by Tony Wyman
Two Doors And Seven Security Officers Are Why America Is Still A Republic
Look at the picture above this story and think about what was taking place at the time the people in the photo were risking their lives to keep pro-Trump terrorists from storming the chambers of Congress.
Other security officers were rushing members of the House and the Senate to more secure locations. Staff members throughout the offices were barricading themselves behind closed doors, trying to defend themselves against terrorists chanting “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” and “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?”
In videos posted by news organizations, you can hear terrorists tell Capitol police, “Tell Pelosi we’re coming for that bitch. Tell f***ing Pelosi we’re coming for her.”
Earlier, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stepped out of the Senate chamber to take a break and heard the sounds of the violent attack taking place at the Senate’s doors. He walked towards the noise and was nearly run over by a security officer who was sprinting in the other direction. “Run!” the officer yelled, as he sped past.
In the hours that followed, the halls of the People’s House were full of domestic terrorists and insurrectionists who damaged the building, stole furniture and documents, and even defecated on the hallway floors.
Worse, they murdered a Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick who, ironically, was a Trump supporter, himself. He was stuck in the head by a terrorist who used a fire extinguisher he pulled from the Capitol walls to murder Officer Sicknick.
Five people would die in the attack, one more than the last time a violent, rampaging mob of terrorists attacked an American government building and killed Americans, that time in Benghazi, Libya.
They carried zip ties, clubs, firearms, knives and other weapons. A truck driven by Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Falkville, Alabama, was found nearby with 11 homemade bombs, a handgun and an assault rifle. When he was arrested, Coffman had a 9mm handgun in one front pocket and .22 calibre one in the other.
Coffman told police the 11 bombs were a combination of melted styrofoam and gasoline that he believed would act like napalm and stick to his targeted victims while it burned.
And, outside, terrorists constructed a scaffold from which, presumably, they intended to hang whomever they caught. Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, members of the Capitol Police. No one really knows how far their depraved hatred of America’s foremost symbol of democracy, the Capitol Building, would have taken them.
While all this was happening, Donald Trump, president of the United States, watched in silence. Knowing his vice-president was in imminent danger, Trump did nothing to call off the attack on the Capitol.
He refused to activate the National Guard, he didn’t tweet “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he didn’t call on his supporters to stand down until it was clear the coup attempt he launched had failed. “Go home. We love you. You are very special,” he said to the largest mob of terrorists ever assembled in America.
Prior to the attack, Trump and his family and staff watched video of the assembling mob. His son, Don Jr., and his daughter-in-law Kimberly Guilfoyle, dancing to Laura Branigan’s Gloria, seemed giddy.
Perhaps no one heard the lyrics of the song before President Trump gave the speech that launched a coup attempt and ended his political career and those of the men who, soon, despite the violence they would witness, still, cynically, stood with him after police restored order. If they had listened, they might have heard the warning contained in Branigan’s words.
The song, originally by Italian singer Umberto Tozzi, was a warning to Gloria, who was on the verge of insanity over a man, her judgment clouded by her obsession with him.
How’s it gonna go down?
Will you meet him on the main line?
Or will you catch him on the rebound?
Will you marry for the money?
Take a lover in the afternoon?
Feel your innocence slippin’ away
Don’t believe it’s comin’ back soon
And you really don’t remember
Was it somethin’ that he said?
All the voices in your head
“Big tech is now coming into their own,” Trump told the crowd listening to his lies at the beginning of the ironically named “Save America Rally” put together by his authoritarian regime to stop the certification of the election. Trump continued:
“We beat them four years ago. We surprised them. We took them by surprise and this year, they rigged an election. They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before. By the way, last night, they didn’t do a bad job either, if you notice. I’m honest. I just, again, I want to thank you. It’s just a great honor to have this kind of crowd and to be before you. Hundreds of thousands of American patriots are committed to the honesty of our elections and the integrity of our glorious Republic. All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they’re doing and stolen by the fake news media. That’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing. We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
The crowd cheered.
“Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal.”
The crowd, growing more excited, cheered louder.
“By the way, does anybody believe that Joe had 80 million votes? Does anybody believe that? He had 80 million computer votes. It’s a disgrace. There’s never been anything like that. You could take third world countries. Just take a look, take third world countries. Their elections are more honest than what we’ve been going through in this country. It’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace. Even when you look at last night, they’re all running around like chickens with their heads cut off with boxes. Nobody knows what the hell is going on. There’s never been anything like this. We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen. Not going to let it happen.”
Transfixed on his words, the mob began chanting “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!” Not for America – supposedly what the crowd was there to save, but Trump, their leader, the man the voices in their heads said was battling a child sex trafficking ring involving high level Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.
“I hope so because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All he has to do. This is from the number one or certainly one of the top constitutional lawyers in our country. He has the absolute right to do it. We’re supposed to protect our country, support our country, support our constitution, and protect our constitution. States want to revote. The States got defrauded. They were given false information. They voted on it. Now they want to recertify. They want it back. All Vice-President Pence has to do is send it back to the States to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people.”
The crowd agreed. “We love Trump! We love Trump! We love Trump!” they cheered. Not America – Trump.
“But just remember this. You’re stronger, you’re smarter. You’ve got more going than anybody, and they try and demean everybody having to do with us, and you’re the real people. You’re the people that built this nation. You’re not the people that tore down our nation.”
Cheering, the crowd agreed. Despite their plans to attack the Capitol and destroy the Constitution, they were the people who built this nation.
“After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
And so they did, the angry mob, whipped into a frenzy by Trump’s nearly 74-minute-long incoherent list of manufactured grievances, backed by nothing tangible, no proof, no evidence, just anger. Trump, who promised to be there with them, went back to the White House where, isolated and alone, he watched Fox as America’s version of the Reichstag Fire took place before his eyes.
Was that Trump’s goal? Was he hoping the attack would prompt other groups around the country to lay siege to their state houses, to the institutions that preserve America’s democracy? Is that what all the chatter on far right internet sites claiming “The Storm is Coming” is all about?
Trump’s QAnon followers believed attacking the Capitol would trigger “The Storm.” Ashli Babbitt, the Q believer fatally shot during the attack prompted by Trump tweeted, “They can try and try and try, but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours….dark to light!”
Perhaps no more telling statement by a politician has ever been made than the one recently uttered by former Trump Chief-of-Staff Mick Mulvaney during a recent interview with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace.
Mulvaney, asked why he resigned from his post as a special envoy following the attack on the Capitol. “Why was that the last straw?” asked Wallace. Why didn’t Mulvaney resign in protest over the tens of thousands of lies Trump during his entire presidency.
He replied he could defend Trump’s four year assault on democratic norms in America as rhetorical “stylistic differences,” but, he claimed, the attack on the Capitol was “existential.”
Mulvaney, a longtime political operative knows fully well that rhetoric, especially coming from a president, is much more than simply a matter of style. It sets a tone for the nation, and inspires or enables segments of the population in different, often critically, ways.
John Kennedy‘s speech about going to the Moon inspired the nation to overcome its angst about the growth of Soviet power and propelled America to great scientific achievements.
Dwight Eisenhower‘s speech about Little Rock inspired the nation to push for greater desegregation of American society.
Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” speech still brings joy to millions who once lived behind the Iron Curtain.
Trump’s speeches for four years have had a completed different intent, not to inspire, but to undermine. In 2016, Jack Balkin, Yale Law professor, wrote this:
Donald Trump has been compared to a monkey with a machine gun – we don’t really know what he will do or how much damage he will inflict to our system of free expression and our democratic institutions. What we have seen so far, however, suggests that if he really wants to, he could undermine a lot of what it took more than two centuries to build. Rather than obsessing about Trump’s outrageous tweets, we should focus on the more systematic ways he threatens our democracy.
His warning couldn’t have been more spot on. By lying continuously and with impunity, Trump undermined the faith Americans have in the truth. How many times have you heard over the past four years, “I don’t believe anyone, anymore. They are all liars?” I hear it nearly daily.
Trump has so badly eroded the importance of truth that politicians as cunning, unscrupulous and ambitious as Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz made the political calculation that knowingly lying to their constituents was in their best interest as they pursued their presidential ambitions.
The courageous and honorable thing to do would have been to stand up for truth and the American system of self-rule, even, no, especially in the face of an angry mob attacking the very form of government they wish to head.
Neither of those two men believes the 2020 election was stolen, but they both believe they need to pretend it was to win over Trump’s base of support. Now, thanks to Trump, standing up for truth, like Jeff Flake, former Republican senator from Arizona, did, doesn’t make one a hero in the Republican Party, the self-proclaimed party of family values, it makes one a pariah.
Truth and obedience to it is the foundation of a democracy. Without it, no democracy can survive. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” said the Founding Fathers, when they declared American independence from England. Upon the rock bed of fundamental truth, this nation’s constitution was built.
And Donald Trump spent his entire presidency undermining that foundation.
All over the world, in fact, Right-wing Populism (RWP) is doing the same thing to the foundations of democracies in Europe and Asia – seizing on the emotions of envy and mistrust festering in segments of their societies.
Here, in America, primarily with under-educated whites stagnating in an economy that increasingly rewards knowledge gained at the post-secondary level, and older white males seeing their social status challenged by women and people of color, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – right-wing populist politicians, like Trump, have pushed the narrative that the elite is part of some dark global cabal that secretly controls the world and robs people like them of what is rightly theirs.
The story people like Trump tell their followers is the “enemies of the people,” meaning anyone who disputes what the right-wing populist claims, are aligned against them to force cultural, social and economic change upon to further enrich themselves.
To get back what has been stolen from them, the “real people” have to unite behind the right-wing populist, who knows the real truth and will “fight” for them.
The RWP explains the malaise, economic or spiritual, in which his followers find themselves trapped, isn’t their fault; instead, it is the result of the dark conspiracy of the rich, the educated, the elite, and their servants in the media and government.
The reason you are struggling financially, says the RWP, isn’t because you haven’t acquired the skills needed to get higher-paying jobs, it’s because business is exporting all the jobs to foreigners. The reason you are uncomfortable with social change isn’t because you’ve rooted yourself in antiquainted values and biases, it’s because others are forcing their morality on you.
Writing in 2006, University of Pennsylvania Professor of History Sophia Rosenfeld said:
“But all that can be righted, according to this story, once those real people are able once again to substitute their own version of truth, rooted in faith, instinct and practical experience, not to mention authenticity, for the arcane and self-serving version offered up by the “mainstream” press, the academic establishment and the “deep state” — in short, the various domains of truth elites.
In other words, 2+2=5, if enough people say it does. Truth is, in an autocratic state ruled by a right-wing populist, replaced by “knowledge.” The truth is 2+2=4, but to be one of us, to be part of the tribe, rather than an outsider, is to share the “knowledge” that 2+2=5.
So why do 50% of MAGA believe that Donald Trump is heading up a battle against child sex trafficking? Because that is the shared “knowledge” of their tribe. To dispute it, is to reject the tribe and lose one’s membership in it.
The danger in all this is it creates a climate where the right-wing populist can begin to attack the credibility of the democratic system, itself. And that is what Donald Trump has been doing for four years as president. Everyone but him, and his dwindling number of allies, is corrupt. “Only I can fix it,” he said, effectively declaring his hostility to democracy.
In their seminal study, How to Lose a Constitutional Democracy, Aziz Huq and Tom Ginsburg, professors of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, describe two methods by which democracies die.
The first, Authoritarian Reversion – essentially the violent overthrow of a democracy by means of a military coup or a declaration of emergency power, such as happened in the Weimar Republic when Germany’s President Hindenburg signed the Emergency Decree for the Protection of the German People,
This act gave the Nazi Party the power to bypass the democratic institutions of the Weimar Republic and pass laws by decree. Following the death of Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler announced the merging on the two leadership roles in Germany, the president and the chancellor, into one, the Fuhrer.
He asked the German people to vote on the merger, which, effectively, made him the dictator of Germany. With almost 96% of the people voting, Hitler received 89.93% of the ballots cast.
The second method by which democracies die is Constitutional Retrogression, which the authors define as “the incremental erosion of liberal democracy’s institutional and social premises.”
Unlike a sudden or violent end to a democracy caused by authoritarian reversion, this slow and gradual loss of democracy is often a more attractive roadmap for authoritarians in a modern state like ours because it attracts less attention and, therefore, less resistance from pro-democracy opponents.
In fact, many of the anti-democratic movement’s followers aren’t even aware that they are participating in the slow death of the system of self-rule they believe they are protecting. This is the irony of the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, by Trump’s supporters. Most actually believed they were acting to save democracy, rather than to destroy it.
Because it is nearly impossible to tell when a democracy actually transitions into an authoritarian dictatorship during constitutional retrogression, it is difficult for the opponents of the dictator-in-waiting to marshall sufficient forces to oppose his rise. This is where Trump’s attempt to overthrow the fair and honest presidential vote of 2020 failed.
He showed his hand by conducting a blunt and clumsy direct assault on democracy in a way mimicking an authoritarian reversion, making it easy for his opponents on both sides of the political spectrum to unify, rally forces to counter his move, and, ultimately, crush it.
But What’s Next?
The problem the country now faces is twofold: first, a large segment of our population has so thoroughly bought in to Trump’s lies (and those sold for decades by authoritarian populists like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro and Laura Ingraham) that they, essentially, have to be deprogrammed, educated to be able to discern truth from tribal “knowledge.”
And, second, Trump has shown other would-be dictators how to navigate the pathways of authoritarianism to, eventually, destroy democracy in America.
More accurately, his numerous mistakes and lack of in-depth planning, his refusal to surround himself with competent advisors and aides, showed those who would follow in his footsteps what not to do while slowly eroding the confidence America has in its own democracy.
That said, Trump’s follower, should one arise, will have a significant head start. According to Pew Research, 59% of Americans have “little or no” confidence in the judgment of their political leaders. Almost 70% believe “made up news” greatly reduces confidence in American institutions.
And, to demonstrate how the proliferation of opinion venues masquerading as straight news outlets have impacted the competence of Americans as information consumers, a study to determine the ability to discern fact from opinion determined only 26% could consistently identify factual statements and only 35% could consistently identify ones based on opinion. .
The result of all of this, the efforts by Trump to undermine the American people’s faith in government institutions, election officials, the media, the intelligence community and the courts, and even members of his own party, only 17% of Americans have trust in the federal government to do what’s right for the country.
In 1958, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, 73% did.
The good news, despite everything that has happened to damage our people’s faith in democracy, 84% believe it is possible to improve trust in government and 86% believe we can improve trust in each other.
The first step is to hold those accountable for attacking democracy and punishing them for their crimes. The next step, as a united people determined to preserve democracy in America, is to reject authoritarianism and those who promote it.
If we can do those things and restore confidence in the institutions and principles that govern and protect our system of government, American democracy will survive. If we can’t. we should be prepared for a future that looks more like January 6, 2021 than any day in 1958.