This is far worse than anything that antifa or any other left-wing group has done. It has nothing in common with the protests that swept the country last year after the killing of George Floyd — and which Republicans cited as evidence of an impending communist revolution. The invasion of the Capitol was a genuine and terrifying attack on our democracy the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes.
We also need to be clear about who was responsible for this attempted coup: not just President Trump but also his enablers in the executive branch, Congress and the media.
Trump invited his followers to come to Washington on Wednesday for a “big protest” premised on the false assumption that the election was stolen from him. “Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted on Dec 19. On Tuesday, he tweeted: “I hope the Democrats, and even more importantly, the weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party, are looking at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen.”
When his followers did show up on the Mall on Wednesday, Trump incited them further, telling them: “We will never give up. We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.” He castigated his own vice president, Mike Pence, for refusing to exceed his constitutional authority by not certifying the electoral votes of states that Trump lost. “We are going to have to fight much harder,” Trump said, and urged the assembled multitudes to march on the Capitol.
It is on Trump’s head that by Wednesday afternoon, his followers had surged past the overwhelmed Capitol Police to invade America’s citadel of democracy. The scenes that unfolded looked like something out of a horror movie, with police clashing with the attackers and members of Congress having to stop their proceedings and flee to safety.
Pleas from his own aides and members of Congress from both parties finally led Trump to issue a mealy-mouthed videotaped appeal to the mob to “go home.” But he refused to give up his false and incendiary claims that the election was stolen, and he paid tribute to the odious attackers: “We love you. You’re very special.” This was very much reminiscent of his ambivalent response to the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in 2017 — “very fine people on both sides,” he said.
The leader of our government is inciting an assault on it. He is resorting to mob rule to tear down the rule of law. This is sedition, and it cannot be ignored. Congress needs to finish certifying the election results and then move on to the urgent business at hand — impeaching Trump for a second time. There are only 14 days left in his term, but that is enough time to act — not only to remove Trump from office but also to prevent him from running again. This is precisely the kind of “high crime and misdemeanor” that the impeachment clause of the Constitution was designed to address.
Or, failing that, Pence and a majority of the Cabinet can invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. Perhaps now that the vice president and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been terrorized by Trump supporters, they will understand the danger that this aspiring authoritarian poses.
But whatever happens with the president, we must never forget the responsibility of his enablers for the ugly events of Wednesday. This would never have happened if Fox “News,” OAN, Newsmax, Mark Levin, the Daily Wire and all the rest had not been spreading poisonous lies to allege that the election was stolen. This would never have happened if more than 100 members of the House and at least 13 senators had not endorsed those theories by announcing that they would not certify the election results in battleground states that Trump lost. Members of the Sedition Caucus such as Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) should see their careers crash and burn, as Sen. Joe McCarthy’s did, for their shameful and cynical assault on the Constitution.
This was a day of infamy for American democracy. We can only hope that some good comes out of it by causing a backlash against the Trumpist attempt to pervert our most vital institutions. Many of us have been warning of the danger for years — only to have our words dismissed as overly alarmist, even hysterical. It is now clear that the only people who have been suffering from “Trump Derangement Syndrome” are those who have refused to acknowledge the danger from this American fascism.