January 6 One Year On

Photo by Blink O’Fanaye with additional photoediting by me (I made it black and white). Used under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0). Click on photo to be taken to the original.

If there is one thing the United States is fortunate about, one year after Donald Trump supporters, with the then-president’s now-clearly-explicit consent, stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the electoral vote count and allow Trump to unconstitutionally remain in power, it is that in this endeavor, as in nearly every other that Trump and his supporters have attempted, they were spectacularly incompetent. Had the attack been one whit less half-assed and shambolic, or had Trump himself and his team had even the slightest bump to their ability for executive function, then things might have been very different. There might be dead Congresspeople, or a hanged Vice-President, and while I do not believe Trump would have managed to remain in power, the process by which he would be required to be removed would have been a great deal more unpleasant. The goal was a coup, not just against the incoming president, but against the Constitution of the United States, and the idea of our nation as a republic. All that stood between that coup and its short-term success was competence. That’s it.

The attack on the Capitol was, and is, unforgivable. Donald Trump, the worst president we’ve ever had — and think of how bad a president you have to be to shoulder aside the likes of Buchanan and Harding — should be openly reviled by his party and his nation. And yet, after perhaps 48 hours of unrehearsed shock, the Republican party rallied around this traitor to the republic and the constitution, and tried to rebrand an actual coup attempt into overexuberant tourism. The large majority of its members acted as if Trump, not Biden or the nation or its laws, had been the one wronged in that attempt. The few Republicans who stood on principle, and allegiance to the United States rather than the party or its petulant leader, are being shown the door as quickly as possible.

And that, too, is unforgivable. The coup attempt and the Republican party response made explicit what anyone who has been watching the party in the last 20 years already knew: The GOP is officially done with the notion of democracy in the United States. Its only interest in it at this point is using its remaining functioning processes to shut it down. The GOP has no platform other than a Christianist White Supremacist Authoritarianism, no goal other than a corrupt oligarchy, and no plan for its supporters other than to keep them hyped up on fear and hatred of anyone who is a convenient target. The Republican party problem with the coup is not that it happened. It’s that it was so poorly planned and executed. Now they’ll have to attempt another one.

Which is coming! The GOP has already made it clear they have no intention of honoring another presidential election that might allow a Democrat into the White House. They are attempting all sorts of strategies to limit the ability of suspected non-Republicans to vote, to discount their vote if they still manage to do it, and to disrupt the certification of the vote if it doesn’t go the way they want it to. A Democrat winning is enough evidence of “voter fraud” for a Republican to attempt to gum up the works for as long as possible, to sow distrust in the system, and to pave the way for GOP Coup II, i.e., “We Didn’t Want To But Look What the Dirty Democrats Made Us Do.” This coup may or may not have an “armed citizen” component to it; as noted the GOP has gotten very good at using the processes of democracy against it. The Republicans would love a coup that they could punt up to a compliant Supreme Court, and that would probably not be a coup with shooting in it. But a coup it would be nevertheless.

The best case scenario of the GOP being unwilling to disown Donald Trump and his coup attempt would be that the vast majority of the Republican House and Senate members are simply moral and political cowards. And they certainly are that. But every other action of the party shows that the cowardice is paired either with moral or political cynicism, or moral and political degeneration. There are unabashed bigots walking the halls of Congress, House members who are disappointed that the coup didn’t take, and senators who have stated that if the GOP takes back the House, it will impeach Joe Biden “whether it’s justified or not.” Cowards, cynics, bigots. And opportunists.

A political party that can’t turn its back on a traitor who endangered even some of its own members should not be trusted. A political party that embraces that same traitor and doubles down on its allegiance to him should be reviled. A political party that has decided to abandon the constitution and the republic should be dismantled. Here in 2022, when the Republican party has clearly and unambiguously done all three, no person with any sense of moral character or loyalty to the republic should vote for the GOP, for any position, at any level, or support it in any way, but especially with money.

This is easy enough for someone who registered as a Democrat, or, like me, someone who does not belong to any particular political party. It’s rather more difficult for someone who has been Republican or Republican-leaning their entire life. And while it’s easy to spot the people who are 100% in for White Christianist Fascism (hint: If you’re still flying a Trump flag in January 2022, you have the words “most likely to be a traitor” blinking like a neon sign over your head), there are millions who are still laboring under the impression that the attempted coup wasn’t as bad as all that, or that the GOP is somehow on a reasonable path.

For those people, here’s a simple test: Substitute the words “Donald Trump” with “Hillary Clinton” and “Trump supporters” with “Clinton supporters” and then run January 6 through your memory banks. You good with a President Hillary Clinton encouraging her supporters to storm the Capitol to stop the certification of, say, President-Elect Donald Trump as the 46th president? Unless you are absolutely 100 percent lying to yourself — and you may be! — your answer here is “Hell, no.” And you would be correct. It’s treason, and any political party giving aid and comfort to such an act is beyond redemption.

One year out from January 6, it’s become clearer than ever that our nation was threatened by a small and unworthy man, supported by a corrupt and cynical political party. The small, unworthy man is gone, for now. The corrupt and cynical party is still there, and it has learned no lesson other than “do it better the next time.” If you care about the United States at all, you will work toward there never being an opportunity for a next time, either for the Republican party or for anyone else who would hold this nation and its best values in such contempt. You’ll keep working at it for as long as you can. Because I promise you they’re not giving up. And they will be more competent at it the next time they try.

— JS

85 Comments on “January 6 One Year On”

  1. Notes:

    1. Political post, Mallet is out, be polite, particularly to each other.

    2. I have my political BINGO card of Unthinking Knee-jerk Comments out and if you happen to fill a square, I’ll probably Mallet your comment, so, please, put some thought into what you might say, and don’t just vomit out whatever your favorite podcaster or TV talking head said.

    3. Likewise, low-effort comments of any sort will probably be punted. Don’t bore me, please.

    4. Also, glancing references to the topic used as an excuse to launch into a tirade about Democrats/Socialists/Etc, will also be Malleted. The topic is January 6 and the attempted coup. Stick to the topic. Thanks.

  2. “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

    — George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

  3. Everything in this post is what’s most driving my anxiety these days, because I don’t see that we’re taking effective action to head this off. I feel like I should be doing something to help, but I don’t have a clue what would actually be useful. Any ideas?

  4. It’s annoying that I have to praise Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney, Mike Pence, and Dan Quayle for everything they’ve done for Democracy in the past year.

  5. @David S

    You’re right, it wasn’t much of a coup. However, an incompetent, disorganized, uncoordinated, failed attempt at a coup is still a coup.

  6. It’s not only a cult, it’s a cult of FEAR.

    And that fear is being carefully and systematically ginned up, inflated, conflated, restated, anticipated and pro-rated by a cabal of oligarchs that have no national loyalties of any kind.

    Some of them may have been born in America. At least one of them, and not the least powerful one, was born in what used to be Leningrad.

    That fear is essential to keep Americans from taking constructive action to limit the oligarchs’ ability to grift, scam, extort, and steal, among other things. They are, however, motivated by fears of their own, fears that can only be soothed by ever-increasing power over others.

    In aid of that, they are systematically attempting to end all access to power for anyone but themselves.

    And the GOP leadership is their willing co-conspirator, using fear to keep their base terrified of skeery brown, female, non-hetero, non-Christianist OTHERS.

    This has gone so far down the road that there is no good ending for some people.

    Our job is to do whatever we can to make sure that the people it doesn’t end well for are the oligarchs and their enablers. And this will not be pleasant for us or them.

  7. I saw a poll the other day that said more than one-third of the US population now believes the proper response to government is violence. I’m pretty sure it’s all over for the great American experiment except for the shouting and the bloodshed.

  8. Thank God Donald Trump never bothered to study Lenin! If he had, we’d now be living in a dictatorship.

    This time last year, in addition to being horrified, I saw what appeared to be a rerun of the storming of the Winter Palace in Petrograd. Had Kerensky’s Provisional Government stood as firmly as Congress and the Capitol Police did, our world would be very different now.

  9. The Republican Party hasn’t been interested in the idea of a democratic republic for a long time. Trump just made it okay for them to express their hate out loud. The GOP knows they can’t win on policy. And that white people will be in the minority by 2040. Turning the U.S. into an authoritarian dictatorship is their only feasible way to remain in power.

  10. David S., that Reuters article is distinctly at odds with the coordination and communication uncovered by the 1/6 commission and the criminal indictments, charges, and guilty pleas coming out of the DOJ. Any scientist will tell you, when all your data says one thing but you have one source or experiment that doesn’t line up with all the other validated evidence, it’s time to take a very critical look at that source.

    Reuters has partnered up with Tass, a pro-Kremlin Russian news company, and this article is based only on anonymous sources and is heavily spun.

    To the extent it wasn’t coordinated directly with rioters, it only appears to be so because the administration’s Plan A was a bloodless coup using the plan detailed in the Eastman Memo, with Incitement as an eleventh-hour backup plan. But that said, in the four months since that article was published quite a lot of evidence has come to light that the likes of Giuliani and Stone were, yes, in communication with Proud Boys and Oath Keepers leadership. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/jan6-rally-trump-2020-election-capitol-congress-gosar-1253392/amp/

  11. David S:

    So you’re saying the coup was not competent? I agree!

    That said, posting an article from several months ago, eliding everything learned since then, counts as a BINGO square, so don’t try something that transparent again. Thanks.

  12. Speaking as a German: We‘ve seen all this before. Fascist party attempts coup, fails, tries again, democracy topples… been there, done that, got the world war. (To be clear, I am not comparing the Republican Party to a fascist party. I am calling them a fascist party, and I got the Umberto Eco to back me up.)

    Speaking as somebody who has spent quite some time in the USA: I fully expect that my next holiday there will be the last one. American democracy never was as great as you people thought it was, it was in decline for years, and now it is in freefall. After the midterms next year it will be over.

  13. If Trump had been minimally competent no coup would have been required, because he would just have won the election. Look at how close he came anyway.

    [This part deleted because it as noted above, lightly touching on the subject to then launch onto unrelated political meanderings gets the Mallet — JS]

  14. Spot on Scalzi!

    I was going to write a post of my own for one of my blogs and now I don’t have to; I’ll just refer people to your post :).

  15. To bounce off wiredog’s comment, it’s same with Karl Rove and (occasionally) Mitch… watching these folks realize that they need to dance with them that brought them. And it feels like too little, too late.

  16. I quibble at the margins only. GOP pols who pushed back on the coup attempts should be evaluated on individual policies and qualifications and not tossed into the blanket ‘never support’ bucket. We should be willing to listen for example to Brad Raffensperger, the GOP Secretary of State in Georgia who publicly rebuffed The Former Guy’s plea to “find” ballots in his favor. But for every Liz Cheney there are 10 Kevin McCarthys.

  17. “Substitute the words “Donald Trump” with “Hillary Clinton” and “Trump supporters” with “Clinton supporters” and then run January 6 through your memory banks.”

    Even for the soi-disant institutionalists like Eastman who wanted to commit a coup by procedure, they should substitute Mike Pence for Al Gore in 2000, refusing to certify the electors from Florida.

    Trump, his supporters, and his acolytes (the entire GOP and every independent who voted for him) do not believe in the rules, except as a means to constrain their opponents.

  18. Hyman Rosen:

    Trump lost the popular vote by seven million votes and lost the electoral vote by the same number he won the 2016 election, which, if memory serves, he called “a landslide.” It wasn’t, but it was a solid electoral win. So, no, it wasn’t particularly close, either popularly or electorally.

  19. Timothy Clark has a good point. We should never have let them get away with stealing the election from Al Gore- it was definitely a clear stepping stone away from democracy to where we are now.

    John, it’s great to see you writing with such clarity on this topic. Would love to see your words picked up for presses around the country.

  20. As a former Republican, I have been especially appalled at what the GOP has become in recent years, and the Trump era is by far the worst of all. I saw the writing on the wall years ago and left the party in the Gingrich era. I never imagined that the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower would fall so far.

    Still, I struggle with the idea that so many people I know still support Trump and this flaming wreckage of a political party. I try and try and I just can’t quite wrap my head around it. It is getting more and more difficult for me to maintain anything resembling a normal relationship with them. And frankly, I don’t know if I even want to anymore.

  21. Sadly, John, the following just amplifies your comments about the Republican party:

    Dick and Liz Cheney the lone two Republicans in the House chamber as Pelosi opens up the floor for a moment of silence on Jan. 6, per @AnnieGrayerCNN

  22. Being a non-cultist who lives in Georgia doesn’t mean I am going to vote for either Raffensperger or Kemp, even though the former guy hates them for not throwing the election to him. They still give lip service to the Big Lie, using it as reasons to tighten up ‘election security.’

    Even the good ones aren’t good enough that I trust they will stand their ground the next time.

  23. Great piece as always. I truly wish I felt optimistic about this crap not happening again.

    Why do I feel like we have yet to see the worst of all this? Between the rampant denialism on the GOP side (who feel completely comfortable making up their own facts, despite what we all saw with our own eyes), Biden’s competent but admittedly underwhelming first year, and the likely midterms rout for the Democrats, what do we have to count on? Other than Vote Blue No Matter Who, which I already do at every opportunity, and writing/calling my Red State reps who won’t listen to me anyway, what the heck kind of recourse do I have here, other than praying that these guys’ better angels keep them from going through with it at the next opportunity? Sorry, I really don’t want to sound hopeless, but where do we go from here, a year later?

  24. John P. Needham – john.p.needham@gmail.com Spring, TX-based consultant in the exchange traded/OTC derivatives space. Proud father. Passion for good food & wine. Lousy but devoted golfer.
    John Needham

    Respectfully, Scalzi, I think Hyman up-thread is largely correct (with what remained of his comment).

    If the former guy had signed the 2nd 2021 coronavirus relief bill in October rather than stupidly tanking it in one of his petulant rage fits, he might very well have been reelected, as might the two creepy insider-trading Georgia incumbent senators.

    We are fortunate that he proved to be his own undoing. Yes, an incompetent coup. It will be less incompetent next time.

    And while it was a solid electoral win, if that 2nd coronavirus bill has passed, it would not have taken many votes in close states to tip the electoral college scales (much like what happened in 2016).

  25. @Dr Fancypants – Check out Teri Kanefield’s site and her list of “Things to Do”. Whenever I start to feel helpless, I go to this page and pick one to focus on for a little bit.

    https://terikanefield.com/things-to-do/

    And, of course, there’s the Five Calls website that helps you to make calls to your electeds (I call every weekday morning) to address a whole slew of topics of your choice!

  26. John Needham:

    I can indeed think of a number of scenarios in which Trump could have won, but he didn’t, and at the end of the day he lost the popular vote by several million and the electoral vote by a not-particularly-close margin.

    Also: The discussion of whether Trump could have won is not especially germane at this point. He didn’t win.

  27. John, I recently read an article somewhere that suggested the USA was perilously close to a civil war. And those that believe it could not happen should take a long hard look at Yugoslavia. Worryingly I think the UK is on the same path and I am scared that there is nothing I can do.

  28. @ rochrist:

    “I saw a poll the other day that said more than one-third of the US population now believes the proper response to government is violence.”

    That may be true, but as experience has conclusively demonstrated over and over, the deranged scum supporting Trump’s coup attempt (and the deranged scum supporting THAT deranged scum) were/are cowards. Perfectly happy to parade with guns and, if offered the opportunity, gang up on a lone counter-protester and beat them up, but absolutely unwilling to put their lives on the line. While it would be unwise to discount the probability of isolated terrorist incidents, the chances of serious conflict, or even a skirmish, are virtually nonexistent.

    Much more dangerous IMO are the ongoing attempts to delegitimize electoral commissions and prevent minorities from voting, which have proven extremely effective for the GQP in the past, and have been (correctly) identified as their only viable strategy forward. I’m pretty sure they’ll succeed. But we’ve been in this position before. No matter how tight their grip on power, Republicans inevitably fuck up badly enough to lose.

    It would be great if, you know, we could kick them out before they torch down the economy, and/or get over half a million Americans killed (in peacetime!), like the last two times. But the ‘Murican public has a short memory, and darn low average IQ.

  29. John P. Needham – john.p.needham@gmail.com Spring, TX-based consultant in the exchange traded/OTC derivatives space. Proud father. Passion for good food & wine. Lousy but devoted golfer.
    John Needham

    “Also: The discussion of whether Trump could have won is not especially germane at this point. He didn’t win.”

    Well, that’s a fact, and thank goodness. Apologies for taking things slightly off track.

  30. @Michael

    Speaking as an American: Completely agreed. The GQP isn’t merely “comparable” to a fascist party, it is a fascist party. Full stop.

    For reference: “Life in the Fash Lane,” a four-part series by Some More News, which is (ostensibly) just a Youtube political comedy show, but they’ve put out dozens of well-researched political pieces over the past several years now.

  31. Also:

    I don’t think a war would benefit the GQP architects of the current dysfunction. They want to remain within the system, and keep exploiting it for their own gain. Hence the attempts to game said system into electing them, even when they don’t have the votes. That’s quite a different approach from saying “f*** the government, let’s take it down”. Only one of the GQP trashbags can be the dictator, after all, and history offers some great and gory lessons on what happens to authoritarian inner circles after the dust has settled.

    Blue-voting counties (including ones in Red states) account for 70% of ‘Murica’s GDP. Without Blue counties, the engine of the knowledge- and skill-based economy that generates enormous corporate profits, ‘Murica would at best be a vast agrarian nation, trying (and likely failing) to compete against cheaper food products from elsewhere. The only ‘Murican value is the almighty dollar, and to stay true to their values, the GQP has no choice but to prop up this crumbling edifice we’ve built on genocide, slavery, and unbridled greed.

  32. I’m still gobsmacked that it takes Dick Cheney and his daughter to be the principled prominent Republicans speaking out against J6. DICK CHENEY. Think on that one for a while.

    That said, the roots of J6 hearken back to the Bush-Gore election of 2000, especially since many of the leaders participated in the Republican harassment of vote counters in Florida.

    We have to keep this from happening again.

  33. As someone who was a proud Republican a LONG time ago (more than a few decades ago), it disheartens me that the Democratic Party is just as incompetent at countering the GOP as they were then, primarily because the stakes are no longer “our policy positions vs yours” but “shit, SOMEONE has to protect the Republic.”

  34. I am curious and fearful of what The Former Guy’s supporters thought would happen had they been successful a year ago. Did they honestly think we would just say, “ok”? It would have sparked a civil war and we are perilously close to that point still. I generally think of myself as a pacifist but the one thing I will fight for is democracy and the Constitution. This is not a divide with nice borders either. Urban centers tend to be more progressive. Rural areas more tied to TFG’s lies. But there are pockets of each everywhere.
    I would also note that most people get over the idea that losing means the other side cheated around kindergarten. Don’t they? Didn’t all of us learn that along the way? What happened to the Republican party that made them forget this?

  35. I was a Republican until Trump, and still lean classically conservative. I can’t believe that more people who lean conservative won’t see right through this charade and either defect or demand better from their party.

  36. My greatest fear—and also my greatest sadness—in all this is the number of citizens in this country who go blindly and willingly along with it, who love Donald Trump, and embrace everything the Republican Party has become.

    Trump and his Republican sycophants are all about shock value and entertainment, and, sadly, too many Americans prioritize entertainment above anything else. (A certain Nirvana song comes to mind.)

    It should be easy enough to remove these clowns when their terms come due. But there’s always another clown waiting to step in and take over.

    Personally, I’ve lost all hope of ever having ethical politicians in office who truly work for the people they represent. There’s just too much greed and corruption and too many hands in too many pockets.

  37. I have never been more frightened of the future than I am now. As a former conservative-leaning Republic in my 20s (I turn 68 next week) now turned liberal-Democrat-atheist-vegan, I am appalled at what the GOP has become. The propensity for violence (or, at least, loudly calling for it), the rejection of science, the worship Trumpsters have for the former president, the blatant racism, the ignorance of history and efforts to whitewash our past — all of these point to a sizeable population that cares little about the Constitution, democracy and the American Dream. Not too many years ago, most Republicans would have been outraged at the sight of someone wearing a T-shirt bearing one of George Carlin’s “seven words.” Now many of them proudly fly “F**K Joe Biden” flags outside their homes or from the beds of their pickup trucks. These are scary times and I do not see a happy future.

  38. If anyone needs another reason to be anxious (haha like we’re short), one of the other reasons the dopey coup got as close as it did was because of what a bumbling organization the Capitol Police are. And just as it seems we’ve made so very little progress in doing anything to beat back these other vote suppression/theft shenanigans, the CP have made pretty much zero progress in unfucking their own organization. And the arms of Congress that provide oversight seem to lack the will to really force the issue.

    And as it’s overseen by Congress, consider the upshot if there’s the usual post-Presidential bounce expected next year. This organization, which barely beat back the crowd of numpties this time, would in 2024 likely be overseen and responsible to a Republican majority, possibly in both houses.

  39. What scares the crap out of me is that the Constitution only requires that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” There is no requirement that it be based on the popular vote at all. So, what happens when the Republican state legislators elected in 2022 decide to change that to whatever they want? Even though that’s the way it always has been done. Don’t forget, this is the party that decided it did not have to even consider a Supreme Court nominee if it didn’t want to, since the Constitution didn’t say they had to. And, what do we do then?

  40. The problem with the “balkanization” idea is that the political divide in the US isn’t really geographic–it’s primarily an urban/non-urban divide. E.g., even though my home state of California is extremely blue, there are still more Republican voters here than there are people in Wyoming, Alaska, the Dakotas, and Montana combined.

  41. Look up General Smedley Butler. This shit isn’t new. There will always be a group of assholes that will try to force their minority politics on the county.
    Obviously, we as a nation, are strong enough to endure the incompetence and outright stupidity of The Cheeto and his followers. It’s just hard not to feed the trolls.
    Dave

  42. I think that coup also failed because those incompetents failed to realize who WASN’T in their club/willing to play along- the military powers that be were not “in” on the scheme (as in were NOT going to cooperate)

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/top-generals-mobilized-fears-trump-wanted-military-post-election-coup-n1274059

    there is a military, and a vast bureaucracy, hundreds of thousands of professional, patriotic men and women that are loyal to the Constitution and , even though others may hold the ‘levers of government’ they are the ones that would need to act for a coup to succeed- (well beyond a day or three)

    This is another measure of the organizers’ incompetency: the former President and those close to, his allies in Congress, the co-conspirators in the white nationalist militias etc., did not have the rank and file of the members (or the career-leaders) of the FBI, CIA, the military willing to give up their lives/careers/integrity for 45’s cause- a coup attempt was doomed.

    I hope the commission not only airs Trumps dirty laundry, but exposes those in Congress and elsewhere who conspired with him to attempt to overthrow the legitimate transfer of power- they committed treason – voting them out of office IS NOT ENOUGH

  43. Many people have mentioned the incompetence of Trump as the reason the coup failed. I disagree.

    I have have read about all the procedural roadblocks and toadies Trump put in key places to prevent the quick response of government agencies to this coup. So ultimately the few capital police at the scene were largely on their own. This is additional evidence of Trump’s treason.

    The coup would have worked if the insurgents had gone in shooting as Trump expected. Perhaps in the back of their minds they realized that armed revolt would truly be hardcore treason, not politics as usual. So most weapons were left outside and not used. So the coup failed.

    So don’t comfort yourselves by thinking Trump was too incompetent to succeed. Trump just overestimated the aggressiveness of his followers.

  44. I’m not going to re-litigate Bush v. Gore here–aside from being off-topic, is really does seem to me to be beating an extremely dead horse–but I have to mention it because that was my own personal litmus test. How would I have felt, January 2001, if Al Gore had held a rally in Washington and followed up by refusing to accept the Florida electors? He could have done it; in so many different ways, he actually had a better chance of causing a Constitutional crisis than Trump did. So, my visceral response? I can’t be sure (it didn’t happen, after all) but I think I’d have been outraged. I certainly didn’t want it to happen, and I thought that the Democratic legislators who refused to vote to accept the electoral college vote were being grand-standing twits. At best. That, I can swear to. So.

    One thing that has occurred to me is that way too many Republicans in 2021 thought that THEY were being grand-standing twits and weren’t really risking accomplishing anything . . . which is repulsive on a whole different level. Rex W. Huppke (read in today’s Chicago Tribune) commented that the Jan. 6 insurrectionists were “dumb as paint. And I say that at great risk of insulting paint.” I can get behind that sentiment, be grateful for it under the circumstances, but still. The legislators who were either actively involved or (possibly worse) didn’t even realize that the vote they were taking might have actual consequences–those legislators ended up putting us all at risk. And when did “not as dumb as paint” become a quality we look for in our elected officials anyway?

  45. Great piece, always love your writing.

    So… what do we do to stop this from happening again? I have to admit, I’m feeling beaten. It also doesn’t help that I live in Trump land (Geauga county – not as bad as Scalzi’s county – my mother in law lived in Greene, but still) – The dems have not fought nearly well enough on the local legislatures – and Ohio is gerrymandered to hell and back – I fear it is a lost cause.

    I’m at a loss.

  46. A coup attempt without consequences is a training exercise. The ongoing attempt by the GOP to spin it as a nothing burger that was all the Democrats fault anyway is disgusting.

    Anyone who’s ever escaped from an abusive relationship knows how “look what you made me do to you” works.

    Time to break this cycle of abuse once and for all. It should have died long ago, but opportunists decided to get powerful off it instead.

  47. One additional point. The media and Democrats have been reluctant to call this attempted coup what it really is: TREASON.

    We pussy foot around as if this was a Sunday picnic gone bad. They don’t want to offend anybody by pointing out the obvious. It was/is Treason, plain and simple.

  48. Kelly Sedinger – Buffalo, NY, USA – I write by night and work with hand and power tools by day...I have unhealthy obsessions with books, movies, music, food, and bib overalls. I live with my wonderful family (brilliant wife, brilliant kid, three lovable but dumb-as-post cats) near Buffalo, NY.
    Kelly C Sedinger

    “Who is to be hanged for this?”

    Let’s charge them and try them and see.

  49. Mr. Scalzi, very well done.

    I am sorry but I think the first act isn’t over yet. It bothers me that the Democrats have to play the game so well to make sure the second act doesn’t have a chance.

    That second act will be the mid-terms. All of us that believe the first act was against the whole idea of out democracy needs to get out and vote, screw the economy and a few other things. This has to be tantamount,

    It would work better if some moderate statesman of democratic persuasion was running, but we don’t really have one out there. That is a shame in these dark days.

  50. Always lovely to see tacit Trump supporters downplay the significance of Jan 6th while at the same time screaming bloody murder when Black folks are louder or angrier than is comfortable when protesting lynching.

    Any excuse for or effort to minimize Trump supporters’ actions that day is grade A dishonesty, and that’s a kind estimation of it.

    As for unity and the often right-leaning constitutive criteria for it, screw that.

    This really is a with US or against US moment, meaning you either stand with the version of the US that respects the outcome of all elections or against it. You either stand behind the right of Americans to choose their leaders or you do not.

    You either respect religious freedom (even if its the freedom to be something other than Christian, Catholic or any of the other approved faiths), respect the freedom to eschew heteropatriarchy and respect teachers’ freedom to be honest with students about America’s past and present or you don’t. You either value bodily autonomy (even when it means women get to decide not to remain pregnant) or you do not. You either operate under an inclusive definition of “American” or you do not.

    You don’t unite with people who want to kill huge swaths of America because freedom/white power/God-fearing alpha male rule. You can’t find common ground with Trump republicans because Trump republicans, for the most part, would love nothing more than to eradicate our democracy and install a right-wing monarch who’ll take an already racist and sexist country and turn it into a deadly hellscape for anyone who isn’t a straight white male.

    That’s what the Jan 6th insurrectionists were after that day, and the right-arm of congress is all about it.

    Biden can’t be expected to unite hardcore and unapologetic RSHDs and decent people under any kind of banner. He can only tell the truth about January 6th and what it meant.

    You don’t persuade these people; you can’t win their hearts or minds because many lack the former and won’t use the latter.

    Most of the people griping about “unity” want Biden to acknowledge the “real fear” and “valid concerns”that Trump supporters have about US demographics and “woke” culture.

    The problem is that the line is between decent and objectively evil. It’s not just about disagreement; these people have been separating families, sterilizing migrant women, encouraging lynch artists and allowing rapists, domestic abusers and horny male family members the pleasure of watching their victims’ bodies change as a result of their violence against them.
    They’re codifying transphobic precepts into law and doing their level best to muzzle the voices of those whom they regard as lower life forms.

    They continue to line their own pockets while leaving average Americans to fend for themselves in the midst of a pandemic (one that anti-maskers and antivaccers have helped to perpetuate), all the while spouting the same ole social Darwinist bullshit about bootstraps and personal responsibility.

    They are a major threat, and expecting Biden to gloss over that objective, material reality is ridiculous.

    What happened on January 6th was nothing but terrorism, and everyone to do with it is as anti-American as it gets. Like any decent president, Biden pointed it out.

    He’s not a perfect president, but he made a perfect point.

  51. Civil war? No way.

    I mean, for the War on Terror, when G.I.s were “recruiting for the insurgency” by kicking in doors at night, how many women and men would quit college to go be civilian interpreters to mitigate the Arab’s fear of US soldiers?

    Too many would ask a lady in the National Guard to leave her small kids at home, or ask a man in the Guard to leave his crops half grown in the field, but couldn’t be bothered to demonize the enemy or otherwise tell the Guard how the war was terribly important.

    Yes, you can get a number of folks to storm the capital, but you can’t enough Americans off the couch to have a civil war.

  52. The coup is not over. Look at what they are doing in the states with election boards. If we don’t pass a voting rights bill that addresses what they are doing we can kiss our democracy goodbye. I am 66 yrs old and have never felt more frightened or pessimistic about our future.

  53. I read a disturbing statistic that a huge number of the 1/6 thugs are well off, but live in areas that have measurably become less white. Trump allowed them to express and act on their racist fears. They’ll never quit him.

    For the rest of the US, there is a term – the revolution of rising expectations. It’s the idea “unfulfilled, rising expectations create unstable political situations”
    I will note that there has been some progress in the US to provide opportunity and public voice to citizens who are not male and white. It’s pretty clear that the objective of a lot of rumpism is to roll that back. One woman complained of a rump policy that “he’s not hurting the people he’s supposed to hurt”.

    These two trends are mutually reinforcing. I don’t expect an outright civil was within the next decade, but I do expect our ramshackle, Beta Version Democracy to become less democratic and for some areas to develop Bleeding Kansas Syndrome – they’ll become places where armed activists flock to enforce their views, suppress dissent, murder their opponents and inevitably spark countering violence. And I’m not talking about Antifa or Black Lives Matter, which are protest networks, not militias.

    Pappenheimer, who may not live long enough to see things get better – and who worries that climate change won’t get stopped because of authoritarian consolidation of power across the world.

    Sorry for the length of the Jeremiad.

  54. As a UK citizen who worked in the US for a decade and is now back in Europe, what unnerves me the most is how keen everyone in the US seems to be to minimise this and try to move on and pretend that this wasn’t as bad as it was. This was an attempted coup, for crying out loud!

    I just wish the Democrats would take the Republicans’ frantic efforts to bend the rules for voting and reframing this more seriously. The Dems somehow seem to think that by playing fair, the Republicans will suddenly play fair too, which is clearly not the case.

    The fact that the Dems apparently couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery frustrates me no end too. Say what you want about the Republicans, at least they have a clear goal and hide their internal differences whilst in the public view, whilst Democrats seem to sabotage each other and get little done.

    I hope I’m just being paranoid in thinking that the Democrats will lose hard in 2022, and that the right wingers will try again with something coup-shaped but be successful next time, as they’ll have learnt what does and doesn’t work – but I have an unpleasant feeling that things will go very wrong in the next two years without the Democrats getting their shit together.

  55. It’s telling how many people on the right asserted that the cops aren’t supposed to shoot at people like Babbitt — shooting people down is how you deal with BLM protests, not white people! they aren’t trying to hide it.
    2)Dave S., the Republican pretense that “unity” means we can’t criticize them or oppose them is not new but it’s bullshit. Reaching across the aisle to fascists is futile.
    3)If Pence had rolled over and certified for Trump, I’m honestly not sure what would have happened. As a private citizen, it’s hard to fight a coup of that sort.
    And yes, they’d be outraged — outraged — if Kamala Harris in 2024 overruled the electors but Republicans haven’t had a problem with double standards in decades. For all Cruz talks about impeaching Biden being payback they were openly discussing impeaching Clinton if she won in 2016.
    4)I highly recommend the book “A Lot of People Are Saying” for showing how current trends in conspiracy paranoia (it’s no longer about connecting dots, they just scream that the dots exist, and their opinion is as good as your facts so shut it, snowflake!) reinforce the right-wing desire to believe their enemies are monsters and they’re being persecuted.

  56. TERRORISM: the only difference between J6 and 9/11… America was attacked by Americans on American soil in an effort to wreck the American Constitution… because they hate a free America

    “the American spirit is being tested”

    http://bit.ly/3q0mrrY <== Biden's speech

  57. I so appreciate the reassuring voices who say that a civil war is unlikely. I too am really scared about what the GOP vote suppression and the echo chambers of social media have wrought.

    I guess what we all need to do is work on voter registration; take a page from the work of Stacey Abrams, in all the swing states. I also read a piece urging Democratic outreach to Latinos, who apparently are a demographic group of true swing voters.

    Remember all the optimistic think pieces around 2009 saying that demographics would lead to solid Democratic majorities soon? Boy did they not take into account gerrymandering and fearmongering.

    I too would love to hear more from commenters about what we can do to prevent this. Maybe finding a way to regulate lies on social media is possible–Danah Boyd has some good ideas about that.

    But I don’t think there is any way the Democrats can keep control of Congress in 2022. The odds and history and Biden’s terrible poll numbers are against them.

    But what happened Jan. 6 was not normal or ordinary and the bullshitting about it among the GOP is just jaw droppingly awful. They are the ones trying to rewrite history here. I was glad Biden said what he said in his speech; it was a really good speech. But I too am not sure where we go from here.

  58. Richard Winks – Long time Sci/Tech lover and practitioner, socially tolerant, fiscally conservative, apolitical, unremarkably ordinary, admitted pedant, long suffering cynic. @dwinx49r on Twitter
    Richard Winks

    Thanks for concisely encapsulating my feelings. You pretty much captured them all.

    Politics will be our downfall if folks insist on following without question even as it leads them to a cliff.

  59. I wonder what will happen to the GOP and their cultists if Trump dies before 2024? If you look at the history of cults, they nearly always fall apart when they lose the charismatic leader. I don’t know my history well enough to say for sure, but I suspect that many authoritarian governments with a cult-like leader who dies will fall into internal warfare as people fight over who will be next. Granted, that doesn’t seem to have happened in Cuba or North Korea, but I do wonder what the outcome would have been if Hitler had died in, say, 1942.

    Trump looks to me to be seriously unhealthy enough, and eating a truly atrocious diet, that the question is more than rhetorical.

  60. “I wonder what will happen to the GOP and their cultists if Trump dies before 2024?”

    They’ll just find someone else to worship, probably MTG or everyone’s favorite crisis jumper from Texas.

    Right now, Trump is getting boos and hisses at cult gatherings because he is pushing the vaccine, so he’s likely a non starter for many of them.

    The ones that covidiocy doesn’t eliminate from the electorate will be just as happy to follow the next “leader” who tells incurious American conservabots that A, straight white male followers of acceptable faiths are the best and most important people on planet Earth and B, their rightful ownership of everything and everyone under its sky is being threatened by affronts to hegemony who have forgotten their SWM-centered and designed rules and roles.

    Never forget that we’re talking about a group of folks who were so sexist, racist, xenophobic, anti-lgbtqia, ableist and religiously intolerant that they voted to elevate a reality TV personality to the highest office in the land, even after he’d bungled a pandemic response and presided over hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.

    I think its safe to say that Trump’s death won’t mean a damn thing in the grand scheme; they’ll cling to anyone who’ll put the Godless, gays, trannies, feminist sluts/ball-busters and icky brown people in their places. It won’t matter who it is.

  61. @Dana Lynne–voter outreach at the local level was how Stacey Abrams and Black organizers managed to turn the Georgia Senate races Democratic.

    Black organizers get it. I’ve been following quite a few of them over on political Twitter. As a former Democratic party organizer, it’s frankly refreshing to me to hear Black organizers talk.

    More white politicos and pundits need to listen to the Black organizers. I wish I had known them back in the 1980s-90s when I was an organizer and trying desperately to convince my fellow Democrats that grassroots organization was necessary, that the Republicans were working from the bottom up and we needed to counter them.

    At the time, I was pretty much a lonely voice in a very white enclave (Portland, Oregon). Sigh.

  62. How would I have felt, January 2001, if Al Gore had held a rally in Washington and followed up by refusing to accept the Florida electors?

    A “rally”? In this hypothetical, did Gore urge on his supporters, who then stormed the Capitol building, beat police officers, and hunted Republican legislators?

  63. I’m thankful that you’re using this platform, with what I assume is a large readership, to take a firm, unambiguous stand against what the GOP has become.

    I don’t quite know how we get out of this awful political mess we’re in, but we have to find a way. I like the thought of calling out the fascists for what/who they are and dealing with this head-on. Hopefully in the courts, not in the streets with violence.

  64. I may be optimistic but I’m not sure this new posture continues after Trump is gone. He was one of the great speakers to have run for president. Spoke from the top of his head, said what he thought, could go for hours, and always had witty nicknames for his opponents. It required his charisma to draw people who usually aren’t political to vote.

    When they had the GA senatorial run-off pollsters wondered if the crazies would vote w/out Trump on the ticket, and sure enough they stayed home and the democrats took both seats.

    I think it requires Trump to keep this alive. Once he’s dead or faded back to irrelevance, the crazies will crawl back in their holes and slowly the republican party will regain their senses. At least I hope so!

  65. Mythago: A “rally”? In this hypothetical, did Gore urge on his supporters, who then stormed the Capitol building, beat police officers, and hunted Republican legislators?

    Well, yes, for the purposes of the thought exercise. Not implying that I think Gore would have done any such thing in January 2001, or even to make any statements about my personal feelings re: Bush v. Gore. (I really was trying to avoid going down that particular rabbit hole–and still am.) The hypothetical was just me trying to cross-check my own partisan instincts, to make sure I wasn’t over-reacting to what happened on 1/6/2021–that I wasn’t outraged at what Trump and his supporters did just because they have done so many other things that also outrage me. It was a parallel to the OP’s hypothetical about Hillary Clinton.

    My conclusion was, if I haven’t made that clear: no, I don’t think I was/am. Democrats taking similar action in any kind of an analogous context would have also have been wrong. My apologies if I seemed to understate Trump’s involvement, even as I understood it on just that day. Gore wouldn’t have been justified, and he knew it (look at his demeanor when he oversaw Bush’s certification in January 2001); Clinton wouldn’t have been justified (and also knew it, or I don’t think she would have conceded in the first place); Trump emphatically and absolutely had not a single, shadowy shred of justification. I’m not sure whether he knows it–I’ve never been able to tell if Trump is lying and delusional, or just lying. The difference is: he just doesn’t care. Maybe I should have put “rally” in quotation marks? Because you are quite correct: even before I learned what was going on behind the scenes, implying that it was a legitimate political gathering is misleading. It wasn’t.

  66. I don’t agree this will die with Trump. The anti-voting laws are in place. His acolytes are running for election offices. The power-hungry ones like Abbott and “Typhoid Ron” DeSantis will be perfectly happy to exploit all the weaknesses Trump exposed in our system and all the laws written since.

  67. 46 years ago I was a Republican when the party was fiscally conservative and coukd be socially progressive. 42 years ago I quit the Republican Party. They turned away from the policies that drew my parents and me in.
    When Reagan said the Contras were the same as our founding fathers as they murdered opponents in shallow graves, I knew the Party had lost its way.
    I’ve watched that Party shred the nation and Constitution while convincing the gullible that only they can protect the institutions they have set out to destroy.
    Millions are poorer, homeless, and, in 700,000 instances dead while a handful of oligarchs prosper. While it might seem that cuvil war is coming I cannot believe it would be successful. As Asimov wrote, “Violence is the last refuge of the Incompetent”, and these people are clearly incompetent.

  68. I just want to say that a guy who went to my church actually said that Trump was a good president. He said that back in 2020. I’m not sure if he would still say that. I had to move so I don’t see him anymore. Even a neighbor of mine said Trump is better because Biden would cause abortion clinics to be funded.

    I saw a documentary on PBS called Hacking your Mind. I recommend everyone to see it. It talks about Us vs Them kind of thing Trump uses. I used to say I’m an Independent and then I said I was a Democrat. Now I say I’m an Independent again after listening to Bailey Sarian talk about our Dark History.

  69. Ron Beilke
    January 7, 2022, 1:17 pm

    I may be optimistic but I’m not sure this new posture continues after Trump is gone. He was one of the great speakers to have run for president. Spoke from the top of his head, said what he thought, could go for hours, and always had witty nicknames for his opponents. It required his charisma to draw people who usually aren’t political to vote.

    Witty? Sorry, no, his wit (and name-calling) was junior-high-school level. He indeed could speak for hours, but if you ever read transcripts of his remarks, they were the worst kind of incoherent word-salad. His oratorical skills were non-existent.

  70. Ron Beilke, I agree completely. Trump was the worst speaker I have ever heard. I suspect his supporters respond to Trump’s dog-whistles (hate speech) and his apparent confidence rather than what Trump actually says.

    Studies have shown that people vote for the more confident candidate. After all, if he is that confident, he must know what he is doing? It attracts low information supporters.

    Dunning-Kruger showed that ignorant people are often the most confident in their knowledge. Trump is a perfect example. He thinks he knows everything, while being supremely ignorant of most things. His only great skill is in conning his followers and bankers.

  71. Donald Trump has no great skills or any redeeming features whatsoever. Out of 46 U.S. presidents, he ranks 99th.

    I stress we cannot make this about Donald Trump alone. He will be gone, either by the reaper or the bailiff, but his actions, along with the GOP falling in line to his every whim, and impunity from his own voters gives me this chilling thought.

    The Trump-era GOP is setting the table for a capable Trump: Someone who can make good on his threats, maintain high poll numbers and keep the party in power forever.

    Trump doesn’t have a great skill inasmuch as he has a secret sauce. His niece, Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist, has this dark insight on her uncle. Trump would never deign himself to be clinically analyzed, but Mary knows the family dynamics of the House of Trump.

    She told MSNBC: “I hear people say that Republicans are afraid of Donald – no they’re not. They ARE him. They are sticking with the guy who gives them permission “to be their worst selves.”

    Permission to be their worst selves. That is the secret sauce of genocide.

  72. Just gonna leave this here for those who haven’t heard or seen yet:

    I guess freedom of speech is only a right afforded to bigots and other unabashed garbage people.

  73. While for some of us, the choice between “destroyers of democracy” and Democrats is clear, for others it’s not. The Gop has very successfully turned the Democrats into a bogeyman that kills babies. There is a set of people who will not vote for Democrats under any circumstances. Imo, the only way out I see is a centrist third party but I don’t know how it could get established.

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