It’s difficult–no, impossible–to describe my reaction to what happened at the nation’s capitol on Wednesday. I gave myself an extra day to process it, but I’m still unable to adequately convey my reaction.
Earlier in the day, my husband listened to the disconnected, angry “speech” delivered by soon-to-be-former President Donald Trump, so I couldn’t help hearing most of it–despite the fact that the sound of his voice makes me physically ill. If I had to characterize what I heard, I would use words like “incoherent” “self-pitying” and “delusional.”
Trump’s interminable rant finally ended just before 1 p.m.,with his offer to lead a march to the Capitol, where Congress was assembled for the entirely ceremonial acceptance of Electoral College votes. He didn’t lead the march, of course–he went back to the White House–but a large number of those in his audience proceeded to march to the Capitol, where they toppled the barricades that had been erected, broke windows and breached the Capitol building.
Speaking of those barricades, there were fewer than usual, raising some ugly questions made even more concerning by the scarcity and restraint–and in some cases, what looked like participation– of Capitol police. Numerous people have noted that the slim police presence was in stark contrast to security during Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year, when more than 5,000 officers were deployed. There were only 115 on duty at any one time on Wednesday–even though police had ample warning; right-wingers had been engaged in online planning for weeks.
For the next four hours, as my husband and I switched between C-SPAN, NBC and CBS, we saw an attempted coup–and not a bloodless one. One person was taken to a hospital in critical condition and later died. Three others apparently died as well.
From what the television cameras showed, the mob was composed of Trump’s typical supporters– Proud Boys, QAnon conspirators, “good old boys” waving Confederate and Trump flags and toting guns, Neo-Nazis in MAGA hats. One shirtless thug displayed a Ku Klux Klan tattoo on his abdomen, another wore a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt. We watched, astonished, as they took selfies and ransacked Congressional offices.
The Governors of Virginia and Maryland belatedly activated their National Guard units–reportedly, Trump had earlier refused a request to do so– and the Mayor of DC imposed a 6:00 pm curfew.
An hour or more into the mayhem, in response to pleas from several Senators, Trump issued a statement that the mob should “go home”–but only after repeating his election falsehoods, telling them that he “loved them” and assuring them that he considered them “very special.”
This riot (on behalf of the “law and order” party) can be directly attributed to Trump and the cynical and deeply dishonorable members of the House and Senate–including Indiana Senator Mike Braun– who had announced their intent to “object” to the receipt of Electoral College votes. Their unprecedented betrayal of their oaths of office finally drew bipartisan condemnation.
I was no fan of former President George W. Bush, but I applaud his statement that he had been “appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election.” Even Mitch McConnell–aka Mr. Evil–excoriated those who participated in what can only be considered a frontal attack on American democracy. And for the first time in four years, Mike Pence (reluctantly) declined to enable and defend one of Donald Trump’s multiple assaults on the Constitution.
As for Hawley, Cruz (and Braun), conservative columnist George Will said it best:
The Trump-Hawley-Cruz insurrection against constitutional government will be an indelible stain on the nation. They, however, will not be so permanent. In 14 days, one of them will be removed from office by the constitutional processes he neither fathoms nor favors. It will take longer to scrub the other two from public life. Until that hygienic outcome is accomplished, from this day forward, everything they say or do or advocate should be disregarded as patent attempts to distract attention from the lurid fact of what they have become. Each will wear a scarlet “S” as a seditionist.
It’s too soon to predict what the ultimate fallout from this appalling insurrection will be. For now, I’ll just share a message posted to Facebook by my friend Kevin Osborn–a message with which I entirely agree:
As the sun sets on this momentous day, I am thankful for Stacey Abrams and others in Georgia for their phenomenal work in getting out the vote. I refuse to let the actions of a relatively small group of treasonous domestic terrorists and their addled, unfit leader ruin the historic event that took place last night and that so many have fought and died for over many years. We will move forward from this treachery and those that cannot will be left behind in history’s trash bin.
Amen to that.