The domestic terrorism that we witnessed Wednesday was always bound to happen. The feral creature who nurtured it had long signaled us that it was coming.
I watched in horror and fury, as did you, but I was not shocked to see the MAGA rabble running wild. What’s really shocking is that anyone could possibly have been shocked.
Trump’s seditious instincts were always in plain sight. He habitually retweeted violent images and publicly fantasized about “knocking the crap” out of people. He lauded neo-Nazis as “very fine people” and boasted last year that he has “the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very, very bad.” He even declared the Capitol insurrectionists were “very special.”
But the Republicans, who long indulged him, presumably knew better. The desecration of democracy, beamed across the world, is on them. The blood of the dead and injured is on them.
Bystanders like me could see what was coming. Way back in October of 2016, I warned that Trump’s “dissing of democracy will live in infamy,” that he was a “clear and present danger to our democratic values,” and that he’d wreak havoc with “his wingnut peanut gallery, which has a bottomless thirst for his serial lies and demagogic drivel.” But as that 2016 campaign wore on, Republicans excused his extremism and convinced themselves that he could be controlled. As Mitch McConnell said in a podcast, “I’m comfortable supporting him.”
How sickening it was Wednesday to hear Republicans say they were shocked, shocked, that chaos reigned in the U.S. Capitol.
The Senate Republicans’ Twitter feed declared, “This is not American. This must stop.” Michael Gallagher, a House Republican who’d voted with Trump 88 percent of the time and who’d opposed the impeachment probe, said on TV (as he sheltered in place), “This is insane. I haven’t seen anything like this since I deployed to Iraq. The president needs to call it off.”
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said, “People have taken this too far…This is unacceptable. This is not the direction in which we should go.”
Gee, I wonder why Trump’s thugs took it “too far.” Is it perhaps Trump’s Republican enablers gave them the green light, egging them on for months by amplifying the loser’s toxic lies about a “rigged” election?
A few hours after McCarthy whined that the violence was “unacceptable,” take a wild guess what he did on the House floor. He joined 120 other traitors to democracy, refusing to certify President-elect Biden’s victory.
Even after the looting and vandalism had ceased, Senate and House Republicans still refused to denounce Trump by name. When the Electoral College proceedings re-commenced after six hours of limbo, they still refused to call out his seditious behavior, which violated federal law. They assailed the insurrectionists without identifying why the insurrectionists had acted, or in whose name.
A rare Republican who did so was U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
Nevertheless, his floor statement was hopelessly muddled. On the one hand, he denounced Trump as a “demagogue.” On the other hand, he made it clear that he’d supported Trump’s re-election. Did he suddenly discover, only in the wake of yesterday’s violence, that Trump was a demagogue? Or did he perchance have an inkling that Trump has been demagogic all along – yet still somehow deserved a second term?
If this government was even minimally functioning, if checks and balances meant anything beyond the high-flown words, Trump would be removed from office forthwith – either in a last-ditch 25th Amendment move, or via speedy impeachment and removal. But it appears – I’d love to be wrong – that nothing will happen. Apparently we must sit tight for 13 more days and hope that Wednesday’s disgrace was just a one-off.
Shame should be forever heaped on the purblind enablers who refused to recognize what had long been inevitable. Perhaps the most prescient warning was voiced eight months ago, by global politics professor Brian Klaas, an expert on authoritarianism. He wrote:
“What will happen if Trump takes to Twitter to say he actually won? It’s not hard to see how deadly that could become…When people in positions of authority and influence invoke the language of political violence and then lose power, violence often ensues. It would be a mistake to assume the United States is somehow immune…nobody should be surprised if Trump tries to discredit the 2020 election – no matter the consequences – if he loses.”
No matter the consequences. Those who long played deaf and dumb have no right to whine now. Nor do they deserve to hold public office. To borrow a phrase from the Old Testament, having sowed the wind, they reaped the whirlwind.
Opinion contributor Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. His work appears on Monday on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Email him at [email protected].