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Trump's Ugly Putsch
Yesterday seals his legacy
It was always going to end this way, wasn’t it? But still, it was a shock. This morning, we are still sorting out what happened to our country on January 6, 2021, a day that will, in fact, live in infamy.
Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are 13 days until the Inauguration of Joe Biden.
It’s hard to overstate the horror of what happened yesterday. The Capitol was attacked. Guns were drawn. People died. Congressmen and senators had to hide. The formal counting of the Electoral College was delayed. The president’s allies in the mob and in Congress tried to overturn the election.
In the end, the putsch failed. Congress certified the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The White House says there will be an “orderly transition.” But this isn’t over yet.
On our livestream last night, we asked two questions:
Does this change anything?
Was yesterday a last spasm of a dying cause, or was it merely prologue?
Let’s start with the change question. I understand the impulse to say that nothing really matters anymore; and Wednesday won’t stop the long descent of much of the right into madness. Even after the mayhem and death of the attack on the Capitol a stunning 138 GOP representatives voted to throw out millions of votes in Pennsylvania.
“These objections don’t deserve an ounce of respect, not an ounce,” said Congressman Conor Lamb (D-PA). “A woman died out there tonight and you’re making these objections. Let’s be clear about what happened in this chamber today – invaders came in for the first time since the War of 1812. They desecrated these halls, in this chamber, and practically every inch of ground where we work.”
"We know that that attack today, it didn't materialize out of nowhere, it was inspired by lies, the same lies that you're hearing in this room tonight." (His remarks almost started a fist-fight on the floor of the House.)
And yet, a majority of the GOP caucus used those lies to justify a vote to trash the election and keep Trump in power.
Yesterday did change things. America was watching. The world was watching. And what they saw was appalling and infuriating. What they saw was not a “protest,” but an attack on the nation’s most sacred symbols.
They saw a breakdown of law and order cheered on by a man who claimed to be the law and order president.
They saw an attempt — incited by Trump— to shut down the nation’s constitutional democracy as it performed one of its most sacred duties.
They they saw an insurrection on behalf of a president who called down the fire in a last desperate effort to cling to power.
What they saw, in the clearest possible way, was the consequence of putting a demagogue in power and enabling and appeasing him, even as he trashed one norm after another.
So yesterday sealed Trump’s legacy.
His presidency is ending in disgrace and disarray. Aides and cabinet member are considering resignations. He’s being abandoned by one ally after another.
One of the nation’s most prominent business organizations, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is urging Pence to consider removing him via the 25th Amendment. The group’s statement is… remarkable:
“Armed violent protestors who support the baseless claim by outgoing president Trump that he somehow won an election that he overwhelmingly lost have stormed the U.S. Capitol today, attacking police officers and first responders, because Trump refused to accept defeat in a free and fair election. Throughout this whole disgusting episode, Trump has been cheered on by members of his own party, adding fuel to the distrust that has enflamed violent anger. This is not law and order. This is chaos. It is mob rule. It is dangerous. This is sedition and should be treated as such. The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit. Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.
Trump’s former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has been reluctant to criticize the president, also delivered a scathing indictment:
"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," he added. "Our Constitution and our Republic will overcome this stain and We the People will come together again in our never-ending effort to form a more perfect Union, while Mr. Trump will deservedly be left a man without a country."
The Wapo editorial board is calling for his removal. (So are we.)
And, with 13 days to go in his presidency, Trump was deemed too dishonest and dangerous to be allowed on Twitter or Facebook, which led to this bizarre moment:
Despite the House vote (which is more appalling the more you think about it), we also saw a break in the GOP’s lockstep support for Trump.
In the Senate, the coup attempt was voted down by votes of 92-7 (PA) and 93-6 (Arizona) — a stunning bipartisan rebuke.
Trump’s coup ended not with a bang, but with a drubbing..
After years of sycophantic, robotic loyalty, Mike Pence broke decisively with his Orange master. His chief enabler, Mitch McConnell, delivered an impassioned refutation of the coup attempt. Even Lindsey Graham shook himself loose from Trump’s thrall.
None of this makes up for their years of collaboration, or their betrayal of principles of basic decency. But, at times, it felt like some Republicans were actually crawling out from the detritus of Trumpism and and trying to return to a modicum of sanity. The bar was admittedly low here, but it has been so long since we heard Republicans talk like this that it felt…. disconcerting.
Here’s Liz Cheney, chair of the House Republican Conference, the third highest ranking member of leadership:
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) earned sustained applause from his colleagues for a thundering speech in which he said elected leaders should show respect for voters by telling them the truth, not fueling groundless doubts about the election.
“We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning,” Romney said. “What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States.”
This is all encouraging. But, as we’ve seen before, the GOP has both a leadership and followership problem.
Much of Trump’s base is actually applauding the attack. Via the Wapo:
But in a sign of just how extreme some have become in their defense of the president, and his unproven allegations of election fraud, there also was early support for breaking into the Capitol and interrupting the certification of the election results.
“This may be the start of something,” said Juan Fiol, 48, a real estate agent in the Miami area who was an early grass-roots organizer for Trump. “People are only going to take so much before they start lashing out.”
Some Trump backers who disapprove of the violence were already blaming it on liberals posing as Trump supporters or on “antifa,” despite the lack of any evidence.
No, it wasn’t antifa.
So, was this a last gasp, or the beginning of something ugly?
I hate to hedge, but I think the answer is: both.
We’re a divided country and it’s likely to get worse. As I said on last night’s livestream, I would not be surprised to see the right-wing begin to embrace the idea of secession.
Unfortunately, it is just one small step from coup d’etat to civil war.
Today’s Bulwark Takes
1. Trump’s Voters Took the Coup Literally and Seriously
Here’s a tip. When you tell tens of millions of people who worship you that you want to overthrow the government, some of them are going to believe you. And then the violence and vigilantism that mark Third World dictatorships will follow. The seventh House conspirator’s speech was interrupted by rioters who understood exactly what these traitors were calling for. They took them seriously and literally.
And so this riotous mob acted accordingly. They swarmed the walls of the Capitol. They bashed in doors and smashed in windows and clashed with police. As they marched through the halls of the Capitol, causing Congress to flee, they vandalized and stole. They breached the House chamber and occupied the speaker’s rostrum. They broke into the speaker’s office. Blood was spilled. One woman was shot and killed.
Thus the dozens of Republicans trying to do their insurrectionist burlesque came face to face with a group of separatist vigilantes who showed up to act as the muscle for the uprising these polished elites had fomented.
And all of a sudden, shit was very, very real.
2. Impeach. Convict. Indict.
Consider me radicalized. Watching Donald Trump’s thugs storm the U.S. Capitol and QAnon crazies roam the Senate and House floors has taken away the last of my interest in calmly waiting out this president during his last two weeks.
After this, if Congress wants to pretend it is still the dominant legislative authority in this country, if its members still want us to view the U.S. Capitol as the seat from which the people govern, they need to immediately impeach and convict Trump and remove him from office for sedition.
The charges should then be sent to the Justice Department, which should arrest Trump and indict him for the same crime.
What is this if not sedition? This was a lawless mob encouraged—practically ordered—by the president to disrupt Congress in the act of recognizing the results of the Electoral College. It was a mob summoned to prevent the peaceful transition of power, to prevent the legitimate government of the United States from exercising the authority granted to it on behalf of the people of the United States. This mob overran the Capitol. Congress fled.
3. The President Is A Danger. Remove Him.
Under the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the president can contest his removal but Congress has up to 21 days to decide whether the president’s powers should be reinstated. We only need to get through the next 14 days. So a declaration by Pence and a majority of the cabinet would be enough to get us through the current crisis.
Under normal conditions, removing the president under the Twenty-fifth Amendment would be a grave step. But these are not normal conditions.
4. The Narcissists’ Coup
Ann Marlowe asks: How did it come to this for the world’s oldest great symbol of democracy?
The putschists in their infantile cosplay getups are devotees of narcissistic self-expression. When some of them referred to Congress as “our house” they didn’t mean that metaphorically; they literally put their feet up on the desks. That’s something only children and boors do. It is too soon to really absorb the events of today, but the corrective to the riot in the Capitol will include a return to the civility of classic liberalism. Let’s hear it for restraint, mutual respect, and pride in following rules.
And let us hope for justice under the law for those who perpetrated the events of today.
5. The World Is Watching Us
Our allies are appalled. Our enemies are delighted.
As rioters attacked and took over the U.S. Capitol, forcing Congress to flee, the world watched—America’s friends looking on with horror, its adversaries with undisguised joy.
Usually when there is political violence somewhere around the world, the U.S. Department of State releases a statement along theselines: Societies are best served when diverse political views are respected and can be freely and peacefully expressed. The United States urges all sides to refrain from violence. Repeated violence and excessive use of force by security forces are deeply troubling.
So naturally Wednesday’s ugly, despicable events at the Capitol, and the anti-democratic lies and incitement that led up to them, elicited schadenfreude from the usual suspects.
Speaking of the “antifa” spin:
What did you expect?