Its been a little over a week since the United States Capitol –the most sacred building and most well-known symbol of American democracy– which was holding a joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 presidential election results, was attacked by an unholy alliance of far-right groups: white supremacist groups, QAnon conspiracy groups, and by extremist MAGA cult followers. The one thing neo-Nazis, Confederate sympathizers, and MAGA cultists all have in common, aside from their ignorance and bigotry, is Donald Trump.
They were brought to Capitol by Trump and his co-conspirators. Since losing the election, Trump has tried every legal avenue available to contest the election results. Despite losing in the contested states, losing every court case, and having the election results certified by every state in the country, they spewed their dangerous propaganda: the election was rigged by widespread voter fraud. Remember, Trump said months before the election that if he didn’t win, the election was rigged. Trump never conceded the election, which all but ensured there would be no peaceful transition of power.
Of course, there was never a shred of evidence to support any widespread voter fraud. It was all a lie. Trump’s lawyers didn’t make a single legal argument of voter fraud in any of the dozens of local, state, and federal courthouses they appealed to. And yet, the right-wing “news” media and the social media platforms pushed this lie without having any basis in reality. With every case lost in court, they didn’t and couldn’t accept the inevitable: Trump lost and it wasn’t even close, despite the record turnout.
Trump and his sycophants lured a crowd to Washington on the date Congress was constitutionally bound to certify the election results. In the days leading up to the event, people like Ted Cruz compared Trump supporters to the “patriots at Bunker Hill” and “Valley Forge.” On the morning of January 6, Rudy Giuliani inflamed the crowd by saying the members of Congress who wouldn’t overturn the election would face “trial by combat.” Donald Trump, Jr. said they were stealing the election and taking away their country. Trump went on with the “stop the steal” theme and told his followers they had to be “strong” and that they were never going to take back their country with “weakness.” Trump continued his incitement, “And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country anymore.”
They used this language like a Mafia crime family giving a kill order to incite the crowd. Instead of “I need to kill this person,” they say “I need you to take care of this person.” Michael Cohen, in his congressional testimony a few years ago, said this is how Trump gives an order with criminal intent. He implies what he wants done but never directly says it.
This wasn’t some spontaneous peaceful protest that organically got out of control. It was a planned and coordinated effort to threaten, take hostage, and likely kill members of Congress who weren’t willing to break their oath to the constitution and essentially anoint Donald Trump as America’s first dictator. Make no mistake: this is the exact opposite of a democratic process –it’s American fascism.
The rabid mob laid siege to the Capitol Building. They broke through the suspiciously-light security and eventually breached the Capitol perimeter. One of the Capitol police officers was murdered with an American flag. One group was on scaffolding trying to replace the American Flag with a MAGA flag.
As chaos reigned outside, Vice President Pence was ushered off the Senate floor. The crowd was calling for Pence to be hanged. They even constructed a gallows just outside the building. The mob stormed passed the last lines of defense and made their way into the Capitol rotunda. By then, most members of Congress had been brought to an undisclosed location inside the building. As the mob was inside the building, Trump, who was reportedly “enthusiastically” watching the event unfold on TV from the White House, refused to activate the National Guard. It was Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator McConnell who intervened to activate the National Guard.
The mob had their way with the building. They destroyed property, ransacked Democratic members’ offices, took selfies and live-streamed the anarchy, and some hunted for members of Congress with zip-tie handcuffs in hand and with guns holstered to their hips.
The full picture of what exactly happened is still being uncovered. How was the Capitol left so vulnerable? How did the mob know where to go when inside the notoriously difficult to navigate Capitol? Why did Trump make last minute changes to the Pentagon just a couple weeks before the attack? Why did some members of Congress report seeing what looked like “reconnaissance tours” being given by some Republican members of Congress the day before the attack? Why did some Democratic members of Congress have their panic buttons removed from their offices before the attack? We’ll understand how deep the plot against America truly was in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Congress reconvened later on in the night of January 6 to certify the election. Despite just having had an insurrection, some members of Congress still spoke of the importance of “free and fair” elections, implying this election was not free and fair. Their rhetoric was of course toned down to protect themselves. Hours and days earlier, it was a “rigged” and “fraudulent” election. Many Republicans, like Jim Jordan, still refuse to say the election wasn’t rigged or fraudulent. These are the same Republicans who threw fuel into the fire Trump started. They’re now being referred to as the “Sedition Caucus.”
Just days after the January 6th insurrection, the House voted to impeach Trump a second time for inciting an insurrection. Trump’s not only the first president to be impeached twice, but he’s the first president to be impeached for inciting an insurrection. The Senate will hold a conviction trial after Biden is sworn into office. If Trump is convicted, he’ll never be able to hold public office again. If he’s not in prison in 2024, and isn’t convicted by the Senate, the 14th Amendment may still prevent him from ever holding office for being guilty of sedition. The same applies to any public officials who gave “…aid or comfort to the enemies…”
There have been only a few events in American history that resulted in a sudden paradigm shift. The Empire of Japan attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Al Qaeda flying commercial airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. All of these attacks came from the hands of foreign enemies. They were paradigm-shifting events: the world was a very different place on September 12, 2001.
The insurrection on January 6, 2021 is also a paradigm-shifting event. It came from within. There’s a reason the founders drafted the oath of office as supporting and defending “the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Anyway you look at it, this was a coup attempt –at best, a passive coup and at worst (and most likely) a coordinated coup from the top down.
The mob who stormed the Capitol are traitors. America is a democracy, which has held for over 240 years. January 6, 2021 was the closest we’ve ever came to losing the democratic republic we’ve been fortunate enough to inherit. Just think of the millions of lives that have been lost defending our freedom and our democracy for generations. All the blood that has been shed, orphans created, and family’s shattered to protect and defend our democratic values and ideals. This wasn’t just an attack on the Capitol. This was an attack on all of us. It was the People’s House that was stormed. It was our elected officials who were terrorized and hunted down.
The MAGA and Trump flags may have been a symbol of bigotry, ignorance, and cult of personality, but it’s now much more sinister than that. On January 6, 2021, it became a symbol of treason and will remain so until the end of time. It’s now officially synonymous with the Confederate flag: a seditious faction that betrayed and threatened American democracy. You may not have been part of the insurrection, but if you brandish that flag in a post-1/6 world, you’re supporting treason.
We’ve entered a new era of American history some time ago, which this event underscored. It’s not especially shocking to some that the insurrection happened. I’ve been writing for years now saying how much of a threat Trump is to our national security and American democracy. I’ve said many times Trump would not go quietly. For those who are students of history and those who are well-informed citizens, this was not as shocking of an event as it should have been. The writing has been on the walls for some time. However, I never thought it would have unfolded the way that it did. I never thought we’d stare down the abyss for hours, unsure of how it would all unfold.
The FBI has warned of threats in all 50 states and another planned attack in Washington D.C. I frankly won’t breathe even a small sigh of relief until President-elect Biden is safely sworn in, Biden can appoint trusted and competent officials to our government agencies, and we begin the process of figuring out where we go from here. These domestic terrorists have stained our democracy, but they haven’t broken it. That was proven when the Congress reconvened and voted to certify President-elect Joe Biden as our next president. They failed and democracy sustained. The next time we may not be so lucky, which is why we need to ensure through executive and legislative actions that this will never happen again.
John Adams, the second president and the first president to peacefully surrender the power of the presidency over to a member of an opposing political party, wrote the following on the fragility of democracies:
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”