In the aftermath of the electoral defeat of Donald Trump, who has inflicted so much gratuitous harm on the United States—including making unfounded accusations of election fraud and declaring himself the victor, a malicious lie that is undermining the integrity of American democracy—there is an understandable temptation among those on the winning side to seek revenge and settle scores with Trump and Trumpworld.
It doesn’t matter that the president’s efforts to challenge the results of the election are comically inept and that he will be out of office in less than 70 days. After all, the argument goes, these individuals were complicit in all the pernicious things Trump has done. They stood by him when they knew better. Doesn’t accountability matter? And shouldn’t there be consequences for wrongdoing?
These are perfectly valid points. If laws were violated, there should be punishment. I don’t embrace antinomianism or what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” Nor should we pretend the past four years didn’t happen. And because Trump will remain president for nearly 10 more weeks, we can’t let our guard down.
My concern, though, is that instead of psychologically moving on from Donald Trump, many of his critics won’t let go of him. (Neither will many of his supporters, but that’s a different topic, for a different day.) The end of his presidency has inspired feelings of joy and relief, as you would expect, but it may also perpetuate a cycle of retaliation and bitterness toward the president and those who enabled him.