We’ve known for some time now that there is nothing that is beneath Donald Trump. Not kidnapping and caging children, not kowtowing to dictators, not stealing money from a children’s cancer charity, not bragging about sexually assaulting women, not looking away while bounties are levied on US soldiers, not golfing while a pandemic kills 370,000 Americans on his watch and counting.
But did you think his depths extended to inciting a violent mob to storm the US Capitol in an effort to overthrow the government and keep him in power?
No? Well, in that case, let me welcome you back to consciousness after your coma.
A Shitshow By Any Other Name (Would Still Stink)
Let’s be clear about what we just witnessed. In The Atlantic, Yoni Appelbaum writes:
The president of the United States summoned his supporters to Washington, DC, today, and then stood in front of the White House and lied to them, insisting that he had won the election and that extraordinary measures were necessary to vindicate his win. They took his message to heart, marching up the National Mall toward Capitol Hill. Breaking through barricades and police lines, Confederate battle flags dotting the crowd, the insurrectionists seized control of the United States Capitol, putting Congress to flight.
Hey sticklers, can we call this a coup now? When a defeated president speaks to an angry crowd and eggs them on and then they storm the parliament? You can get back to me.
While heating up his myrmidons, Trump said he would accompany them on that march, which would have been dramatic, but of course in the end he was far to cowardly to do so. But in the larger sense, Trump had already led a metaphorical march that has taken the United States to a place sniffing conservatives repeatedly assured us was never possible.
Here’s David Graham, writing in The Atlantic:
For four years, Trump’s critics have been accused of hysteria and hyperbole for describing his movement as fascist, authoritarian, or lawless. Today, as Congress attempts to certify the election of a new president, the president has vindicated those critics. In attempting this coup, Trump has also vindicated the Americans who voted decisively in November to remove him from office.
While we’re on the subject of semantics, kudos to NPR and others for pointedly putting a stop to the practice of referring to these goons as “protestors.” Have we bandied about the word “terrorism” so much that we no longer even recognize the real thing when we see it?
The scene inside the Capitol put me in mind of the Viet Cong penetrating the US Embassy in Saigon during Tet ’68 (not to insult the Viet Cong), or the Iranian “students” occupying the US Embassy in Teheran eleven years later. But humiliation wise, this one was far worse, as we were doing it to ourselves.
There was one stomach-turning scene after another, including federal law enforcement with guns drawn, and a grinning Trump supporter (a self-identified White nationalist and COVID conspiracy theorist from Arkansas) with his feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. With fitting symbolism, Trump’s followers also vandalized the camera equipment of the much-hated media.
More than one invader from this incel-fest was seen carrying a Confederate battle flag, which was at least the proper, historically accurate banner for a bunch of treasonous insurrectionists; the ones carrying the Stars & Stripes offended me more. Some were also seen pulling down a US flag flying outside the building and attempting to replace it with a “Trump” flag.
Republicans, “conservatives,” and other self-identifying patriots: please tell me more about how Trump has not been so bad, and how his followers are loyal Americans.
Police On My Back (Not)
The tactical failures of the relevant authorities in failing to plan properly for this riot will be picked over elsewhere, I’m sure. Suffice it to say that they could not have been taken by surprise: the event was heavily advertised well in advance and its attendees’ predilection for violence is well-known. Last summer, those same authorities had no trouble turning out vast armies of paramilitary riot cops in full battle rattle to confront BLM protestors engaged in peaceful and legal demonstration. Which storming parliament, by way of contrast, is pointedly not.
Too bad Bill Barr’s not still around. He knows how to clear a crowd.
In retrospect, last year’s “Liberate!” protests in Michigan and elsewhere, leading to the attempted kidnapping and murder of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, now look like an ominous harbinger…..and the much-praised restraint of the police in the face of screaming white vigilantes in body armor not so much prudence as dereliction of duty.
Now as then, right wing respect for law enforcement seemed to have taken the day off. (As Tom Hall of The Back Row Manifesto says, “Enjoying the Blue Lives Matter crowd standing up for their beliefs.”)
It took a while, but even the mainstream media eventually got around to noting that this was the ultimate display of White privilege. To repeat the bleedingly obvious: If a mob of Black people stormed the US Capitol, some of them armed, the response from law enforcement would surely have been a bloodbath….and the reaction from Fox Nation would not have been equivocating op-eds about the right to protest and how we need to understand why these great Americans are so miffed.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid, in particular, was furiously eloquent in contrasting yesterday’s placid police response to the militarized reaction that met the protestors in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray’s murder. Had this been a crowd of Black Americans, she noted, they would have wound up “shackled, arrested, or dead.”
So why, as the sun set yesterday, wasn’t Washington DC packed with Metro Police buses full of Trump insurrectionists with their hands zip tied behind them? Good question, and one that ought to inform our reaction to law enforcement’s handling of future protests by other groups. As the filmmaker Jameka Autry put it:
So one thing we all witnessed as a nation is that the police actually do know how to de-escalate without force and weapons. Noted.
We will learn more about the delay in deploying the National Guard, which tellingly, was eventually ordered by Pence, not Trump. But when we were told that the bottleneck was at the Pentagon, that was a sure sign that the brass were deliberately trying to stay out of the fray, having already signaled their unwillingness to get involved in any kind of coup- adjacent domestic unrest.
I don’t think that was the worst thing in the world, in the same way that it was wise of the left not to have deployed counter-protestors that would have allowed Hugh Hewitt, Marc Thiessen & Co. to turn this into a “very fine people on both sides” moment. A Tiananmen-style massacre, on the other hand, or even a reasonably forceful police response, would have only given these fuckers what they wanted, which was martyrdom.
On that front, there is an instructive clip of a news crew from DC’s WUSA Channel-9, interviewing one of the insurrectionists, an dead-eyed, self-righteous kid from New Jersey in a backward trump cap (and, ahem, a Giants hoodie) who spoke of their actions, and expressed outrage that, after storming the halls of Congress, the police would push back at all. (Defying the time-space continuum, he also suggested their attack on Congress was to protest the police reaction to their attack on Congress, which he deemed extreme.)
Pointing to the police outside the Capitol, he intoned with great gravity, “This cannot stand any more. This is wrong.”
Behold the twisted logic of White Punk-Ass Grievance, which the aforementioned right-leaning media insists we are all duty bound to understand and accommodate. But of course, the actions of this kid and his fellow goons were ultimately self-sabotaging, an inadvertent public service that put on vivid display the sewer that is the MAGA mentality. As appalling as the riot was, it surely did more harm to Trump and Trumpism than anything else.
After this, anyone know what odds Vegas is giving on Trump’s prospects for 2024?
All You Need Is Love
Trump himself took his sweet time in making a statement to stop the violence, which he apparently had to be forced into. (And why did we expect otherwise? He wanted the violence. Indeed, he cultivated it and egged it on. It may have be the first pleasant day he’d had since November 3rd.) When he finally did speak — on video, from the eviscerated Rose Garden — he in no way tried to tamp down the temperature. On the contrary, he further stoked his seditious followers’ various grievances, repeating the baseless allegations that the election was “stolen,” vilifying their enemies — whom he called “evil” — telling them “we love you,” and essentially directing them to fall back until he needs them again. Even that is the kind of power in which he sadistically revels.
(Biden, by contrast, went on TV and gave precisely the kind of calm, somber, presidential speech that one wants from the erstwhile leader of the so-called free world.)
And I have no doubt that Trump will call on them again; in that regard, the Rose Garden video was as much a mob-style threat to the rest of America and dictator-style demonstration of his power as it was any kind of appeal for calm.
I guess now we know what he meant during the campaign when he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
Elsewhere in the First Family of Crime, Ivanka issued a tweet appealing for calm, but also calling the insurrectionists “patriots.” (She quickly deleted it, but on the Internet, everything lives forever.) Her brother opined that “this is not who we are,” but of course it’s exactly who they are.
The remarks of other Republicans were equally odious, both in their objections to certification of the Electoral College results and the riot that briefly stopped it. (And ironically, curtailed and undermined that purely symbolic but still despicable obstructionism.)
No surprise, leading the pack was Ted Cruz, who along with Trump and Josh Hawley bears significant responsibility for yesterday’s events, and who issued a statement decrying violence whether by “left or right.”
Fuck you, Ted: stop insulting the American people.
That also includes your skin-crawling speech on the floor of Congress shortly before the rioters broke in, citing widespread belief in “election fraud” as a danger to the republic that demands the abeyance of Biden’s certification as president-elect, when your team were the ones that made belief in that lie widespread in the first place. (And bonus demerits for holding up as a model of civic pride the Compromise of 1876, which sold out Reconstruction and led to Jim Crow. Unless you meant that deliberately.)
Meanwhile, over in the House, Matt Gaetz was openly promoting the inevitable conspiracy theory, already being spread in the right wing media, that this was a false flag operation by the omnipotent antifa. (Check your bingo cards, because we knew it was coming.) I was waiting with bated breath for someone to decry how Merrick Garland’s DOJ was failing to maintain law and order in our nation’s capital.
Meanwhile, the look on Mitt Romney’s face sitting behind Josh Hawley as he spoke was priceless. I don’t know where Hawley got the gall to stand up and speak at all with the blood — real and figurative — that was on his hands, but I do know this: Irregardless is not a word. (Yeah, I went to Stanford too.)
The image of the callow, uber-educated Hawley — a man who once clerked for John Roberts — giving the raised fist salute to pro-Trump insurrectionists on the east outside the Capitol is one that ought to haunt him forever, and if there were any justice, put an immediate end to his Olympian, stomach-turning political ambitions. (In a scathing editorial largely blaming him for the entire fiasco, his flagship hometown newspaper, the Kansas City Star, reported that Hawley sent out a fundraising appeal to his supporters WHILE the seditionists he inspired were storming the building.)
Speaking of smug, booksmart, clever trousers, Ben Sasse stood on the floor of the Senate and gave a grinning speech about shoveling snow and a lecture on the election of 1800. (“You cannot imagine how much I am not in the mood for a lecture about John Adams from Ben Sasse,” tweeted the intrepid Naval War College professor and Trump critic Tom Nichols.)
An apparently soused Lindsey Graham cracked jokes (while four people died) and began the process of trying to make us think he’s a reasonable politician again and forget that he fellated Donald Trump for the past four years.
Even Mitch McConnell — or should I say, soon-to-be Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — had the planet-sized huevos to appeal to his Republican colleagues not to be hypocrites in contesting the election. (Cough, cough.) Later, Mitch offered the opinion Senate has faced far greater threats than this mob (yes, and you’re one of them), and that “Criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress.”
Let’s just let that sit there a moment.
Blame Enough to Go Around, Y’all
So this is what the United States has descended to under Donald Trump. But not only Trump is to blame — far from it. As the aforementioned Tom Hall wrote, “(T)his day has been incubated by each mollifying word from every, single American who has downplayed the fascist, authoritarian movement that is Trumpism.”
Listen also to Trump’s own former Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General Jim Mattis:
Today’s violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump. His use of the Presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison our respect for fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice.
Even Unitary Executive Theory fanboy Bill Barr condemned Trump’s actions, and he’s an openly corrupt disgrace to the legal profession who makes Attorney Generals like John Mitchell and Alberto Gonzales look like Clarence Darrow. Let’s side aside for now his own culpability in bringing us to this pretty pass.
One of many many sad aspects of the debacle was the way it overshadowed the historic victories of Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia senatorial runoffs, making them Georgia’s first Black and Jewish Senators, respectively. (Who here is old enough to remember the Georgia runoffs, which took place approximately 10,000 years ago?) The impact of those crucial victories, which gave the Democrats control of the Senate for at least the first two years of the Biden administration, may have more practical impact than the riots, even if the riots will surely leave a more lasting psychological scar.
That is, if the US Senate remains standing by January 20.
For even if the Republic survives the next two weeks, yesterday doesn’t bode well for a spirit of healing and Kum-ba-ya brand togetherness in the post-Trump era. As the comedian Josh Gondelman tweeted, “Wow, Trump supporters are so eager to help Biden reach across the aisle they’re violently storming the Capitol two weeks before his inauguration! They sure seem like reasonable people, ready to compromise!”
Hey guys, I dunno if this is the right time, but I’d love to talk some more about Hillary’s emails. What a crime against humanity those were, amirite people?
I Don’t Hear The Fat Lady, Yet
So what comes next?
When it comes to thirteen-day clusters, the one we’re in now promises to be among the most fraught since October 1962.
We now know, in case there was any doubt, and contrary to still more assurances from his apologists, that there is nothing Trump won’t try.
He might cite the very violence he fomented as reason to declare martial law. There would certainly be angry pushback, at this point even from his own party, but would that stop him? Of course not. If I’d told you yesterday morning that pro-Trump radicals would breach the Capitol building and temporarily shut down the certification of Biden’s win, would you have believed that?
He has other frightening options too. He might start a war. He might spin up a Reichstag fire, declare a national emergency, and invoke the Insurrection Act, which could piggyback with a Ferdinand Marcos impression and declaration of martial law. And of course, he always has the nuclear codes.
All these possibilities are why — on top of sheer principle — voices from across the ideological spectrum, from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to David Frum to General (Ret.) Barry McCaffrey, are calling for Trump’s immediate removal, NOW, as a clear and present danger to the republic, whether by impeachment, the 25th Amendment (which Chuck Schumer called for), or a Goldwater-esque demand for resignation.
The seeds sown by Republican obeisance and congressional quiescence have now yielded their bitter harvest. With his incitement of a direct assault on the people’s house, the president has forfeited his claim to finish his term. The House must again impeach him, and the Senate must vote to remove him. And as it does so, it must bar him from ever again serving in public office.
All the aforementioned repercussions are unlikely, but if ordering thugs to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power is not a high crime, what is? Nancy Pelosi should have articles of impeachment being drawn up right now and have a vote in the House today, and Schumer should convene a trial asap, which he has said he would do. Are there 17 Republican senators who would vote to convict? Probably not….though, secretly, the ones with presidential ambitions like Cruz and Hawley, for purely selfish reasons, would surely love to have Trump barred from running for office again.
In any case, make no mistake: this ain’t over. Does anyone really think that what happened yesterday — as horrifying and unthinkable as it was — will be the final or even the worst atrocity Trump has in store for us as the vise closes on him in his remaining two weeks in office? In the next two weeks and especially come January 20, he will likely call on his goons again, if not some even more destructive ploy. After yesterday, the prospect of a routine Inauguration Ceremony is all but unimaginable. (To begin with, the seditionists tore apart the stage that was being built.) The image of Trump physically refusing to leave the White House — with a phalanx of these troglodytes forming a human wall to protect him, and provoking a violent confrontation with law enforcement — is more likely than not.
Like they say, watch this space.
Photo: Film Daily
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