Oh my god. That’s just about all you can say about yesterday, when, following a pep talk from Donald Trump, thousands of right-wing psychos breached the doors of the Capitol Building as lawmakers were going through the largely ceremonial step of ratifying Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College in an attempt to… what exactly? Intimidate elected officials into handing the Presidency back to Trump? Straight-up take over the government? Wreak havoc as a show of impotent rage? If it was the third thing they were after, they definitely got it.
This year, we’ve seen our fair share of violence and property damage at protests, but what happened yesterday is not a “both sides” issue. Because this was not a protest. Just ask Senator Chuck Schumer, who said in the Senate chamber last night, “Those who performed these terrible acts cannot be called protestors… They were a few thousand violent extremists who tried to take over the Capitol Building and attack our democracy.”
What happened yesterday was a planned but failed insurrection. That isn’t hyperbole or speculation on my part. There was a Daily Beast story on January 2nd which noted that on the pro-Trump subreddit, The Donald, people were distributing maps charting routes from the Stop the Steal rally directly to Congress and posting comments like, “We’ll storm offices and physically remove and even kill all the D.C. traitors and reclaim the country.”
As Will Sommer, the Daily Beast reporter who coauthored that article, wrote on Twitter yesterday, “So many reporters covering the protest today were able to find plenty of evidence, in advance, that some Trump protesters planned to flood the Capitol. Incredible that police, who have far more capabilities than we do, weren’t better prepared.”
Though the mob was eventually driven off by law enforcement, the only conclusion a reasonable person can make from the fact that it happened at all is that the Washington, D.C. police force were either ill-prepared or didn’t think that the MAGA crowd, who claim to love law enforcement, would try to bum-rush them. (And then, there’s whatever caused this video of an insurrectionist taking a selfie with a police officer inside the Capitol Building to come into existence.)
When the breach happened, Trump did nothing. Or rather, he did worse than nothing: he’s literally the one who made it happen. At the Stop the Steal rally, Trump told the crowd, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol […] we’re never going to take back our country with weakness.” There were other words between the ones I quoted, but clearly, those are the ones his supporters heard.
As Senators and security barricaded themselves in their chambers with furniture as MAGA chuds banged on the door like extras in a George Romero movie, Trump tweeted, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.” That Tweet was deleted, along with this one, in which he blamed Mike Pence for not delivering him the Presidency on the Senate floor.
As I write this, I’m watching Pence give a speech in front of a now-reconvened Senate, condemning the day’s violence and reintroducing the session that will end in a formalized Biden victory. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but it seems like the only recourse at this exact moment is to put Pence in charge for the next two weeks. Between him and Trump, he’s obviously the best man for the job, even if Pence sucks. Fast-track impeachment proceedings, invoke the 25th Amendment, hire a bunch of actors to create a fake TV news channel about how great a job Trump’s doing, and let him binge-watch it for 14 days straight. It doesn’t matter how. The truth is that on January 20, Mike Pence will hand over the keys to the car. Donald Trump will not.
Last night, some of the Republican lawmakers who threatened to derail the counting of the Electoral College votes suddenly changed their tune, in a desperate attempt to backpedal towards a place of decorum, as if their past cries of electoral foul play didn’t contribute to this. If you say an election is fraudulent for long enough, eventually, people are going to take you seriously.
Maybe Trump’s tenure in office was always going to end with the dumbest possible recreation of the storming of the Bastille, and maybe this authoritarian, insurrectionist mentality was always present in a not-insignificant chunk of the American populace. The only thing I know is that yesterday was a mess, and we’ll be cleaning it up long after we’re rid of, as Anderson Cooper called him last night on CNN, “A very small man who was once considered the leader of the free world.”
Contact writer Drew Millard at firstname.lastname@example.org
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