Last Thursday, one day after the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, Franklin Graham had a message for Americans.
“The division in our country is as great as any time since the Civil War,” he tweeted. “I am calling on Christians to unite our hearts together in prayer for President-elect @JoeBiden and Vice President-elect @KamalaHarris, and for the leadership in both parties.”
It was the kind of statement this country needs to hear, a call for reconciliation that you’d expect from a faith leader. Except just two weeks before, this leader’s arms were folded, not open. “Many people believe the presidential election was stolen from @realDonaldTrump,” Graham tweeted on December 28, “and if conservatives lose control of the Senate, there is nothing to stop the radical agenda of the left.”
Earlier in December, Graham echoed the same election lies that fueled the Capitol invaders. “When he says this election was rigged or stolen,” Graham said of the president, “I tend to believe him.”
Unite our hearts? Save it, Rev. Graham.
Get ready for the big walk back, America. Get ready for the agitators to now call for peace. Get ready for the same people who played along when the president stoked a nationwide fury now wanting to calm everyone down.
Like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who said after last week’s siege: “We must come together and put this anger and division behind us. We must, and I am confident we will, have a peaceful and orderly transition of power.”
This is the same Ted Cruz who, as the mob was forming in Washington, encouraged “peace” and “order” by declaring: “We are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis.” It’s the same Cruz who the week before shouted at a Georgia rally that “We will defend our constitution” and “We will not go quietly into the night.”
All for election fraud that didn’t exist.
This costume change, brazen as it is, is hardly surprising. For years, Republicans and conservative leaders have told Americans that what they see isn’t actually true, that Donald Trump’s unhinged tweets and intemperate attacks are merely the products of media and Democrats picking on him. Just as guilty, although slightly less hypocritical, are the Republicans who chose to be silent about the president and Charlottesville, the president and “shithole” countries, the president telling Proud Boys to stand back and stand by.
Many of these same Republicans, including members of Congress from North Carolina, added their names to an amicus brief supporting a Texas lawsuit that falsely claims the 2020 presidential election was tainted with fraud and should be overturned. They nodded or looked the other way as Trump’s election claims got more bizarre, his efforts more desperate, his language more incendiary.
Only when Trump being Trump resulted in five deaths and a ransacked Capitol did some rediscover their principles and their spines. But even now, Republicans are arguing against a second impeachment of the president, on the grounds that it would inflame his supporters.
Never mind the hypocrisy of calling for calm shortly after you’ve been yelling “fire.” This also is blame avoidance — not only for the president, but those who bowed and cowed in all the moments that led up to this latest, most horrifying one.
Unity? Yes, we need to move toward it. But to get there, we need those responsible for Wednesday, including Donald Trump, to be held accountable. We need the leaders and the party that enabled him to take responsibility and earn the country’s confidence and trust again.
A good start would be to admit what is plainly true, that the 2020 election was not stolen from the president.
Until then, save us the hollow words of reconciliation.
That includes you, Rev. Graham. You’ve long had an affinity for telling folks — whether they’re Girl Scouts or a gay presidential candidate or a bank that dares put a lesbian couple in a commercial — how their behavior is leading to the decline of America. You’ve especially liked singling out individuals and groups to repent and be accountable for their sins.
We won’t be so presumptuous to declare what’s a sin or who needs to repent. We don’t even think you’re wrong in suggesting that Americans need to find a path and a peace they can share. But before you start calling for everyone to come together, it might help if you came clean about what tore us apart.