Thursday, January 07, 2021

My take on yesterday's insurrection

It was never a question of whether Donald Trump would destroy the Republican party, but when and how, and whether he would take the rest of the country (and possibly the world) down along with it.  The one silver lining to yesterday's horrific events in our nation's capitol is that we finally have the beginning of a real answer.  Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell finally joined the rest of the rats fleeing the rapidly sinking S.S. Trump, leaving Ted Cruz at the helm.  I predict he will stay there like a hyena on a rotting corpse because he is so hungry for power that no matter how bad things get he will not be able to tear himself away from all those tasty, tasty MAGA voters.

That Trump's reign would end something like this was utterly predictable from the start.  I'm sorry, but if you didn't see something like this coming, you really haven't been paying attention for the last four years.  Donald Trump was never going to stop abusing his power until he got smacked down hard.  In fact, he still hasn't gotten smacked down hard, and so he is still not going to stop.  Maybe he will get smacked down in the next two weeks (by a largely symbolic second impeachment), or the next two years (by being prosecuted for his various crimes), but until that actually happens (and it is far from clear that it will) Trump is not going to stop being himself even now.

But the Republican party, thank God, is done for.  Donald Trump has set out a very stark choice for Republicans: follow me, or follow the law.  As with everything Trump does, there is no room for compromise or nuance.  You are either with him or you are against him.  Choose.

As bad as yesterday was, we still have a lot to be grateful for because it could have been oh so much worse.  Imagine if the mob that descended yesterday had been disciplined and well-organized and armed with assault rifles instead of the ragtag motley crew that it turned out to be.  Or imagine if, instead of a riot in Washington, Trump had decided that it would be a good idea to nuke Tehran on his way out the door.  Yesterday could very well have been the Reichstag fire.  Instead it was the beer hall putsch.

But make no mistake, this war is far from over.  Yes, the Republican party is finished, at least for now.  It will split into the Trump wing and the anti-Trump wing, and that will blunt its influence for a while until it can heal and reorganize.  But we have much to fear from what will inevitably rise from those ashes.  The 70 million people who voted for Trump in November of 2020 are still out there.  They are still nursing their grievances and concocting their conspiracy theories and, most frightening of all, waiting for someone new to lead them to the promised land where white people will once again assume their rightful place at the pinnacle of society.  Ted Cruz is even now maneuvering to fill that role.  Cruz is even less principled and more power hungry than Trump, and, what should really scare the living daylights out of you, a hell of a lot smarter.

In the end, the only thing that saved us from total disaster this time around was Donald Trump's incompetence.  Not Mitch McConnell, not Mike Pence, not Bill Barr, not Ron Cohen, not Robert Mueller, not Chuck Schumer, not Nancy Pelosi.  If Trump had been just a little bit less stupid, if he'd actually thought things through, if he had any skills at all beyond bloviating in front of a crowd, we might well have learned the hard way that our democracy is a whole lot more fragile than most people think it is even now.

So yes, breathe a small sigh of relief that the bulwark of democracy appears to have held this time around.  But don't take too much comfort in this because the next time we might not be so lucky.  And there will be a next time.  What happened yesterday was just the latest skirmish in a conflict that has been running cold and hot since before the founding of the Republic.  Democracy has won this battle, but the war is far from over.


Matt Campbell said...

So what can we do to fight back?

Ron said...


Good question. I'm still working on trying to figure that out myself. But some things I'd suggest in the immediate future:

1. Donate to groups like Swing Left and the Voter Participation Center. If you have deep pockets, donate directly to Democratic candidates, especially at the state and local level. One the principal tactics Republicans use to impose minority rule is to leverage their control of state houses to maintain their power through gerrymandering and voter suppression.

2. Write or call your senators and congresscritters, *especially* if they are Republicans. This really can move the needle. You don't have to make an eloquent pitch. Just state your case as succinctly and straightforwardly as possible, i.e. "I think Donald Trump should be removed from office immediately for inciting an armed insurrection against the government of the United States." Your call/letter may never be seen by your representative but it doesn't matter. Staffers count how many people take the trouble to call or write, and every call and letter is presumed to represented the views of several hundred people who feel the same way but didn't bother to pick up a pen or the phone. At the end of the day, what they mostly care about is getting re-elected, so if enough people seem like they're getting motivated enough to vote them out, they start to listen. (And, of course, if you do feel motivated to write a long letter, by all means do so.)

3. Shun anyone who still openly supports Trump, or who openly supports any Republican who has not publicly repudiated Trump. This might be painful, but yesterdays attack on the capital was the first battle in what will be, one way or another, a second civil war. Whether it is a hot one or a cold one remains to be seen, but it will be a war. Some people are already celebrating yesterday's events. There can be no reconciling with such people.

4. Vote.

5. Vote.

6. Vote.

P.S. I knew a Matt Campbell when I lived in SoCal. Is that you?

Matt Campbell said...

> 3. Shun anyone who still openly supports Trump, or who openly supports any Republican who has not publicly repudiated Trump.

Ouch. I think my father is in that category. He at least bought into Trump's claims about the election being stolen. I want to believe that he and other Trump supporters are just misguided and that we could reason with them, and possibly even give them most of what they really want without compromising on anything important.

But I don't know. I used to vote Republican too, back when I was an evangelical Christian. I started voting Democrat after giving up my religion several years ago, but I'm not very informed on politics and am still figuring out exactly where I stand. I know for sure that what those Trump supporters in DC did yesterday is criminal, but I think some of the responses, such as Facebook banning Trump and calls for him to be removed from office, will just further radicalize his supporters. We're already too polarized. I know I asked how we can fight back, but now I'm wondering if it would be better to be conciliatory, so things don't escalate further.

> P.S. I knew a Matt Campbell when I lived in SoCal. Is that you?

Nope. I'm in Wichita, Kansas, and have been for most of my life (except the three years I lived in Washington state while working for Microsoft). I'm mwcampbell on Hacker News.

Ron said...

> I want to believe that he and other Trump supporters are just misguided and that we could reason with them,

Yeah, I would like to believe that too. But I don't think it's actually possible. Anyone who still follows Trump at this point is immune to reason. If violent insurrection against the capitol building, however incompetent it might have been, isn't crossing the line, what is?

BTW, when I say "shun" I don't mean to be rude to them or to berate them. I would say to your father: I love you dad, but Donald Trump incited violent insurrection against the United State government. He committed treason. If you can't see that, or worse, if you can see that and still support him, I can't be with you.

> and possibly even give them most of what they really want without compromising on anything important.

Neville Chamberlain famously tried that approach. It didn't end well.

Unknown said...

I wish I shared your optimism.