Democracy under siege

Capitol protester Jake Angeli

On 6 January 2021, an angry, armed mob stormed the Capitol building in Washington, D.C; intending to disrupt Congress in the pursuit of their required duties. The Capitol Police and the D.C. City Police attempted to hold them back, but were quickly overwhelmed by the group, brandishing pro-Trump signs and chanting pro-Trump slogans.

This was no peaceful protest. Five people died as a direct result of the siege, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. U.S. Senators and Representatives had to interrupt their official business and scramble to safety in an underground safe room.

Why on 6 January?

In years following Presidential elections, 6 January is the date that both houses of Congress open boxes with the results of the Electoral College vote, tally them, and hear any objections. It’s largely a ceremonial role, because everybody by now knows Joe Biden won both the popular and electoral votes. But it’s an important step, because once Congress certifies the vote, the process is done; Joe Biden will become President on 20 January, and there’s no turning back.

How did the demonstrators get inside so easily?

My belief is that since no one was expecting an attack, no one was prepared to challenge the protestors. By the time the police realized the group was armed and dangerous, it was too late to keep them out — they could only get them out. Pushing the lawbreakers out the door was the best they could do; there just weren’t enough on-duty police to do a proper mass arrest; while at the same time keeping the legislators safe and out of harm’s way.

What if it had been a BLM protest?

The point has been raised that if it were a BLM protest, the protestors would have gotten a much more forceful response from the police. I’m sure they would have (unfortunately!) In any case no one was expecting a group of white demonstrators to turn armed and dangerous — until they did.

The fog of war

There is a phrase in the military, the fog of war, which means once the fighting starts, there is no way for the senior officers to know exactly what’s going on. Things are just happening too fast and in too many places for the high command to have real-time information on everything. By the time the upper ranks knew what was happening, it was too late to be proactive.

It’s possible that there were no contingency plans for this particular situation. (I can understand that. Not even in the Civil War was a government building in Washington attacked.) Although I’m certain that now those missing plans are being drawn up.

Definition: insurrection

“A violent uprising against an authority or government.” (Oxford Languages.) If the people have a legitimate grievance to what their government is doing, there are always legal procedures that could be followed. Using violence, as in carrying firearms, is an attempt to bypass normal procedures and achieve one’s ends by force.

Definition: sedition

“Conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.” (Oxford Languages.) Only a fool or a megalomaniac will take on the man by his lonesome. To have any kind of impact, you need a group supporting you. By speaking out against the man you incite others to join your cause. The powers-that-be want to keep this from happening, so they make sedition illegal.

Definition: coup d’état

“A coup d’état is the removal of an existing government from power, usually through violent means. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a political faction, the military, or a dictator.” (Wikipedia.) It’s the forceable takeover of an existing government outside of constitutionally sactioned procedures such as elections. The 6 January mob did not use constitutionally sanctioned procedures.

british soldiers on the march
british soldiers on the march

Some historical comparisons

The War of 1812

In 1814, the British invaded Washington, D.C. and set fires to important government buildings. This was the only time the American capitol was attacked, although the occupation was a short one and the damage limited — because a severe thunderstorm put out the fires and convinced the Redcoats to get out of town.

The U.S. Civil War

In 1860 and 1861, Southern (southeast U.S.) states seceded and set up their own separate country called the Confederate States of America. This turned violent in 1861, with the start of the Civil War. I’m not going to give you a complete history of that war, but in any case the rebel army was never able to threaten Washington.

Was Trump responsible for the insurrection?

While it can certainly be argued that President Trump encouraged the rioters, there is no direct evidence he originally incited it. However, he was quite slow to disavow it. The most he said on 6 January was “you can go home now”, as if to say he wasn’t sorry it happened, it had served its purpose, and it was time to call it quits. And just exactly what might have that purpose been?

Thinking the unthinkable

One of the reasons the insurrection went on as long (before the police started seriously fighting back) was that such a thing was unthinkable. Something like that just doesn’t happen in today’s USA. Until it did. By having armed and dangerous rowdies stomp around a major government building just because they didn’t agree with the way the election came out, they set a precedent for the next time. (Since they were interfering with an election, could you call that a precedent-elect?) 🙂 Now that it has happened, others who have been tempted to do the same are more likely to pick up a gun and head downtown. If enough people act on that impulse, perhaps the United States Government could be overthrown. This might have been the point all along.

Did the Democrats steal the election?

President Trump and his supporters have made many accusations that the election was stolen, but very little evidence has come up to support this. Which can mean one of two things: either there was no systematic cheating, or the conspiracy ran so deep that all evidence of it was successfully covered up. Anything in the middle would have been all over the news. However, I’ve been jolted by some very respectable names agreeing with the Trumpian point of view.

Personally, I’ve been very disappointed in the reign of the 46th President. I’ve been waiting for him to say just one thing that makes sense. I’m still waiting.

The next week

With the calendar running out on the Donald J. Trump presidency, what can we expect to happen? The infamous “second impeachment” of President Trump won’t be finished by 20 January, and it’s not clear if it can proceed anyway (to prevent President Trump from ever holding office again). But if there’s any doubt, I’m sure it will go to the Supreme Court to decide — and the Supreme Court is definitely dominated by the Republican point of view.

President-Elect Biden has made it clear that he will be inaugurated on the steps of the Capitol building just like his predecessors. But (and I really hate to say it) there is a chance there will be an attempt on his life, to keep him out of the Oval Office. The best defense against such a thing is for Vice-President-Elect Harris to hole up somewhere (like on a nearby Army base with a “blue” commanding officer) until things quiet down. (Her swearing-in could be done remotely.) By preventing a simultaneous attack on both of them, there would be no point to an attack on either of them.

But there has been a sign that Trump is planning to make his exit from the White House on schedule. Cardboard moving boxes have been delivered to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The Lollapalooza

Overall, President Trump has been acting like a wounded forest animal caught in a hunter’s trap. Behavior of this sort comes from a fear that something someone did — something shameful or at least punishable — is about to be revealed. Not only will Trump be unable to “keep the [secrecy] lid on the pot” after his term of office ends, he will also lose his Presidential immunity. I call this something the Lollapalooza.

Now let me make it clear that I have no idea what this Lollapalooza is, I just believe it’s something big. But we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?