WHEN JOHN WILKES BOOTH shot Abraham Lincoln, he exclaimed, “Sic semper tyrannis.” That is the state motto of Virginia, and it means, “Thus always to tyrants.” Booth fervently believed that the democratically-elected President of the United States was a power-mad despot, and that, by killing him, he was liberating his countrymen from tyranny. In his sick mind, he was a hero. In reality, he was an angry white supremacist, radicalized by false grievance: MAGA 1.0. He fell for the Big Lie of the 1860s—just as his spiritual descendants fell for the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from their Führer, Donald John Trump.
I keep referencing the mid-nineteenth century because the Civil War is the only precedent in our nation’s history to what’s happening right now. “Stupid Watergate,” we jokingly called it, but Trump has gone far beyond the wildest excesses of Richard Nixon. The republic is under attack—present tense. The peaceful transition of power, which took place even in 1860, is in jeopardy. Troops are bivouacked in the Capitol. The lame-duck president, an inveterate criminal, wants to remain in office, mostly to avoid prosecution. Whether motivated by cynical political calculation, rank delusion, authoritarian radicalism, coercion, or fear for their family’s lives, the lion’s share of a once-proud political party—ironically, the Party of Lincoln—has thrown in with him. Republicans failed to remove Trump a year ago; 400,000 Americans are dead because of their failure. Granted a second chance to do the right thing, most of the GOP balked.
Last Wednesday, a coup attempt came a hair’s breadth away from succeeding. The collaborators sought to, first, stop the electoral votes from being counted, because Trump had been told, wrongly, that this would prevent Joe Biden from taking office (by the same lousy low-rent lawyer who wrote the Kamala Harris birther attack in Newsweek!); and second, hunt down and execute Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and possibly Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley, so that Trump could resign and be pardoned by unctuous lapdog Mike Pompeo, who as Secretary of State is fourth in line to the presidency. If the second part sounds conspiratorial, I ask: Why else had Q whisperer Lin Wood called for the VP’s execution? Why else were there gallows erected outside? Why else would the Secret Service have whisked Pence away? The besiegers were seeking out Mike Pence, and they were seeking out Nancy Pelosi—and they made it into the latter’s offices, terrorizing her young staffers, smashing her mirror, and making off with her fucking laptop. What do we think these berserkers would have done if they had found her there? Shared a pot of tea? Binged Downton Abbey? Quilted?
Again: January 6 was an attempt to do harm to leaders in the presidential line of succession. This is no small thing. It’s not something we can gloss over because of “unity.” It’s the worst attack by secessionists since Lee surrendered. And only by the grace of God, and the heroic acts of police like Eugene Goodman, were we spared a bloodbath.
That coup attempt was instigated by a number of powerful players, including the President, members of his family, his personal attorney, two sitting Senators, a cabal of seditious House Representatives, various and sundry alt-right personalities, and the wife of a sitting Supreme Court Justice. Three sitting Congressmen coordinated with the event’s organizer. At least one, Lauren Boebert, tweeted out Pelosi’s location during the besieging, directly violating orders by the security detail. The day before, members of Congress allegedly gave a recon tour of the warren of hallways in the Senate to some of the attackers, who came with schematic maps and seemed to know exactly where to go to find key individuals. Even now, with additional security members in place, some gun-happy members of Congress, all vocal supporters of “Stop the Steal,” are refusing to walk through metal detectors. Rep. Madison “Dr. Strangelove as a Young Man” Cawthorn claims he was packing heat during the besieging; given his lusty support of “Stop the Steal,” Donald John Trump, Adolf Hitler, and firearms, we should be grateful he didn’t take out Pelosi himself.
Certainly there were people on the inside with some inkling of what was happening. Ali Alexander, the alt-right dipshit who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” rally, confessed that three members of Congress helped him plan the event: Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar. This remarkable video by the photojournalist Sandi Bachom shows that the attack on the Capitol was well orchestrated; group leaders with megaphones issued commands, which the rank-and-file followed. And the police did not arrive on the scene until it was too late:
And here we are.
It took a besieging of the Capitol for Nancy Pelosi to mobilize for a second impeachment. But mobilize she did. Indeed, the House went from being attacked by the MAGA terrorists to voting to impeach the President in less than a week. There are many reasons for pursuing this path to its conclusion, but one of the most obvious is to get the traitors on record. History will show that contemptible scoundrels like Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Devin Nunes, and Elise Stefanik voted to keep the tyrant in power.
Now the baton is passed to the Senate, where Trump’s removal requires a two-thirds vote—unlikely, given the composition of that deliberative body, but hardly impossible. Every day that goes by we learn another gruesome detail about the January 6 besieging of the Capitol. People are horrified—even people who voted for Trump a second time. It will be fascinating to watch what unfolds, especially if the trial begins when Chuck Schumer, and not Mitch McPurplehands, is Majority Leader.
Part of the horror of January 6 is the realization that the MAGA army was not all obvious lunatics. It is just beginning to dawn on us how many quote-unquote normal people participated in the protest and the besieging of the Capitol. Yes, there were Proud Boys there, and neo-Nazis in “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirts, and religious whackos, and Alex Jones and his bad-comic-book-supervillain voice, and the Whole Foods Q Shaman guy. But there were plenty of folks at the riot who, in a different context, wouldn’t immediately compel you to swipe left. Take this dude:
Once upon a time, I’m told, he was perfectly nice, “a REALLY sweet guy.” He’s a high school gymnastics coach. He has an ex-girlfriend and a daughter in elementary school. How are his little girl and her mother going to reconcile what they know of this man with the marauder who brought a police shield to the insurrection? What are all the kids he coached going to think? (And yes, the FBI knows who he is). This is one example, but Trump cultists came from all across the country to participate in an egregious violation of law that they, like John Wilkes Booth, stupidly believed was ridding the nation of tyranny—when it was doing the exact opposite.
About participants flying in from around the country: We have also not even begun to unpack that the besieging happened during a pandemic, and few of the participants were wearing masks. Worse even than falling for the Big Lie of “Stop the Steal,” in my mind, is believing that all the world’s doctors and scientists and journalists and statisticians are lying about the clear and present danger of covid-19. Four hundred thousand Americans are dead, and still these MAGA nincompoops insist it’s a hoax. The January 6 rally/riot was a superspreader event. Folks went to DC, caught the virus, and brought it back to their hometowns. In another week, we’ll see the result of that in the grim charts—and Trump will blame it on Biden.
The events of January 6 comprised an attack on our republic, the likes of which have not befallen this nation since the Civil War. And the perpetrators of this ghastly crime, this desecration of our sacred space, must not get off lightly—even if all they did was wander around the halls, even if they are a high school gymnastics coach and this was a first offense.
As I see it, the (mostly white) men and women who participated in the besieging of the Capitol waived their U.S. citizenship the instant they penetrated the building. It is one thing to peacefully protest outside—that is lawful and protected. But once the Rubicon was crossed, these secessionists became not Americans but enemy combatants. They should be treated accordingly. It would be ironic if the QAnon crew, who for years have promised to send the Clintons, the Obamas, and Rick Wilson (for some reason) to Gitmo, wound up there themselves.
Me, I hold with these sentiments:
On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes. This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our Republic.
Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.
I will vote to impeach the President.
The Squad-loving radical socialist member of Congress who wrote those stirring words? Liz Cheney, one of just ten House Republicans who voted to impeach. Strange bedfellows indeed!
Trump is a petty, greedy despot who has egregiously violated, again and again, his promise to defend the United States. Now he has instigated a coup. He must be removed from office, prosecuted for his heinous crimes, and remanded to ADX Florence for the rest of his miserable life.
Thus always to tyrants.
Photo credit: Robert Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views, New York Public Library. U.S. Capitol in 1865.