NOT FAKE NEWS: For more than four years now, Donald J. Trump has been screaming “Fire!” inside a crowded theater. This Wednesday, we all saw the consequences.
It should come as no surprise. While still running for office, Trump infamously boasted, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?” For good measure, he added, “It’s, like, incredible.”
Since being elected in 2016, Trump has ruled in a manner befitting a mob boss. This Wednesday, the nation saw firsthand just what mob violence looks like, as right-wing looters and thugs stampeded their way into the nation’s Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., smashing windows, vandalizing art, and occupying the offices of elected officials. Most were white. None wore masks. Masks, it turns out, are the fashion accessory of choice for “sheeple.”
So many looters memorialized the moment by taking selfies that it could have been mistaken for a 5G commercial.
Sadly, it was all too real.
If this is democracy, Russia and China were quick to chuckle, the United States can keep its lectures on human rights to itself. Throughout South America, governments dismissed — some fairly, some not — as “banana republics” have taken grim delight at the banana peel of our own attempted coup.
Remember Trump’s comments about not wanting refugees from “shithole countries?”
The definition of a true “shithole country” is one that can’t safeguard the transition of power from one duly elected president to the next.
The definition of a true “shithole” is a leader who refuses to peacefully leave office after having lost the election.
“We love you. You’re special,” Trump said to the looters he had already invited to the party. “But go home.”
This April, he exhorted his followers to liberate Michigan from the tyranny of a COVID-mandated lockdown enacted by its governor, Gretchen Whitmer. In May, armed members of a right-wing militia stormed Michigan State Capitol to express their displeasure with such restrictions. Not long after, the FBI revealed a plot by right-wing militia members to kidnap the governor.
Trump has been the quintessential populist demagogue, diverting the legitimate grievance of America’s dispossessed, white, blue-collar workers into the dead-end distraction of racist anger and white supremacy. In the same breath, he’s cut taxes for the rich and gutted regulations for big businesses.
It’s an old song and dance, but obviously, it still works.
During September’s presidential debate, Trump was challenged to disavow white supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys.
“Stand back and stand by.”
Some people got the message loud and clear. Chief among them were the Proud Boys themselves, who were very much in evidence at Wednesday’s attack.
The question remains, how could this have been allowed to happen? This, after all, is the United States, reputedly the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. Do we not have the most sophisticated intelligence-gathering machinery on the planet? How could we not protect the Capitol Building — the Vatican of Democracy — from an unruly mob of armed, camouflage-wearing insurrectionists intoxicated by right-wing conspiracy theories?
Everyone knew they were coming.
Trump, after all, had urged them to show up to help “un-steal” the election he so resoundingly lost. Trump repeatedly declined to abide by the election results, even many months before the election was held. Did the Capitol Police — a department unto itself — not plan for this eventuality? Why were they caught so off-guard? Why did it take so long for reinforcements to arrive?
One protester got shot and killed as a result. Three others died of unspecified medical emergencies during the attempted coup. More than 50 officers were injured in the melee.
Still, one wonders.
Why were so few arrests made?
Until we get answers, we are left with the disconcerting image of a police officer pausing to pose for a selfie with an insurrectionist looter.
Had the insurrectionists been with Black Lives Matter, we know the response would have been more brutal. Just last June, we saw how federal police violently dispersed Birkenstock-wearing protesters peacefully assembled at Lafayette Square across from the White House so that a Bible-toting Trump could make his way to a photo op in front of a historic church.
A week ago, 10 former Secretaries of Defense — Republicans and Democrats — called on Trump and his Republican apologists to recognize the election of Joe Biden as legitimate. One — William Cohen — warned of a possible coup d’etat.
Just another unprecedented event in our all too unprecedented times.
If Trump had any evidence of the election fraud he’s alleged, surely some of the 60 judges — many of whom Trump appointed — who heard the more than 50 legal challenges filed on his behalf would have said something. In fact, they did. They said, “Case dismissed.”
Some Senators and Congressmembers have argued that the election results needed to be put on ice pending further review of all the allegations. Doug Lee LaMalfa, a Republican from California, is one. When asked about the lack of any substantiating evidence, LaMalfa replied, he was not on the moon back in 1969 but he believes that American astronauts walked on the moon.
This Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol will no doubt go down as a great wake-up call that none of should have ever needed. It’s not just House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats who are calling for Trump to be removed from office. The National Association of Manufacturers, no less, is now asking Vice President Mike Pence, along with cabinet secretaries, to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would declare that Trump was no longer able to perform his presidential duties and Pence would take over until Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20. Few organizations enjoyed tighter relations with Trump.
Even Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House leader from Bakersfield, is expressing horror at what happened Wednesday. So, too, is Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other Republicans, who for the past four years, redefined the meaning of shamelessness as they sucked up to Trump so hard their cheeks cramped up.
Among the most shameless cheerleaders is Senator Ted Cruz. The senator from Texas — who continued to challenge Joe Biden’s Electoral College win to the very end — it should be noted, ran against Trump in the primary. Trump attacked Cruz, accusing his father of assassinating President John F. Kennedy and calling Cruz’s wife ugly.
Shortly before 4 a.m. this Thursday, the House and Senate voted to accept the results of this November’s election. Democracy, we can rest easy, triumphed.
It wasn’t a battle anyone should have had to fight.
And one battle doesn’t win the war.
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