Video and photos of the events of January 6, 2021, take me back to September 11, 2001. The sense of unreality as the plane flew into the tower was revisited as the mob swarmed the Capitol, smashed through doors and barricades, hurled racial epithets at black police officers, violently assaulted police officers of all colors, and went looking for Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi, all taking place in the obscene shadow of a gallows erected on the Capitol grounds.
Matt Fuller is senior political editor at The Daily Beast. He was in the House gallery on January 6 to cover the counting of electoral votes "as well as whatever crap Republicans planned to pull in one final act of fealty to President Donald Trump" (The Real Tragedy). His eyewitness account of what happened on that day brings back that sense of unreality.
Kamala Harris was right in her remarks this morning when she placed January 6, 2021, with December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001. Live coverage as the day unfolded show Republican denialism for the rubbish it is. This was not peaceful protest. Participants are not patriots or political prisoners. The property destruction, violence, and riots that took place in 2020, which I have criticized repeatedly, in no uncertain terms, in this space, were in no way comparable to the attempt to overthrow the government that began well before the violence of January 6 and, make no mistake, did not conclude with the clearing of the Capitol. The coup attempt continued that night with 121 House Republicans and six Senate Republicans voting not to certify the election results (Bump, Peter Navarro Want You to Know). It is ongoing out in the open for all to see and almost assuredly elsewhere more under the radar but no less invidious.
To their credit, ninety-four Senate Republicans voted to certify those results. Ten House Republicans would go on to vote to impeach Donald Trump. Seven Senate Republicans cast guilty votes. To the other side of the coin, most now want to put all that behind them. Let bygones be bygones.
To their credit cabinet members Elaine Cho and Betsy DeVos, special U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland and former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and others resigned in protest. Mulvaney said at the time, "Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they’re worried the president might put someone worse in." To the other side of the coin, they soon went silent.
One year later much that we had good reason to suspect is being substantiated by testimony and documents collected by the House January 6 committee. A chilling article published last month at Just Security illustrates the depth of concern among senior defense officials about what Trump might do:
One of the most vexing questions about Jan. 6 is why the National Guard took more than three hours to arrive at the Capitol after D.C. authorities and Capitol Police called for immediate assistance. The Pentagon’s restraint in allowing the Guard to get to the Capitol was not simply a reflection of officials’ misgivings about the deployment of military force during the summer 2020 protests, nor was it simply a concern about "optics" of having military personnel at the Capitol. Instead, evidence is mounting that the most senior defense officials did not want to send troops to the Capitol because they harbored concerns that President Donald Trump might utilize the forces’ presence in an attempt to hold onto power. (Goodman, Hendrix, Crisis of Command)
Those senior officials were acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Milley reportedly "feared it was Trump’s 'Reichstag moment,' in which, like Adolf Hitler in 1933, he would manufacture a crisis in order to swoop in and rescue the nation from it."
Matt Fuller and Kevin D. Williamson come at things from quite different points on the political and philosophical spectrum. Williamson surprised me. Writing at the archconservative National Review, where contributors typically downplay what happened at the Capitol and the former president's role in it, Williamson takes a hard line:
It is my view that none of the Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 results should ever hold office again, and that no candidate who is unwilling to forthrightly condemn both the violence of January 6 and the lies that inspired that violence ought to enjoy the support of any conservative, any organ of the Republican Party, or, indeed, any American who calls himself a patriot. No candidate who cannot give a simple yes or no answer — and give the correct one — to the question of whether the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump ought to hold office. If that puts the Republican Party into the minority for a generation, then the Republican Party deserves it, having become a menace not only to the conservative principles and governance it purports to cherish but to the political structure of the nation and the Constitution itself. Those who have no use for caudillos and mobs, and who hope to see our constitutional order endure, should seriously consider separating themselves from the Republican Party unless and until it proves capable of reforming itself. (What Happened)
And this from Fuller:
About four months after Jan. 6, a senior GOP aide who typically understands this stuff better than the members shared with me why he thought Republicans were so mad at Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). It was because she kept bringing up the insurrection. Republicans didn’t want to talk about Jan. 6—they hadn’t figured out what to say, their voters weren’t talking about it back home, and they just wanted it to go away.
But Cheney, the literal embodiment of what the GOP used to be, wouldn’t let it go away. Every time she spoke out, reporters had a new reason to ask about Jan. 6, whether this rank-and-file member agreed with the No. 3 House Republican that it was Trump who had “summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.”
As appalling as it was for Republicans to kick her out of her leadership position for the crime of speaking the truth, I understood it. She made it more difficult for Republicans to ignore something they very much wanted to ignore.
So you can imagine how disheartening it’s been to realize that Republicans now want to talk about Jan. 6. They want “justice” for the insurrectionists—by which they just mean clemency. They want to actively downplay the attack, and demonize the Capitol Police officers who have spoken out, and ridicule the Democrats who have treated it as a crisis.
That’s where their voters are, where Tucker Carlson is, where the lawmakers themselves are. Rather than an aberration, Jan. 6 is our new reality. And just as gerrymandering and Republicans trying to make voting harder have been baked into our expectations of democracy, it won’t be long until we just accept that Republicans will try to overturn elections they lost.
To not do so, to affirm an election that hands power to a Democrat, will become treachery in the GOP. That’s really where we’re headed—if we’re not already there. And that’s why, a year later, we’ve mostly failed in our response to Jan. 6.
Fuller's commentary illustrates how lonely the voices of Williamson and Cheney are in the wasteland that passes for contemporary conservatism. I say this as one who parts company with Kevin Williamson and Liz Chaney on many, probably most, issues, and even more with père Dick Cheney: They should be given their due for taking a principled and courageous stand. We need their voices.
President Joe Biden was blunt in this morning's address to the nation: "I did not seek this fight brought to this capital one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it, either. I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation and allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy." He spoke forcefully about the former president's responsibility for the attack and called out efforts to rewrite the history of that day. We needed his voice too. Today he delivered.
Trumpist cadres will join fellow travelers within the Republican establishment in denouncing the president's rhetoric as divisive. Already Mitch McConnell has accused Democrats of exploiting the anniversary of the Capitol assault. Ron DeSantis condemned today's commemoration as a way to smear Trump supporters. House Republican leader Marjorie Taylor Greene and the distinguished statesman Matt Gaetz are reportedly gearing up for a press conference later today. It is not difficult to imagine what is coming.
As the distinguished political analyst Yogi Berra noted, it ain't over till it's over.
The Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol is remembered as one of the darkest and most shameful episodes in American history.
But at least 57 individuals who played a role in that day’s events — either by attending the Save America rally that preceded the riots, gathering at the Capitol steps or breaching the Capitol itself — are now running for elected office. (Gibson, Jan. 6 protesters)
The insurrection, coup attempt, call it what you will, now represented by the date January 6 is not over.
References and Related Reading
Peter Bump, Peter Navarro wants you to know they only intended to overthrow the government peacefully, Washington Post, January 5, 2022
Matt Fuller, The Real Tragedy of Jan. 6 Is That It’s Still Not Over, The Daily Beast, January 5, 2022
Brittany, Gibson, Jan. 6 protesters find a new cause: Running for office, Politico, January 5, 2022
Ryan Goodman, Justin Hendrix, Crisis of Command: The Pentagon, The President, and January 6, Just Security, December 6, 2021
Kate Guarino, We Are Living Through a Democratic Emergency, The Atlantic, January 5, 2022. A conversation with Anne Applebaum, Barton Gellman, and Adrienne LaFrance about January 6 and the fragility of American democracy.
Amanda Macias, 'I can’t stay here' — Mick Mulvaney resigns from Trump administration, expects others to follow, CNBC, January 7, 2021
David Siders, GOP commemorates denialism day, Politico, January 6, 2022
Charlie Sykes, What They Said Then, The Bulwark, January 5, 2022
Kevin D. Williamson, What Happened on January 6, National Review, January 6, 2022