. The storming of the Capitol by his partisans this week was the culmination of months of denials that he was beaten in the election — and his lifetime aversion to acknowledging defeat. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
My 4-year-old daughter loves classic, Old World, fairy tales in which wicked queens conspire to kill fair maidens and tricksters offer riches in exchange for a desperate someone’s firstborn.
A surprising number of these stories include child abduction and threats of infantile death, which I conveniently skip over during bedtime readings. (Seriously, Europe in the Dark Ages must have been an absolute horror show).
One fable of yore is especially prescient during this second post-impeachment moment in which we find ourselves, that of the Pied Piper.
For those who don’t recall, the Pied Piper of Hamelin is the story of a colorful character with a silver tongue who comes to a German town promising to rid folks of an infestation of rats, which in those days meant plague and death.
Using his magic flute, he lures the vermin into a nearby river to drown. But when the mayor refuses to pay the agreed-upon sum for the piper’s services, he uses his influential instrument to lure the town’s children from their homes.
Sound like anyone we know?
Former President Donald Trump of course is the piper who used his magical instrument (i.e. Twitter) to “rid” the United States of supposed rats (“Deep State,” “political correctness,” cancer-causing windmills, what have you) in exchange for his “fee,” or in modern parlance, the fealty of Republican lawmakers and legions of MAGA-cappers regurgitating his divisive rhetoric.
When the Trump Piper didn’t get what he demanded, a second term in office following his fictitious landslide electoral victory, he led his “children” (QANon cultists, Proud Boys, and other rabid, right wingers) on a months-long crusade of insanity and political invective that culminated in the Jan. 6 Capitol coup attempt.
That some of those misled children are members of the Senate who voted to not make Trump accountable for the toxicity he created leading up to the coup attempt illustrates just how lost some of the Trump Piper acolytes truly are.
Sen. Lindsay Graham is reportedly heading to Mar-a-Lago to discuss the future of the Republican Party with Trump, who despite having his Twitter fife seized still commands millions of loyal subjects and will remain a force in the GOP for years to come. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who hurled an f-bomb at Trump during the violence at the Capitol, has already made amends and kissed the ring.
What comes next is anyone’s guess. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell placed the onus for the events of Jan. 6 squarely on Trump’s shoulders after voting “Not Guilty” in the Senate impeachment trial in which Trump stood accused of doing exactly what McConnell said he did.
The always-wily McConnell claimed his hands were tied because the Senate had “no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen,” a claim refuted by many constitutional scholars and the majority of Americans.
Yet, McConnell insists Trump is still subject to potential criminal prosecution for provoking the insurrection that could have been far worse than it was considering the hangman’s gallows that was erected on the Capitol lawn and the horde’s chanting of “hang Mike Pence.”
Were this a new-fangled fairytale, McConnell would be a two-headed tortoise who speaks multiple truths, spouting “alternative facts” in the service of whatever lie grants him his wish: a return to a GOP-controlled Senate in 2022, with King Mitch restored to his rightful throne as majority leader.
In the meantime, the Trump Piper is likely gearing up for another performance, i.e. a potential 2024 presidential run, while seeking a new instrument (Trump News Network or Trump social media platform) with which to command his lost children.
My only hope is that the story we tell future generations of this dark period in American history has a happier ending than those miserable, violent tales inspired by Europe’s bleakest era. We’ll see. Right now we’re in the middle of an epic journey filled with peril and insidious characters, whose end has yet to be written.
However it ends, Trump Era will one day offer future generations grim warnings about those led astray by a leader bent on destroying free, fair, and honored elections, the foundation of democracy and our republic. Historians already seem poised to do just that.
And what will we tell our children and future generations of kids not yet born of this era?
It’s still not certain. But whatever we tell them, best we don’t say it before bedtime.
We don’t want them having nightmares.
Postindustrial founder Carmen Gentile has worked for some of the world’s leading publications and news outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, CBS News and others. His book, “Blindsided by the Taliban,” documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.