Some thoughts on the Capitol tragedy
| January 11, 2021 1:03 PM
As bad as the tragedy in D.C. was, there may have been some good to come from it. For one thing, it finally — after four long years — broke Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party’s leadership. Maybe it required something really, really, really bad to happen for that break to finally come about. Both Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell acquitted their constitutional duties admirably. It was particularly notable that McConnell’s eloquent and forceful speech, denouncing claims the election was faulty, came before the Capitol was invaded by Trump’s mob. The same speech given after the invasion would have been thinned in its significance.
The Capitol’s desecration also finally ripped the mask of buffoonery and inconsequentiality from Trump’s face. Especially his “go home in peace” video aired during the insurrection, with its vehement repeat of his unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him, fully exposed that this guy means business, and he is seriously out to overturn the election of Joe Biden. We still don’t know why the Capitol Police, with no backup, were so ill-prepared for Trump’s mob. Trump’s rally and its “wild” pre-characterization were well known to local authorities long before. The ugly possibility that Trump had a hand in weakening the police’s defensive capacity hangs over yesterday’s events, too.
Another good byproduct of the tragedy was the fact that it transformed what is usually a pro forma exercise by the Congress — the opening and counting of the Electoral College’s state-by-state results — into a tangible verification and certification of the election’s legitimacy by the U.S. Congress. This was exactly the opposite outcome from what Trump’s mob may have hoped their impact would be. The Senate rejected the challenge to Arizona’s electoral outcome 93-6 and rejected the challenge to Pennsylvania’s 92-7. The remaining challenges were dropped. These were resounding confirmations by Congress’s upper body.
It should have made all thoughtful Americans proud, moreover, that both houses committed themselves to finishing their electoral task despite having to work through the night. In my judgment, Ted Cruz’s opening argument on behalf of the Arizona challenge — with its reliance on survey data about American distrust of the election — was lame and unworthy. Some of the remarks delivered by both Democratic and Republican no-voters on the challenges were quite moving. I was also touched by Kelly Loeffler’s withdrawal of her challenge to Georgia’s electoral results, thus terminating that state’s consideration. She was surely chastened by her own lost election the previous day, but, and nevertheless her act, suggested an awakening on her part.
Incidentally, I don’t think Trump’s mob’s members were driven solely by the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen. After all, how can any mob member actually know about one or another state’s election processing in detail. And surely even they pause to consider whether the “news” they’re getting from rightist sources is fully trustworthy. No, my feeling is that paying allegiance to the Big Lie is more a kind of shibboleth, a secret password for membership in a woefully angry and alienated segment of our society. How and why a wholly unsavory character like Donald Trump should have acquired their allegiance is a mystery that we’ll need to ponder for years and years.
I don’t know if the Republican Party will now, as some have suggested, split into two parties — i.e., a Trumpian and more traditional wing. But it seems to me that the tragedy of yesterday’s events at the Capitol has given the nation, both the thoughtful Left and the thoughtful Right, a terrible counterexample around which to forge a new national unity and sense of purpose in the upcoming Biden administration. I wish yesterday had never happened. It was the most heartrending event in American history that I can recall. But I hope some good can come out of it even so.