By Jim Goodman
The sacking of the US Capitol on January 6 was not at all surprising. Not surprising that Trump would encourage it, not surprising that those who had swilled his Kool-Aid would so willingly violate the US Constitution they claim to defend but clearly do not comprehend. The president had been working his supporters during his entire presidency, convincing them that they were victims of the Liberal Democrats, the media (“the most dishonest human beings on earth”), the masses of illegal aliens, the “Republicans in Name Only” and, for that matter, anyone who wasn’t sufficiently loyal to him.
Even as a candidate, he repeatedly encouraged violence, calling on his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters, like in the good old days, and telling police “don’t be too nice.” So on January 6, the day he promised would be “wild,” it was inevitable that when he enjoined his supporters to march on the Capitol to “stop the steal,” they followed his not so subtle bidding to fight and show strength with violence
The ugly side of human nature was on display in his “Save America March,” as rioters carrying Trump flags attacked the Capitol, some carrying zip-ties and planning to take and possibly execute Congressional hostages. They smashed their way into and looted Congressional offices. Carrying “Back the Blue” flags they beat police officers (one of whom later died) with US flags, pipes and fire extinguishers. Trump’s mob of white supremacists chanted “Our House” and did what the Confederate army in four years of war failed to do, bring the Confederate battle flag into the US Capitol, indicating this riot was also an open demand to continue America’s legacy of systemic racism.
They vandalized the walls, portraits and statues, and as the riots continued, Trump watched on TV with apparent delight, and called Senators who were hiding from the mob, pleading for them to stop the Electoral College vote count. There was little concern on his part for the safety of the members of Congress, or Vice-President Pence whose life was also in danger as the mob chanted “hang Mike Pence.”
This was the culmination of a process, five years of inciting his base to believe his lies and ignore his crimes, no matter how outrageous. If he had actually been up to the task of being president and interested in doing anything other than golfing and promoting himself, and if he possessed an attention span beyond that of a five-year-old, he might have actually launched the coup he wanted. Still, through his mob of followers and those in Congress who still support him, he can cause plenty of damage. The carnage he sought is not over.
For his entire term, members of the Republican party tolerated his lies and his narcissistic insistence that loyalty to him was more important than the principals of their party or the nation. His overtly racist comments, his misogyny, his Islamophobia and promotion of violence could be explained away by his being “a little rough around the edges.” He never did grow into the job as they hoped he would because he never wanted to, all he wanted was the prestige of the position, not the job itself.
Whether he has blown-up the Republican party up is anyone’s guess. Members of the party will follow the path to what they see as their own best chance of maintaining power. They may see that path as continuing the party of Trump and white supremacy with Trump as a martyr to the cause, or political expediency may dictate distancing themselves from Trump to be the best course. The party members will always be self-serving first, and perhaps that is why they could accept Trump as their leader, they are nothing if not egocentric.
Leading up to the Senate impeachment trial, Mitch McConnell tells the GOP it will be “a vote of conscience.” One wonders if they still understand the concept of having a conscience?
It could have played out differently. For his entire term of office the Republican party acted as his enabler, letting him rant, rave and aggrandize himself as the savior of the party, the economy, pretty much everything. Didn’t work out so well, did it. An addict to his delusions of grandeur, he needed an intervention, but it didn’t happen, he was never held accountable, but ultimately someone has to be held accountable for the division, death and destruction he has caused.
Republicans, in the wake of the Capitol invasion and subsequent impeachment, now call for healing and unity, despite their longstanding willingness to aid and abet Trump’s tactics. Republicans now call for a peaceful transfer of power. Peaceful? Sorry, that train left the station on January 6. There must be a reckoning for Trump and for all those who were complicit with Trump.
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Jim Goodman is a retired dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin. His work has appeared in publications that include The Progressive, Jacobin, The Washington Post, The Progressive Populist, CounterPunch, Common Dreams and The Wisconsin Examiner. Top image credit: TapTheForwardAssist/CC BY-SA 4.0