Links and Comments: It Could Have Been Worse; It Might Get Worse; Lessons

I don’t pretend to have any special insight into current events, but for the sake of perspective, of checking back from the future to see where we were at on this day, I will briefly summarize.

(Similarly, it would be interesting to have had day by day accounts of past events that have jolted the nation, to see how the stories unfolded and how various players reacted to them at the time, day by day.)

On Wednesday, the day Congress was scheduled to acknowledge the various certified state votes with the result that Joe Biden was confirmed as the next president, Trump egged on a crowd of supporters, or “protestors,” on the grounds that the election had been stolen from him (despite all the actual evidence) and to march on the Capitol, where the mob broke police barriers, invaded the building, and ransacked it. Five people died.

Three days later, Trump has not backed down, though Twitter has *finally* deleted his incendiary account(s) and Congress is considering a second impeachment, even if he is due to leave office in less than two weeks.

And people are beginning to worry that there will be a second siege by Trump cultists on inauguration day. (I will be surprised if the inauguration is held outdoors, as it traditionally is. That’s asking for trouble.)

Today news is emerging that it could have been worse, and that the rioters were not all just hooligans, but that some had murderous intent.

Washington Post: A mob insurrection stoked by false claims of election fraud and promises of violent restoration

CNN: Now it’s sinking in: Wednesday’s Capitol Hill riot was even more violent than it first appeared

Slate: They Were Out for Blood, subtitled, The men who carried zip ties as they stormed the Capitol weren’t clowning around.

The zip-tie guys apparently wanted to round up Pelosi and Schumer and execute them. And Mike Pence was to be hanged (thus a noose was mounted near the Capitol) for having subverted Trump’s election win.

Apparently the ‘protestors’ who converged on Washington really did believe that Trump had won in a landslide, and the election was stolen from him, because that’s what Trump told them, and some people (70 million) don’t notice or don’t care that Trump lies all the time, with his personal interests always top priority.


I do have an original thought (at least something I’ve not seen anyone else express). That Trump’s self-styled revolutionaries are obviously loony-bins on many levels, divorced from reality and committed to fantastic, nonsensical conspiracy theories (QAnon, covid denialism, etc.), is it possible that revolutionaries in past era – even if they won – were similarly looney? Just because you win your war, or your revolution, doesn’t mean you were right.


Next, two essays making the same point as I made yesterday: the idea that we can claim “this is not who we are”…

The New Yorker, David Remnick: The Inciter-in-Chief, subtitle, How surprising can Donald Trump’s recent provocation be when for years he has served as an inspiration to bigots everywhere?

Once the Capitol was cleared, the solemn assurances that “this is not who we are” began. The attempt at self-soothing after such a traumatic event is understandable, but it is delusional. Was Charlottesville not who we are? Did more than seventy million people not vote for the Inciter-in-Chief? Surely, these events are part of who we are, part of the American picture. To ignore those parts, those features of our national landscape, is to fail to confront them.

New York Times, Brent Staples: The Myth of American Innocence, subtitled, The Capitol attack shows the danger of forgetting America’s history.

…Talking heads queued up to tell the country again and again that the carnage was an aberration and “not who we are” as a people.
This willful act of forgetting — compounded by the myth of American innocence — has shown itself to be dangerous on a variety of counts. For starters, it allowed many Americans to view the president’s insistence that he had won an election in which he was actually trounced, and his simultaneous embrace of right-wing extremism, as political theater that will pass uneventfully from the stage when Joe Biden is inaugurated.

With a historical summary of past examples. Ending:

The mob assault on the Capitol was an outgrowth of what came before. It followed a heavily racialized campaign by a president who falsely portrayed African-American cities as hot spots of voting fraud, while endearing himself to white supremacists. Republicans who subscribe to this toxic strategy deserve to be held responsible for the chaos it reaps. For shades of things to come, they need look no further than the damaged Capitol and the dead and injured who were hauled away on gurneys.


Stepping back for a take on Republicans and conservatism in general, here is Andrew Sullivan, from his latest weekly newsletter:

This Is The Face Of The GOP Now, subtitled, The descent from conservatism to nihilism is now complete.

It pains me to say it, but this week was, in many ways, the essence of American “conservatism” in 2021. It has morphed from a politics to a theological movement to a personality cult. It is a threat to the very foundations of liberal democracy. It is nihilist, performative, incoherent and bristling with the certainty of fundamentalists and the corruption of grifters. It has destroyed this country’s fiscal standing, wrecked this country’s international reputation, trashed the norms and practices of liberal democracy, perverted the rule of law, accelerated climate change, and now physically vandalized the most sacred civil place in America.

And for what? Ratings? Soaring and destabilizing inequality? A national debt previously unthinkable in peacetime? Thousands and thousands of viral deaths that might have been prevented by the simple act of a president wearing a mask in public and urging others to do the same? The eradication of a shared concept of truth? The embrace of Kim Jong Un? The delegitimization of the entire press? The rehabilitation of Putin? The wet dreams of Netanyahu? Or the acceleration of Iran’s nuclear bomb? Pick one or all of them. The last two Republican presidents have ended their terms with the country in ruins. We cannot afford another one until the GOP is razed and rebuilt as a viable, democratic party.

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