The January 6th Insurrection
by Neil H. Buchanan
The United States, I have suggested more than once, is quite possibly a "dead democracy walking." After returning to that metaphor in a column barely more than a month ago, I wrote: "If we are too far gone to prevent the worst from happening -- if the end is only a matter of time -- then the best we can do is to prepare for what is inevitable. The beginning of such preparation is a clear-eyed assessment of where things stand, understanding why it seems certain that things will still turn out badly."
To try to put this in personal terms (and to steer the metaphor away from its original use to describe the victims of state-sponsored death), imagine receiving the devastating news that you have contracted a deadly disease and have only a short time left to live. Thankfully, I have thus far never been confronted with anything even remotely along those lines. I can imagine, however, that no matter how much one tries to anticipate what the process will be like when the pain and breakdown ultimately become unmistakable, the actual experience of symptoms would still come as a shock. The vestiges of denial and hope on which one relies for solace begin to flicker.
Yesterday felt like that, as I watched the news from Washington.
By now, it has become a cliche to predict the worst and then say, "I hope I'm wrong." The sentiment is a good one, but as far back as the early Obama years nutcases like Glenn Beck (remember him?) were predicting that our first Black president would lead a fascist/communist/Muslim/socialist takeover, only to turn to the camera and say with wide-eyed mock innocence: "I hope I'm wrong." As I sit and think about yesterday's terrifying events at the United States Capitol building, I certainly am not tempted to say, "See, I was right all along!" I am saying not only that I wanted to be wrong but that even though something like this has long seemed inevitable, seeing it happening was still a shock.
My thoughts are too jumbled right now to allow me to pen a longer piece, so I will point to two of my Dorf on Law columns that seem especially relevant.
The first, which I have already republished as a Dorf on Law "classic" over the recent holidays, is titled "There Will Be (More) Blood," originally published on October 20, 2020. It includes this:
"Most importantly, the biggest story continues to be that Trump simply cannot stop encouraging his most extreme supporters to be ready to support him with violence. Blood has already been shed because of Trump this year. Shockingly but not at all shockingly, he seems to want more blood to flow."
"The second article, published four years earlier to the day (October 20, 2016), is titled "Donald Trump, Insurrectionist." Discussing the third presidential non-debate before that fateful election, I wrote:
"Donald Trump announced at the debate that he will not accept the results of the presidential election, unless he wins.
"If that is not a plan to foment insurrection, I do not know what is. This is not the kind of thing that one says lightly, but it is chillingly accurate...."Trump has now announced to the world that his losing will prove that the election is rigged against him. He will thus arrogate to himself the right to say that he did not lose fair and square. If you are not scared, you should be."
Perhaps yesterday's events -- a riot incited by the man who is still somehow President of the United States -- will change history in a good way, somehow purging our body politic of the disease that has been killing us for these long, depressing years. I hope so. The Trump mob did not achieve its goal yesterday, and that is good. Maybe this will break the fever, but even if it does, we have a long path to recovery ahead of us, and success is by no means guaranteed.