Optimism is not my default setting. I expected violence in the streets of Washington DC today and a lot of horse manure to be shoveled by Republican members of Congress out to overturn the election or, failing that, delegitimize the Biden presidency and score points with Trump's base. I did not anticipate an assault on the Capitol itself. Maybe I should have. Not that I am surprised by what transpired.
This was, in the words of some congressional Republican, I forget which one, banana republic bullshit. Trump responded with tepid tweets and a short video expressing his love for these "special" people while while grudgingly calling for them to go home.
Those responsible for storming the Capitol, conspirators, instigators, and blockheads rampaging through the building alike, should feel the full weight of the law. There seems to be an abundance of photographic evidence, including selfies, for identification. And tweets.
Sen Ben. Sasse (R-Neb.), a Trump critic, described the violence as "the inevitable and ugly outcome of the President’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, who also frequently calls out Trump, directly blamed the president, saying, "What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States." (Ferris et al., Hill chaos turns deadly…)
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has distinguished himself by his silence.
insurrection : An act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government
sedition : incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority. (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary Eleventh Edition)
Adam Gopnik, in a column published a few days ago at The New Yorker, argues that handwringing over democracy in peril is misguided because democracy is always in peril. Lurking behind it, he asserts,
is a faulty premise—that the descent into authoritarianism is what needs to be explained, when the reality is that…it always happens. The default condition of humankind is not to thrive in broadly egalitarian and stable democratic arrangements that get unsettled only when something happens to unsettle them. The default condition of humankind, traced across thousands of years of history, is some sort of autocracy.
The takeaway is not that descent into authoritarianism is inevitable but rather that democracy requires ongoing care and cultivation if it is to be preserved (even in its present highly imperfect state). "The only way to stave off another Trump," writes Gopnik, "is to recognize that it always happens. The temptation of anti-democratic cult politics is forever with us, and so is the work of fending it off."
Already there is talk of a second impeachment. My first thought was that while Trump's actions warrant impeachment, conviction, and removal from office, impeachment would amount ot little more than an empty gesture with only two weeks remaining in his term. Robert Tracinski's column in today's Bulwark has prompted second thoughts.
Georgia has two new Democratic senators. Democrats now control the Senate, though by the thinnest of margins. Some proclaim this a repudiation of Trumpism. I see it more as holding the Trumpists at bay for the moment. Nonetheless cause for celebration.
The latest report I've seen has it that Congress will resume proceedings once the Capitol is cleared of the pro-Trump mob and safe for use. It will be interesting to see what comes from Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and other Republicans who intended to contest Electoral College certification. Already at least one Republican congresswoman (Cathy McMorris Rodgers, WA) has announced she will "vote to uphold the Electoral College results" and is encouraging Trump to "condemn and put an end to this madness." She went on to call today's events "disgraceful and un-American" (per PBS NewsHour). Meantime, Senator Lindsey Graham distinguishes himself by his silence.
As you can see, I have little at present to add to the cascade of commentary and analysis that has saturated the internet today. Below is a list of relevant articles you may find interesting.
The danger has not passed. We have a long two weeks ahead. More anon.
Keep the faith.
Anne Applebaum, Trump and His Heirs Dream of Endless Victory: By falsely insisting that he won, the defeated president leaves a blueprint for the GOP’s future, The Atlantic, January 5, 2021
Sarah Ferris, Olivia Beavers, Melanie Zanona, Burgess Everett, Mariannne Levine, Hill chaos turns deadly after rioters storm Capitol, Politico, January 6, 2021
Adam Gopnik, What We Get Wrong About America’s Crisis of Democracy, The New Yorker, January 4 & 11, 2021
Zeynep Tufekci, This Isn’t Just Political Theater: Trump’s threats aren’t performative—he’s pointing a loaded gun at democracy, The Atlantic, January 5, 2021