On 1/6, the country came very close to utter disaster. Incited into believing lies about the election being stolen, a mob tried to physically block Congress from certifying it. They came with handguns, flexible handcuffs, crowbars, and set up a noose and gallows. As it was they crushed one police officer to death, and another died this morning. The entire US chain of succession was in the Capitol, hiding, begging for help—that didn’t come for hours.
But this morning, I’ve been thinking about the vast bottomless sea of cynicism from GOP elected officials.
The Sedition Caucus in the Senate, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and a few others others, promoted lies that the election of Joe Biden was fraudulent. Why else object to a perfunctory certification?
The Sedition Caucus in the House was much larger. Three of them—Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar—planned the Stop The Steal movement (even the name is an abomination) along with ex-felon Ali Alexander. Mo Brooks spoke at the rally at the Ellipse before the march to the Capitol and said they needed to “take down names and kick ass“.
But this sort of incitement isn’t new for the GOP. They’ve been doing this for years. Remember when Ted Cruz played chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States? Remember when Paul Gosar waved around the fraudulent Nunes memo to demand criminal prosecution for “traitors” like Sally Yates, Jim Comey, and Andrew McCabe? Remember when Ron Johnson ignored warnings from US Intelligence to amplify Russian propaganda?
They know they have a base that thrills to such revolution and treason talk. They also know that nothing usually comes of it. They milk the system for votes with the anger they arouse, but it has been cost-free for them.
Why? Because generally, we live in a functioning society, and people intervene before the harm is done. They incite rage against Gov. Whitmer, but the FBI swoops in to save the country from the consequences of their words. They delegitimize Democrats, but law enforcement swoops in to arrest the MAGA pipe-bomber before he can do much harm. They promote going mask-free during a pandemic, but others pay the cost—not them. They get the Regeneron.
They are milking the system. Only a functioning society produces drugs like Regeneron that is provided to its most valuable members. They throw darts at the very walls that shelter them.
We’ve learned to ignore them. How often can one say, “Ted Cruz, that’s dangerous, stop it”? Law Enforcement has learned to hunt down perpertraters driven mad by their rhetoric. FBI has a file on White Supremacists. The system still stands.
I am sure that they thought 1/6 would go the same way. They would throw kindling into the fire, but the firefighters were strong and they would save the country from the consequences of their words.
Why did that unspoken societal pact fail on 1/6?
It failed because of Trump. He meant it.
When he said, “be wild,” he meant for them to go wild. When he asked them to “fight like hell,” he meant for them to fight like—well, like hell. When he said, “we will never win back our country with weakness,” he meant for the physically strong among them to break down doors. When he said, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to protect our country,” he meant that Pence was a traitor; and the punishment for treason, as the mob well knew, is death by hanging.
He meant it so much that he prevented the National Guard from being deployed. While the entire Congress and the entire chain of succession of the US government was in the Capitol begging for help, he denied them help. He incited his mob with a tweet against Pence while the mob was already in the Capitol, having breached it, and he knew that Pence was in hiding. Having put Senators in this vulnerable position, hiding behind locked doors sometimes with couches laid across them, he called them to demand that they object to the certification of ten states, not just three.
And he repeatedly blocked the National Guard from coming in to help.
Reports are that he revelled in the scenes of mayhem at the Capitol that aired live. He wandered around the White House wondering why others weren’t as aroused as he was. Meanwhile the White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, instructed aides to avoid him so they would not be asked to follow unlawful orders.
He sent a lynch mob in to kill a branch of government. And he kept them defenseless.
We are still in the fog of war as to how the situation resolved. Desperate requests for the National Guard to be deployed to secure the Capitol were repeatedly denied by the Defense Department. Remember that Christopher Miller, who serves at the pleasure of Trump, is merely an Acting Secretary of Defense, appointed after Trump knew that he had already lost the election, and in his mind was probably already preparing for Sedition. When Miller finally approved the National Guard to go in, he did on the authority of VP Pence, and the leaders of Congress (from their bunkers), and the Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy—not Trump.
After hours of heroic fighting on the backfoot, and two of their members already felled, the Capitol Police finally received help. It had been hours since desperate calls had first gone out.
Ted Cruz, Hawley, and the rest of the Sedition Caucus ought to be very angry with Trump. Not because he endangered their lives, but because he blew up their scheme.
It remains unclear whether the Sedition Caucus will ever pay a price. There are some hints that they will. Forbes reports that major companies have begun curtailing donations to elected officials who participated in the challenge to the election certification. Hometown papers for both Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz have demanded they resign. Mitt Romney reportedly yelled, “this is what you’ve gotten,” as rioters swarmed into the Capitol. The challenge even drew a surprising speech defending democracy from Mitch McConnell, who fancies himself the Grim Reaper.
I don’t say this often, but kudos to Congress for insisting they go back in and continue the task of certification. That took real courage.
But even if the Sedition Caucus continue their arsonist careers, the insurrection broke a crucial newsflash into the attentions of the enablers and ignorers in business, tech, and media. Trump means it. Trump broke the unspoken social pact.
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