As the insurrection by Trump supporters was underway at the Capitol last week, one of the most frightening things for me was when they turned the cameras away from the Capitol building itself and focused outward on the crowd. The reverse shot revealed how many people were there—some estimate there were as many as 40,000 Trump supporters present. While only a small percentage of them actually breached the Capitol perimeter, the sheer number of these insurrectionist groupies should give us all pause as to the depth of this movement and what it portends for the US, both short-term and over time.
The rioters rooted their grievance in support of the Big Lie that Trump actually won reelection which was then fraudulently stolen by a conspiracy of Democrats, antifa supporters and deep state activists seeking to remove Donald Trump from power. Though the Liar-in-Chief is soon to exit the stage, the lie has metastasized to the point where it is out of control.
Since the events of June 6, law enforcement sources have announced multiple threats to state houses and other institutions across the country. In what seems like a coordinated effort to subvert the workings of the federal government, Trump supporters, white supremacists, anarchists and violent malcontents seek to seize control of the levers of power and bring the nation to its knees. This is nothing more than a practical manifestation of what Steve Bannon (who was, remember, a chief strategic advisor to Donald Trump) advocated within the West Wing in a theoretical sense.
Nothing, of course, happens in a vacuum. The coronavirus continues to spike across the nation as hospitals develop plans to ration care. And some of the same lawmakers who perpetuated the fiction of election fraud were also defiantly mask-less during the lockdown at the Capitol and at least three Democratic legislators have contracted the virus. A major hack, presumably by Russian operatives, has been exposed. Rising unemployment numbers indicate the economy is again stagnating. And, there will be an inauguration in the Capitol in one week.
It is beyond troubling to consider how the defense of the Capitol was so feckless. It will be up to the Biden administration’s Department of Justice to investigate the lapses in judgement behind these events, prosecute those responsible and to transparently meet out sentences to the guilty in ways that deter future would-be offenders.
It is essential that those charged with safety and security of public places be attentive to the winds of chaos that are blowing across the land and to stop minimizing the insurrectionist fires stoked by Donald Trump and his minions. Few would have believed it possible that blood would be shed in the halls of Congress, that the confederate flag would be paraded with impunity around the rotunda or that key supporters of Donald Trump’s Big Lie would have publicly encouraged this insurrectionist riot through both their legislative shenanigans and their rhetorical encouragement.
Six weeks ago, I wrote two consecutive posts (here and here) in this space about a dystopic view where Donald Trump, continuing to deny he lost the election, used the occasion of Biden’s inauguration to distract the public by announcing his candidacy for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination. Implementing such a strategy, I argued, would create a chaotic scene in Washington, DC and a battle for ratings on the airwaves. Such a prediction, which seemed way over the top at the time (just six weeks ago!) now seems almost quaint in light of events on January 6.
Thankfully, the wheels of impeachment seem to be turning swiftly this time around. But with the big lie still alive and spreading, we must also be attentive to the impact of dark forces that have been inflamed by Donald Trump and prepare ourselves for the possibility that additional havoc may yet be wrought, additional divisions may yet be sewn, additional violence may yet be stoked until the big lie is exposed for all to see.