There’s an insurrection taking place in America. It was not just limited to a single day when, on January 6th supporters of a losing candidate, egged on by social media and roused into a frenzy by a series of speeches, launched an assault against the Capitol, and against Democracy. It began years before and continues to this very day as Republicans continue to attempt to re-write history and push the Big Lie about a stolen election.
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Ramping Up the Rhetoric
The seeds of insurrection were planted in 2016, when Donald Trump assumed he was going to lose the presidential election to Hillary Clinton. In speech after speech he railed against a rigged system and potential voter fraud. He claimed the only way he could lose would be if rampant cheating occurred. After he received a winning number of votes in the Electoral College, yet lost the popular vote by millions, he demanded an investigation take place, and asserted he only lost due to millions of illegal votes being cast.
The pandemic made the 2020 presidential election unique. As thousands were dying, states sought to provide alternatives to in-person voting to allow for social distancing and ensure the safety of those who wished to legally cast their ballots. Mail-in ballots, long the norm in many states, became more widely accepted, prompting even more widespread claims of voter fraud. The more Donald Trump vilified mail-in ballots, the more he sowed distrust in the process, resulting in widespread suppression of Republican votes.
Following the 2020 presidential election, Trump stubbornly refused to concede and fought in the courts to overturn the results. All the while, he egged on his supporters with “I told you so”, as he insisted that the election was stolen and that he was the rightful winner.
When Election Day came and went, Trump demanded an end to the counting of ballots. He declared himself the victor because he was in the lead on election night. Trump refused to accept the final results, claiming ballots were “harvested”, resulting in millions of illegal votes being cast, and that only those votes cast on Election Day should count. He also refused to guarantee a peaceful transition of power if Joe Biden was declared the winner.
When Biden was declared the winner, there was no concession. When states certified the Electoral College results, there was no concession. When Congress was set to meet, there was increased pressure on Vice President Pence to throw out the results. When the results of the Georgia run-offs gave Democrats control of both house of Congress, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy that the system was indeed rigged and not that Donald Trump’s assertion of voter fraud led to a suppressed turnout of Republican voters.
This all led to that fateful day.
It was a typical January day in Washington, D.C. There was a chill in the air as palpable as the electricity that accompanied the incoming throngs of supporters, whose aim was to demand the results of the presidential election be overturned. They came by invitation, both through social media and by Trump himself via Twitter, with the goal of supporting the one they believed was the true winner and rightful president.
They ignored the pandemic, clothed in a false sense of security that the coronavirus was a hoax. They listened intently as speaker after speaker urged the crowd to march on the Capitol and insist, by force if necessary, that Vice President Pence use whatever means they believed were at his disposal to negate the election results and declare Donald Trump the actual winner.
In what was billed as a“Stop the Steal” rally, they whipped the crowd into a frenzy with Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) telling them it was time for “American patriots” to “start taking names and kicking ass”. The Texas Republican Attorney General accused Georgia of capitulation when they verified the election results. Eric Trump encouraged the crowd to “take back our country”, while Don Jr’s girlfriend, and former Fox News reporter, Kimberly Guilfoyle, vowed to “not allow Liberals and Democrats to steal our dreams and steal our elections.” Not to be outdone, Don Jr. egged on the collected masses by telling them they could be “a zero or a hero” in supporting the overthrow of a duly elected president. Rudy Giuliani continued his assent into madness by exhorting that the results be decided by “trial by combat".
Then came the finale; when Donald Trump himself appeared before an adoring crowd who were all more than willing to do whatever he asked. He told them they were being cheated. He painted a picture of a Socialist wasteland where white men would be treated like second-class citizens as illegal immigrants poured over the border to take their jobs. He encouraged them to “fight like hell” or they were “not going to have a country anymore”. He falsely claimed that Mike Pence had the Constitutional authority to overturn the election results. Finally, he ordered them to march on the Capitol, falsely promising to be marching with them.
And march they did, armed with poles, baseball bats, chemical spray and other instruments of violence. They chanted “Stop the Steal”, "Fight for Trump” and “Hang Mike Pence”. They erected a gallows on Capitol grounds in hopes they could capture the Vice President and use the gallows as a form of intimidation or, as a last resort, an instrument of execution should he fail to do their bidding. They stormed the Capitol, breaking into the seat of government, seeking to forcefully overturn the election results in the worst act of insurrection since the Civil War.
America watched in horror as protesters shoved, beat and harassed Capitol police, who were hopelessly outnumbered. Video released after the insurrection showed just how close the rioters came to actually capturing Mike Pence. Images from inside the building told the world that our government was under attack. Reports of phone conversations between Trump and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) when Trump believed he was reaching out to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) have Trump ignoring the rioters and still trying to convince members of Congress, who were under attack, to vote to overturn the election results. In an alleged conversation with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Trump reportedly said, in response to McCarthy’s plea to call off the rioters, “I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are”.
Members of Congress begged Trump to intercede. Instead, he was reported to be “delighted” at the insurrection and wondered why others in the White House weren’t feeling the same way. Instead of attempting to quell the riots, he tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage…” to overturn the election. Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress were tweeting their location as House and Senate lawmakers were being evacuated to secure locations.
Finally, hours after the attacks began, Trump tweeted a video calling the insurrectionists “very special” and politely asking them to go home. They evacuated the Capitol, but remained on the Capitol grounds, screaming at reporters and setting fire to their equipment. It would take another 90 minutes before Trump would allow the National Guard to gently escort the insurrectionists away from the Capitol. There was no shock and awe, flash bang and rubber bullets attack as had occurred when Trump wanted a photo op in front of a church. Instead, police used their shields, which hours before had been used by the rioters to attack them, to nudge those who had stormed the Capitol off the grounds.
Once the smoke had cleared, Congress got back to work certifying the election results as it was Constitutionally obligated to do. Even though the final results were inevitable, Republicans still delayed the process until the wee hours of the morning, with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) making pointless objections to phantom “voter irregularities”. This gave rise to the Big Lie, which continues to be pushed months after the election.
In a shocking development, several Republicans called out Donald Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection. They quickly developed selective amnesia when Trump was impeached for a second time. In typical slime-ball fashion, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wormed his way out of a second impeachment trial by delaying the process until Trump was no longer in office, declaring that, since the main purpose of impeachment was removing him from office, the point was moot.
Republicans who supported impeachment faced tremendous backlash from their home states. Many were censured by their own party while others faced election challenges when time came for re-election.
The Ongoing Insurrection
As more time passes, Republicans are trying to re-write history when it comes to the insurrection. There was Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) stating it wasn’t an armed insurrection because they only used poles and other non-firearms in the attack. He further stated that he wasn’t worried about the mob that attacked the Capitol because they were predominantly White. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) claimed “There was no insurrection.” and the rioters looked like “a normal tourist visit”. Then Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tried to paint rioter and Trump supporter Ashley Babbit, who was shot and killed as she tried to force her way into the Capitol chambers, as a peaceful patriot.
And then there was Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) who made the unbelievable suggestion that the rioters were not Trump supporters, but Antifa in disguise. This goes against overwhelming video evidence, not to mention reality, as member after member of what was once the GOP twisted, distorted and outright lied about the events of January 6th, in support of the Big Lie.
In the backdrop of this revisionist view of events, the House has scheduled a vote as to whether to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the events on and around January 6th. It is a move opposed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who Democrats would likely call to testify about his conversation with Trump as the insurrection was happening.
Given the arguments put forth by Republicans, the stated goal of this group of five Democrats and five Republicans, “to get to the truth”, will no doubt be muddied by attempts to deny any responsibility by Donald Trump and the fact that one of the stipulations agreed upon to gain Republican support is the inclusion of an investigation of Anitifa and Black Lives Matter. While the commission will have the ability to subpoena witnesses, there certainly will be resistance from the Trump camp who routinely ignored such orders when they were in office, citing the maddeningly vague concept of Executive Privilege.
Because he’s no longer in the Oval Office, this leaves the door open to potentially forcing Donald Trump to testify before the committee the same way Hillary Clinton did during the pointless Benghazi hearings. However, there is a limited amount of time the House has permitted this committee to submit their conclusions. That being the case, it’s highly probable that Trump will simply use legal finagling to run out the clock, thereby keeping him from answering for his role in inciting the insurrection and answering for his reactions afterwards.
And there are certainly other elements of an ongoing insurrection. While the numbers are slowly shrinking, two-thirds of Republicans still believe the Big Lie that the election was stolen and Joe Biden is not the legitimate president. This continues to be pushed by Trump and a majority of Republicans in Congress. Right wing media continues to spread misinformation and incite those who follow them to continue to believe the lies. There is the ridiculous recount in Arizona, and there are still far too many believers in conspiracy theories, both in and out of government who spread lie after lie in order to gain a following and generate controversy.
Until some semblance of sanity returns to the Republican Party, or what it has morphed into, the Party of Trump, we must remain vigilant. The threat of violence, and indeed violent insurrection, hangs over us like the mythical sword of Damocles. It’s a dangerous powder keg, and it only needs a small spark to ignite once again.