On Wednesday morning it appeared that the Democratic Party was ascendant in American federal politics for the first time since 2010, with the party on the cusp of forming a super majority in the country’s government. Not only was the Congress going to enact what has in the past been a mainly ceremonial process of certifying the president elect’s victory later in the day, but runoff Senate races the day before in Georgia had been won by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
The wins meant that, barring intransigence from the center right of the Democratic party itself, for at least the next two years, Vice President Harris will cast the deciding vote in the case of a tie in the now evenly split Senate. Thus, a path had been cleared for the incoming president to pass legislation to help working Americans struggling through the health and economic crises created by a pandemic and exacerbated by the Whiner in Chief and his rightwing allies in both houses of the U.S. Congress.
Further, with numbers similar to or surpassing the margins achieved by President-elect Biden in the state in the November election, the Senate wins seemed to fully repudiate the outgoing president’s claim that massive voter fraud had occurred there, causing him to lose the Peach State’s 16 electoral votes. Nonetheless, President Trump continued to lie to his supporters in a speech he gave that very day, telling them that 66,000 people under the age of 18 had voted for Biden in Georgia, swinging the election there in former vice-president’s favor.
Rather than finally accepting the results, Trump allies in the media and in the country’s Congress spent two months helping him whip up his supporters with this kind of conspiracy theorizing, including the absurd claim that Canadian voting machines in some states (but apparently not in others) were controlled by the government of Venezuela.
There were signs of what was coming the night before on the streets of Washington, DC. Already on Tuesday night, a number of videos began to circulate of Proud Boys and other far right agitators confronting police as they were preparing themselves, likely through the consumption of alcohol, for their promised ‘Stop the Steal’ protest against the electoral college vote that would end the delusion that their hero had been the true winner of the November election.
Authorities were also well aware of the stabbings and other violence that took place in the capital in mid-December at the last big MAGA rally.
The Proud Boys and other MAGA supporters who joined them on Tuesday night seemed to have no understanding of police tactics like kettling and reacted to them with rage, railing against the very authorities they’d spent the whole summer praising as many in law enforcement attacked mainly peaceful Black Live Matter protesters in cities throughout the country.
Even as they were admonished and threatened by men who claimed to be ‘small business owners’ and ‘veterans’, DC police didn’t react with anything near the level of violence we saw in Kenosha, Wisconsin and other cities throughout the summer. No Proud Boys or Oath Keepers were bundled into unmarked cars for questioning as BLM supporters were in Portland, Oregon.
The outgoing president, who for all intents and purposes incited an attack on the country’s Congress while the certification of Biden was taking place, was reportedly hiding in his motorcade after promising to lead his supporters to the capitol building, telling them in a speech before they stormed it, “After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down anyone you want, but I think right here. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
They showed the strength their leader had called for by setting up a noose and a makeshift gallows outside of the building and seemed to easily push past police who lacked the kind of body armor we have grown used to seeing at protests in the country, storming the capital and forcing those inside to hide.
Photos and video from the scene showed the insurrectionists sitting in the Senate chamber and in Nancy Pelosi’s office. Some reportedly stole items from that and other Congressional offices.
Rather than seeming prepared, Capitol Police came across as even more feckless than they had in videos from the previous night. In fairness, unless they were monitoring TheDonald.win and social media sites like Parler (as they should have been) they couldn’t know what these MAGA supporters were planning.
Considering what we’ve learned about far right infiltration of law enforcement and the military in the United States in recent years, perhaps some of them did know and even supported the actions of the insurrectionists, as video quickly surfaced of police taking selfies with some of those who just stormed the building. There is also footage of police opening a fence to let a horde of MAGA supporters in.
Compared to what we saw when police brutally cleared Lafayette Square on June 1st of last year to provide the outgoing president with his now infamous Bible toting photo opp, for whatever reason, law enforcement in the capital of the most powerful country in the world seemed overwhelmed by these self-proclaimed ‘patriots’.
There were also images of the so-called protesters using what appears to be a police riot shield to break windows on the side of the building, allowing them to enter and begin opening doors to let others in without any visible police presence to deter them.
Having said all this, some police did seem to try to do their jobs under what must have been extremely difficult circumstances in which they were vastly outnumbered.
The rioter’s actions led to the shooting death of a woman, Ashli Babbitt, who I watched bleed out in real time in a horrifying live stream. While progressives never celebrate police violence and she will likely become a rallying cry for future MAGA dead enders, it’s hard to argue that storming the Capitol was anything but stupid and those involved are lucky that more of them didn’t die as a result their own clearly illegal actions.
As soon as it was established that there would be no revolution and that their behavior had caused the world to view them with revulsion, some on the MAGA right began to look for others to blame. It was inevitable that they would land on ‘antifa’, who have been branded ‘terrorists’ within their echo chamber.
Besides the promise by Proud Boys that they would dress all in black in imitation of ‘antifa’ on Wednesday, the internet was soon full of images of well known Trump supporters both at the gates of and storming the capitol building.
In what might be the most disgusting example, White supremacist streamer Baked Alaska (Tim Gionet), who usually spends his time harassing low wage essential workers for enforcing mask mandates and publicly insulting people of color, complained that a SWAT member pushed him as he was being ejected from the building.
Gionet is reportedly Covid 19 positive and was not wearing a mask. He has not to my knowledge been arrested.
For more conventional voices on the right, there are already some taking a ‘both sides’ approach to what happened, with Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, who was one of those contesting the presidential election result, telling reporters, “What do you think was taking place in this country? There’s been a lot of people during the last four years that have just been getting more and more incensed over what is going on around the country, on both sides. It’s just too bad. This is not how we handle things in America.”
One thing that we learned on Wednesday was that you can’t defeat what looks more and more like actual fascism rather than creeping authoritarianism by ignoring it and hoping it will go away. I fear that judging by what he’s said since, President-elect Biden still doesn’t understand this.
Incoming Missouri Congressperson Cori Bush better articulated how to stand up to these reactionary forces, explaining her plans for Trump’s enablers on Twitter, “My first resolution in Congress will be to call for the expulsion of the Republican members of Congress who incited this domestic terror attack on the Capitol.”
Without consequences for those who encouraged what happened on Wednesday, up to and including the outgoing president, such lawlessness could become a normal feature of American political life.