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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

SCHULMAN: Unity is a joke

Calls for unity after the failed Capitol Insurrection miss the point entirely—accountability what we need.
Tyler Merbler
A gallows hangs near the United States Capitol during the storming of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Creative Commons/Tyler Merbler)

Editor’s Note: Max Schulman worked as a communications intern for the Tennessee Democratic Party during the 2020 campaign cycle.

The world stood still on Jan. 6. For months, President Donald Trump had baselessly claimed that the 2020 Election was stolen from him. That day, Congress met to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. There would be debate, but it would go nowhere. GOP House members and a handful of Republican senators would object to the results, largely seeking to curry favor with the voters and donors who falsely believed the election was stolen from the outgoing president. It did not look like our democracy was about to be taken to the edge.

Less than two miles away, Trump declared war on this process and those who upheld it. He and his acolytes urged the well-organized group before them to “fight like hell” and engage in “trial by combat” at the Capitol. And they did just that. The mob, furious that Black voters or the Deep State or another of their perceived political enemies had usurped their right to white rule by illegitimately ousting Trump, descended on a Congress in session. Armed with molotov cocktails, assault rifles and fire extinguishers, they sought a mass murder of elected officials. For the first time in two centuries, the seat of our democracy was breached. The terrorists hunted for Democrats, hurled racial epithets at Black police officers and smeared feces throughout the building. 

In the aftermath of the Capitol Insurrection, there has been a flurry of cynical and politically convenient calls for unity

Trump-allied Republicans, who incited the violence by repeating and condoning Trump’s false claims of election fraud, now have the audacity to claim that we should move on because both Democrats and Republicans are at fault. On the other side of the aisle, President-elect Biden would like this all to be over with, to declare this incident as a one-off and start his presidency with a clean slate. He’s prioritizing his First 100 Days agenda over the long-term survival of our republic; he has avoided taking a firm stance on Trump’s impeachment; he themed his inauguration “America United.” 

And now, Vanderbilt has thrust itself into the conversation. Revered historian Jon Meacham—who wrote speeches for Biden during the campaign—introduced the Project on Unity & American Democracy as an initiative to strengthen democracy and temper political tensions through good-governance research, virtual events and digital media. Had the initiative been launched at any other time and for any other reason, I’d applaud it as another one of Vanderbilt’s intellectual investments in strong civic institutions. But framed in response to the Capitol riots, I have to object.

The Project on Unity misdiagnoses the source of the problem. Yes, polarization, tribalism and policy gridlock are serious issues. But they didn’t create this beast. Political polarization didn’t cause Neo-Nazis to storm the Capitol. Democrats are farther to the left than ever, yet no elected Democrat has ever done anything remotely approaching organizing a troupe of terrorists to descend upon their political opponents’ workplace. Partisan gridlock and negative electioneering didn’t cause QAnon nutjobs to threaten lawmakers. 

You know who did this? Donald Trump, his enablers and amplifiers in the Republican Party and a vast network of online conspiracists. White supremacists. Neo-Nazis. Fox News and OANN. Republican enemies like latte-sipping coastal elites, university professors and Demoratic mega donors had no role to play here. This is on some of us, not all of us. 

Joe Biden and congressional Republicans can do all of the bipartisan, dignified things the Project on Unity recommends. How will that take the wind out of the sails of Boogaloos and the Proud Boys? How will that dampen the enduring conviction of white supremacists? Unity without reckoning will embolden those who perpetrated these attacks and allow the opponents of democracy to muddy the historical memory of the Capitol Insurrection.

What we need is accountability.

We need a totalizing response that includes impeachment and conviction for Trump, expulsion of Republican co-conspirators from Congress and a 9/11-style investigation into the white supremacist infiltration of the Capitol Police. We need an active Justice Department to prosecute every single rioter to the fullest extent of the law. We need to leverage cultural and economic capital to shut out traitors and Trump sympathizers from positions of influence and power. Only with a proportionately massive response can we hope to prevent white supremacists furthering their takeover of our government.

I do not want to be “unified” with anyone who sympathizes with, condones or encourages lynch mobs. I do not want my fate to be tied to those who refuse to recognize the results of democratic elections. I want those people to be held accountable for their actions. We can’t have a repeat of the collapse of Reconstruction, when Confederate seditionists were allowed to regain their political power and institute Jim Crow. 

Unity is a cop-out. Unity is clemency for traitors. Unity is an abrogation of our duty to fend off attacks against our multiracial democracy.

Unity? Unity is a joke.

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About the Contributor
Max Schulman
Max Schulman, Former Opinion Editor
Max Schulman (‘21) majored in political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as Opinion Editor and Editorial Director for The Hustler. In his spare time, Max enjoys prominently wearing Obama-themed apparel, reluctantly defending Kanye's Twitter and arguing about politics.
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A Voice of Reason
3 years ago

The author states: “I do not want to be “unified” with anyone who sympathizes with, condones or encourages lynch mobs.”
At least 25 died during the summer BLM protests ( Over $1 billion in damages occurred as a result (

Both the capitol rioting and also the rioting over the summer should be condemned. Both sides of the political spectrum sympathized, condoned, and encouraged rioting over the past 365-ish days. Why did these riots occur? Likely because people are too unwilling to sit down and listen/debate the other side. They would rather use violence to intimidate the other side to bow to their wishes. Rioting is the intellectually lazy method to promote a political agenda/policy. Unity is not about condoning the opposite side. It is about respecting people who believe differently from you, and being able to have civil debate and conversation. Often, if you actually listen and try to understand the viewpoints of the opposing side, they won’t seem as radical as you initially think.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Voice of Reason
Mostly Peaceful Anon
3 years ago

All summer long when Portland and Baltimore and Atlanta and Minneapolis and D.C. and Kenosha and Seattle burned you cheered on the mob. All you other students on Vandy Confessions applauded the violence. “What’s a little destroyed property? They have insurance! ACAB!” But now that the psycho far right is starting to act like the psycho far left, you want to treat all Trump supporters like criminals (even though we want that buffalo hat sonuvagun prosecuted more than you do…) Tell you what, go to Instagram and Twitter and Vandy Confessions’ Facebook and “hold accountable” all the kids who called for violence in the summer. At least pretend to care about the cops and kids who got killed by “your side” rioting in 2020. Then you can kick us out of society like you want. Max, your “totalizing” society may be more PC without us in it, but I promise you it will be less peaceful and less just.

3 years ago

I agree it is disturbing to hear people genuinely say that divisiveness is our country’s greatest problem right now. It’s insulting and comes from a place of such enormous privilege and selfishness. Income inequality in America is outrageous, and the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in so many deaths. But no, divisiveness is our greatest issue. I guess for those same people, divisiveness, not slavery, was the greatest American issue of the 1860’s.

Lincoln Raphael
3 years ago

Nice analysis

Tom Levensailor
3 years ago

Where was the accountability during the “peaceful protests” that were incited by the left and left cities and businesses louted and burned? I do agree that unity with the likes of you is akin to embracing the worst of us..

3 years ago

The violence last summer was far-right attempts to discredit/interfere with peaceful BLM protesters. This has been confirmed by arrest records.