There’s a pivotal scene in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon where Sam Spade stands up to the beautiful but murderous blond Brigid O’Shaughnessy. “I won’t play the sap for you,” he says.
I’m waiting — hoping — for Democrats to say that to Republicans. The situations are similar. There’s a prize; an election in one instance, a jewel-encrusted statue of a bird in the other. Somebody is attempting to steal the prize; Trump in our case, Brigid O’Shaughnessy with the falcon. The attempted theft is abetted by others; Republicans in Congress, Kaspar Gutman and his international band of crooks. And there’s somebody trying to stop the theft; Uncle Joe Biden, Sam Spade.
Even though it clear the theft is almost certainly not going to work, the crooks continue to try to finagle it. Despite the fact that he lost the election, Comrade Trump is still trying to break democracy, even while grudgingly agreeing to a transition. Despite the fact that Brigid O’Shaughnessy killed Spade’s partner, she continued to try to get Spade to trust her and help her steal the Falcon. She wants him to help her get away with the crime.
There are already political pundits suggesting Democrats need to let Trump get away with trying to steal the election. They say Democrats should find a way to ‘work with’ the complicit Republicans. They say Democrats need to be the adults in the room, that Democrats need to meet Republicans halfway, that Democrats should try to understand how angry and disappointed Republicans are.
Basically, they’re saying Democrats should play the sap. Well, fuck those guys. Fuck them in the neck.
Democrats should NOT be vindictive. I’ll agree with that. But neither should they be sensitive to the feelings of a political party that spent the last four years telling Democrats, “Fuck your feelings.” We shouldn’t be looking for retribution, but we should enforce norms and laws. The argument that holding Trump or his family accountable for any crimes they may have committed would only further inflame partisanship is bullshit. The notion that we can only heal and unite the nation by overlooking the transgressions they’ve committed is bullshit. The idea that Sam Spade can trust Brigid O’Shaughnessy is bullshit.
We played the sap with Nixon. We did it with Reagan and we did it with George W. Bush. What did we get by playing the sap? Trump.
I want Democrats to play that pivotal scene with Republicans.
Dems: Well, if you get a good break, you’ll be out of the White House for 20 years and you can come back to me then. I hope they don’t hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. Yes, angel, I’m gonna send you over. The chances are you’ll get off with life. That means if you’re a good girl, you’ll be out in 20 years. I’ll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I’ll always remember you.
Republicans: Don’t, don’t say it even in fun. Ha, ha, ha. Oh, I was frightened for a minute. I really thought…You do such wild and unpredictable things.
Dems: Don’t be silly. You’re taking the fall.
Republicans: You’ve been playing with me. Just pretending you care, to trap me like this. You didn’t care at all. You don’t love me!
Dems: I won’t play the sap for you!
Republicans: Oh you know it’s not like that. You can’t say that.
Dems: Did you ever fight square with me for half an hour at a stretch since I’ve known you?
Republicans: You know down deep in your heart and in spite of anything I’ve done I love democracy.
Dems: I don’t care who loves who! I won’t play the sap for you. I won’t walk in Hillary’s – and I don’t know how many other’s – footsteps. You killed democracy and you’re going over for it.
Republicans: How can you do this to me? Surely, democracy wasn’t so much to you as… [crying]
Dems: When a man’s democracy is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of it, it was your democracy, and you’re supposed to do something about it. And it happens we’re in the politics business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it’s – it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it. Bad all around. Bad for every democracy everywhere.
Republicans: You don’t expect me to think that these things you’re saying are sufficient reasons for sending me to the…
Dems: [interrupting] Wait’ll I’m through. Then you can talk. I’ve no earthly reason to think I can trust you. If I do this and get away with it, you’ll have something on me that you can use whenever you want to. Since I’ve got something on you, I couldn’t be sure that you wouldn’t put a hole in me some day. All those are on one side. Maybe some of them are unimportant, I won’t argue about that. But look at the number of them. And what have we got on the other side? All we’ve got is that maybe you love democracy and maybe I love you.
Republicans: You know whether you love me or not.
Dems: Maybe I do. Well, I’ll have some rotten nights after I’ve sent you over, but that will pass. If all I’ve said doesn’t mean anything to you, then forget it and we’ll make it just this: I won’t because all of me wants to, regardless of consequences, and because you counted on that with me the same as you counted on that with all the others. I won’t play the sap for you.
Democracy. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.