Who murdered Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick?

Sicknick, who was buried last week at Arlington National Cemetery, was killed defending the U.S. Capitol during the failed Jan. 6 coup attempt by a band of Trump-inspired insurrectionists — domestic terrorists, really — hell-bent on overthrowing the government. 

Realistically, there was no chance they could have gotten away with it without a lot of help from the military, whose top brass only days earlier felt compelled to issue a statement affirming they had no intention of betraying the nation, even if Donald Trump, as commander-in-chief,  ordered them to do so. 

So, although the attack postponed the official certification of electoral votes for a few hours and left five people dead, including Sicknick, the insurrection failed. 

That doesn’t mean the rioters or those who inspired them should get off easy. If a man breaks into my house and shoots me but I survive, he’s still guilty of attempted murder.

Likewise, everyone responsible for the Capitol assault must be held accountable. It’s a basic tenet of our democracy that no one, not the president and certainly not a marauding band of white nationalists, is above the law.

That’s why federal prosecutors are leveling charges against many of the rioters they’ve been able to identify and Trump himself is facing a second impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. 

But the list of those who need to be held accountable shouldn’t be confined to Trump and the thugs who attacked Sicknick and his fellow officers that day. 

They had abettors. Some of them are household names.

I’m talking about Republican leaders and the great bulk of their followers who have laid the ideological groundwork for a years-long assault on our democracy driven by a winner-take-all attitude that’s twisted patriotism to mean loyalty to party and not to country.

At the top of the list, of course, is Trump, who has spent the past five years rallying his “troops” and indoctrinating them (as all good propagandists do) into believing that he is “the chosen one.” 

Chosen, presumably, to run the country like a despot and remain president beyond his constitutionally mandated four years, if not for life. 

Hence, the need for the Big Lie, what pundits refer to as Trump’s endless, false assertions that the only way he could lose re-election was if the race was stolen from him as a result of  massive voter fraud. (He said the same thing when he ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016.)

Arresting opponents of the Big Lie is now the Republican way

There was no massive fraud, of course. Federal courts and election auditors across the country have proven that. Our election system isn’t perfect, but it is among the most efficient and secure in the world.

But every good autocrat needs an army of sycophants willing to follow orders and help spread the Dear Leader’s lies, no matter how outrageous or destructive. 

Trump’s personal liars club these days is led by the likes of Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley, all of whom would love nothing more than to ride the Trump train straight into the Oval Office in 2024.

Over in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is marshalling more than 200 members of the Republican caucus, most of whom have decided to back not only Trump but his MAGA acolyte of the week, Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose penchant for conspiracy theories includes the fantastical anti-Semitic claim that Jews firing laser beams from space are to blame for California’s devastating wildfires.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Benson cartoon

Trump’s abettors, meanwhile, abound in elected office far beyond the Washington Beltway. They include Republican Govs. Rick DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas, Brian Kemp of Georgia, and our very own Doug Ducey , who have all helped promote Trump’s overall agenda. 

Each of them enthusiastically fell in line behind Trump and endorsed what he is. And each dutifully perpetuated Trump’s other big lie of downplaying the lethality of COVID-19 by trumpeting half-measure public health strategies that valued business profits over people’s lives.

Take Ducey, for example. If you buy the proposition — and I do — that most of the nearly 450,000 people killed so far by the coronavirus could have been saved if only Trump, a narcissistic, pathological liar, had not been elected president, then it’s fair to say that Ducey’s decision to bow time and again to Trump’s corrupt political whims and disdain for science almost certainly contributed to our state’s unusually high death count.

Nearly 14,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Arizona since the pandemic began. I often wonder: How many of my fellow Arizonans might still be alive if not for our governor’s catering to Trump’s white nationalist base for his own self-serving political ambitions? 

Ironically, Ducey is on the outs now with Trump. The governor’s decision to certify Joe Biden’s win in Arizona earned him not just the wrath of the former president, but a public censure from the Arizona Republican Party. 

That’s the thing about sucking up to aspiring dictators and the hardest of his hard-core supporters: You eventually outlive your usefulness. 

Then all you have to show for it is an abysmal approval rating and a stinking red cap.

Will Trump and his abettors actually be held accountable for the damage they’ve done to this country in the name of shameless, self-serving party politics? 

I hope so. You’d hate to think people like that can just get away with murder.

James E. Garcia
James E. Garcia is a Phoenix-based journalist, playwright and communications consultant. He is the editor and publisher of Vanguardia Arizona, which covers Latino news statewide, and the weekly newsletter Vanguardia America. As a journalist, he has worked as a reporter, columnist, editor and foreign correspondent. He was the first Latino Affairs correspondent for KJZZ, and the first Latino editor of major progressive news weekly in the U.S., The San Antonio Current. James has taught writing, ethnic studies, theater and Latino politics at ASU. He is the producing artistic director of New Carpa Theater Co. and the author of more than 30 plays.