Capitol Riot Proud Boys

FILE - Proud Boys leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio wears a hat that says The War Boys during a rally in Portland, Ore., Sept. 26, 2020. A federal jury is set to hear closing arguments in the historic trial of Proud Boys extremist group leaders charged with plotting to use force to keep former President Donald Trump in power. Starting Monday, April 24, 2023, prosecutors and defense lawyers will make their final appeals to jurors who will decide the fate of former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio and four lieutenants. (AP Photo/Allison Dinner, File)

You could almost hear Bob Dylan singing, “How does it feel?” as a succession of Proud Boys drew lengthy prison sentences over the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.

The defendants did not seem like Proud Boys in court. The bravado with which they had trashed the nerve center of American democracy disappeared with a whimper as the prospect loomed of a long spell behind bars. “Now you don't talk so loud. Now you don't seem so proud.”

Some of the Capitol invaders were inclined to blame Donald Trump for leading them astray, but these are middle-aged and highly opinionated men who clearly knew what they were doing. That was a heady time and revolution was in the air, but Proud Boys are no less responsible for their own actions than anybody else.

Still, justice would seem to demand that Trump, as the sole instigator of the riot, should be held to account for the mayhem that was the predictable consequence of his harangue. Justice is hard to find around here.

Another predictable consequence of his rabble-rousing, and maybe even one that Trump intended, was to divide the country more or less evenly. On the one hand, we have the fans who insist that he was greatest of all presidents, and that the four indictments he faces are evidence not of turpitude but of a deep-state conspiracy to destroy the people's champion. On the other hand, we find an equally voluble faction that sees him as a transparent four-flusher and habitual liar.

Some Trump supporters concede that he has ample moral failings, but argue that Joe Biden is no better. This is obviously nonsense, or, at least a serious stretch, because Biden has so far not even been indicted once, and his alleged transgressions pale by comparison with Trump's. Biden is supposedly tainted by his son Hunter's entanglement in the corrupt Ukrainian energy industry, although there is no reliable evidence of paternal collusion. Trump's well-documented role in the Capitol riot, on the other hand, verges on the treasonous.

What we need right now is for the country to come together. Factional recriminations and complaints must be set aside, difficult though it will undoubtedly be. Since it is already apparent that some Trump supporters realize they have been led down the garden path, it would be pointless for the rest of us to rub it in and cause more needless resentment.

It is always a pleasure to see bullies get their comeuppance, but the temptation to gloat over the Proud Boys' discomfiture must be stoutly resisted. It is more or less axiomatic in what we might call Biden circles that Trump is unfit to be president. but to say so within earshot of a Trump supporter would be crazy. If Trumpies can't decide for themselves that a better option is on the ballot, no amount of hectoring will make them switch.

Although the Proud Boys got less prison time than prosecutors requested, the insurrectionists must still pay a stiff price for trying to deny Biden the fruits of his election victory in 2020.

To see footage of them strutting around the halls of Congress, and putting their feet up as though they owned the place, is to be reminded that politicians no longer command the respect of the people — assuming that they once did. We cannot afford to see our political institutions go the same way.

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