Looks like I wrote my last article a bit too soon. In listing the most shocking events of my life I missed one: the storming of the US Capitol. “Storm” is not a verb you get to use very often in American political discourse, but there it was. Insurrection is another one we don’t get to bandy about on a regular basis. I was texting with friends while the thing was unfolding and fielding comments about how singular this event was. There was a lot of hyperbole along the lines of claiming that this was unprecedented and that there had never been violence attached to American transitions of power.
First off, the fact that we once had a Civil War during a transition of power is the obvious answer. Although, in that situation it wasn’t as if James Buchanan (our only gay… I mean bachelor president) was attempting to hold on to power. It was just that a large portion of the country couldn’t accept the election of Abraham Lincoln. He hadn’t said he was going to do anything about slavery, and I for one am not sure he was going to, but they couldn’t tolerate someone who didn’t like it, so they seceded. It’s a bit like what happened with people stocking up on guns and ammo when Obama was elected. He never said he was doing anything about guns and never did anything about guns, but people thought he would so there it was.
Aside from the Civil War, there was lots of violence in Congress leading up to the Civil War. The exact facts of the storming of the Capitol were new, but only in a trivial sense. Generally speaking, there has been lots of political violence in America: assassinations of four presidents, the wounding of several more, attempts on others (did you know Puerto Rican separatists once tried to kill Eisenhower?), innumerable acts of terrorism and political violence against African-Americans in the south, and of course the original act of political violence, the American Revolution.
But I haven’t lived through almost any of it, so I’ll admit this was shocking. I remember Reagan being shot but that wasn’t politically motivated. The biggest act of political violence of my lifetime was the Oklahoma City Bombing. That had a lot of similarities to what happened here but was staggeringly more lethal. Timothy McVeigh wasn’t crazy, at least not in the clinical sense, he just bought into a slew of awful ideology and baseless conspiracy theories. He was a part of a network of right-wing “thinkers” who managed to convey their garbage theories before mass access to the internet. They were much more virulent than today’s extremists, and much more violent. The reason we’re more aware of today’s nutjobs is that they can get together on the internet. Who would care how many back woods bars were buzzing with talk of QAnon (I don’t even know how to spell it)? The problem is that the hardcore crazies can get online and recruit our dopey aunts and uncles.
There was angry talk about wanting the police to shoot more of the protestors. I admit I had this impulse. I mean seriously, what did they think would happen to people who broke into Congress? I have no sympathy for anyone killed trying to do that. But we don’t want to make martyrs out of people. The calls I heard from my friends for the army to get involved seemed needless. I figured it would just take a short time for the police to restore order, far less time than it would take for the military to arrive. I was right about that. This is not a movement that has any traction among the population of DC. Don’t let any buses from Iowa across the Potomac and you’re good. Incidentally, that was one major reason why the Founding Fathers wanted to have a national capital that wasn’t in one of the big cities. You don’t want a mob having any ability to influence national politics through violence.
But I admit, the dark angel of my nature really wanted to see hoses turned on the people who lingered about after the storming. They knew what they were doing. It’s January and it would have been fun to see them waddle away trying to look tough through chattering teeth. Which brings up one of my favorite bits of the riot, the moron who tased himself in the balls and then died. Look up his hilarious pictures threatening BLM protestors with guns if you want a laugh. Not exactly the vanguard of the Aryan Nation.
This was shocking event, but I saw a Tweet that this day had changed America more than 9/11. One curse of knowing a lot of history is having to weather such blinkered statements as that. I’m guessing he means that people have turned on Trump. They have, but mostly only the rational people who already hated him. I’ve said this many times before. No one who is persuadable got to the point of voting for Trump in 2016 much less made it through these last insane four years without changing their minds. This event changed none of his supporters’ minds. They sat through the months of claiming the election would be rigged then had no alarm bells go off when he actually claimed it had been rigged. This despite the fact that Trump actually outperformed the polls. So, both the election and the polls were rigged without leaving any evidence that they were. That is to say rigged effectively enough to produce gigantic margins in multiple states, again without leaving any evidence aside from Trump’s word. If that convinces you, there isn’t any help for you. The riot at the Capitol isn’t going to persuade you, nothing is.
P.S. Now, I’ve been pretty forceful here, so I’ll just add a few words to maintain a little balance. I understand there is a difference between a Trump supporter and a Trump voter. Many people whose opinion I respect ended up voting for Trump. Some thought he would bring a faster end to Covid restrictions, and some just think the Democrats are a more destructive force for America. They’re not voting Blue no matter what. I’m sympathetic to that view. I voted wholeheartedly for Biden, but with the knowledge that I am letting people into power who may do damage to America. Not Trump-level damage, but long term economic and social damage that may be harder to gauge. I was deeply disappointed that the Democrats gained control of the Senate despite feeling that the Republicans do need to be rebuked for allowing Trump to happen. I like Biden, but I don’t think much of his party.