The title above is probably the strangest phrase I’ve ever written. It sounds like the beginning of a dystopian short story, written generations ago by someone who could never have imagined such an event taking place here in America (see Orwell, George).
But the fact is that we did witness an attempted coup d’etat today. And it wasn’t that hard to see it coming.
Dateline: 06 January 2021
Our nation has just come through the most contentious and divisive election in generations. Our 45th President, Donald Trump, was soundly defeated by Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden, who won both the electoral vote (306 to 232) and the popular vote (81.2 million to 74.2 million). Despite the clear victory and each state’s certification of its electors, President Trump still falsely claims still that he won the election “by a landslide”.
Inexplicably, there remains a relatively small sect that wholeheartedly believes his lies in spite of clear evidence to the contrary. Usually, these delusions typically only harm the deluded, with their benign ramblings limited to unfiltered discussions on Parler and their viral superspreader events.
The Day in Question
Today was the appointed day for both houses of Congress to certify the election, state by state, in a joint session conducted in the House chamber. We knew ahead of time that some of the Trump partisan loyalists, including one of my own senators, Ted Cruz, would object to the certification. Though the reasons given by each of the intended objectors defied logic and reason, we knew ahead of time that this wouldn’t be the typical 30-minute ceremonial process normally associated with approving the vote count.
Not too far from the capital building, the President was holding another rally, full of maskless attendees who keep forgetting that we’re in the midst of a pandemic that has taken over 300,000 Americans. For weeks he had been encouraging his followers via Twitter to come to Washington today to protest: “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” To the many thousands of attendees there, he delivered a typical Trumplican message with the usual stolen election nonsense, and left them with this: “We will never give up, we will never concede!”
As the House and Senate adjourned to their separate chambers to debate the first of the objections to certification – we got as far as [checks notes] the letter A before the first objection – the rally attendees descended on the capital building, and many of them turned from noisy protestors into terrorist rioters. This MAGA-clad mob stormed the capital, breaking out windows and prying doors to gain access to one of the most secure buildings in the world. Congresspersons and Senators who were in their respective chambers were whisked away to a secure location, and in those empty chambers and offices many of the terrorists looted the historic building, some stopping to take some self-incriminating photos along the way.
In the melee, one person – reportedly one of the terrorists – was shot and later died at a hospital. Several law enforcement officers were also injured, and an undisclosed number of the terrorists were arrested. Windows were broken, doors jarred, numerous items were removed or destroyed, and sensitive information was left at risk due to the staffers’ hasty exit.
It was clear that the Capital Police were overwhelmed, but it took far too long for reinforcements to arrive. It was widely reported that President Trump initially resisted deploying the National Guard to assist with putting down the insurrection. Eventually, backup arrived and began to push back the crowd. A shocking number of the terrorists were allowed to simply leave without being detained.
The total cost of this attempted coup is going to be difficult to calculate. At least one of the invaders was killed by law enforcement, and at least one officer was reported to have been injured to the point of requiring hospitalization. The financial cost for cleanup and repair is going to be significant, and the cost for extra security personnel is likely to rise permanently in reaction to this criminal uprising.
But beyond the loss of life and financial cost is the lasting impact on our republic by this attempted coup. This is the United States of America, and things like this just don’t happen here. We’re the most stable nation in the history of the world, and have had a peaceful transfer of power in each of the last 44 administration changes. Until January 6th, 2021, that is.
Donald Trump’s lies, unethical behavior, and juvenile musings on social media were already going to leave their sad mark on this nation. When you add the events of this awful day, which were promoted and encouraged by Trump himself, will leave a stain on this nation long after we stop hearing his name in the news.
We’ll likely be hearing the “Fake news!” nonsense when a story contradicts the baked-in world view of the simple minded. The cries of “Stop the steal!” are almost certain to arise when a boisterous candidate sees the election swing the other way. And many of us will cringe at the prospect of any change of administration, fearing a recurrence of the foolish and deadly events of today.
As I write this, the House and the Senate have resumed their procedures, voting down the first of the objections to state certifications. There have been numerous resignations by White House staffers, and rumors of many more. Twitter just disabled Trump’s Twitter account (for 12 hours, anyway), and he’s reported to be in full tantrum. There are several reports from credible sources that the invocation of the 25th Amendment has been considered, though this admittedly. would be a long shot.
There are just 14 days left until inauguration. I’ve long predicted that Trump would resign before that day, and I think the events of today make that even more likely. For now, I’m just crossing my fingers that we can hold this ship together until the adults arrive.