- Victor C. Bolles
Although many commentators expressed surprise at the January 6th riot that saw thousands of Trump supporters invade the Capitol Building, reports have surfaced that the social media airwaves had been buzzing with threats of violent action for weeks preceding the riot. Stop the Steal, a group affiliated with pro-Trump super-PACs had applied for permits (along with other radical groups) in an effort to convince Vice President Pence and Republican lawmakers to not count the votes of the Electoral College, a normally ceremonial function as the votes had already been certified by the states (keep in mind that most state legislatures are controlled by Republicans).
The objections of the Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate could only have caused further pointless debate but would not have overturned the results of the Electoral College. The Electoral Count Act of 1887, the law that the objectors were relying on to overturn the election, was designed to prevent Congress from being able to decide an election. The objections are only valid if a state has certified two slates of electors or has not certified any electors. So there was no constitutionally acceptable way to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president.
So, if a competent legal advisor to President Trump could have stated that there was no legal way to overturn the election, then what was the purpose of the rally and all the defiant calls to never concede? The only logical conclusion must be that the rally and the MAGA crowd were there to force Congress to overturn the election. The riot was not a riot, but an insurrection to overturn the will of the American people as expressed on November 3rd.
In Latin America we call that an autogolpe. Golpe de estado is Spanish for coup d’état, and auto means that the head of state is attempting to stay in power illegally. Latin Americans have a word for it because it happens down there a lot. I was caught up in one back when I worked in Honduras. There does not appear to be an English equivalent.
The insurrection failed. Even as Trump and his crew of golpistas partied in a tent while watching the rally. Trump told the MAGA crowd that he would lead them to the Capitol Building but he reneged and hid out in the White House. I guess he thought that those supporters of his were losers and suckers like the soldiers he sent into battle. Even as he reluctantly urged them to go home, he continued to assert that the election had been stolen and that he loved his supporters.
But now the FBI has warned that social media is alive again with threats of armed marches to Washington DC and to state capitals to disrupt the inauguration of Joe Biden. Facebook and Twitter have blocked President Trump and Stop the Steal, and Google has kicked Parler off its cloud service. But it is hard to block all of the MAGA crowd who can slip through the social media censors or find other alternative sites. It reminded me of Arab Spring, that heady period where Arab people used social media, smart phones and the Internet to rebel against repressive regimes.
But in this instance, the only purpose of the Aryan Spring insurrection was to keep an autocrat in power and not to force him out. President Trump has now pledged to honor a peaceful transition of power. But he has said nothing about the coming violence even though the FBI has warned law enforcement officials across the country and newspapers have splashed the warnings across their headlines. President Trump could stop this next wave of violence. He could stop it with a word. All his has to say is “Stand down. Don’t do it. It is unamerican.” But he has been silent. He is thus complicit in this violent insurrection and will be responsible for any death and destruction that occurs in his name.
I know many of the MAGA crowd and Trump supporters are good people. Many people (around 74 million) voted for President Trump because they supported many of his policies and feared a takeover by left-wing progressives if he lost. They think that they had found someone who will fight on their behalf. This is how populists gain power. But he is not doing this for his supporters, he is doing this for himself.
Many of the people who voted for Donald Trump love America, just as do many of those that voted for Joe Biden. They may have different visions of what America is, but they know that rioting to overthrow an election has no place in that vision, just like rioting for social justice is not part of that vision either.
Populists conflate what they want with they think the people want. Narcissists, like President Trump, are especially vulnerable to this affliction. The self-love and egotism that pervades his personality makes him believe that if he wants something then the people will want it too, if only to make him happy because they love him so much.
But the narcissism of Trump is matched by the intellectual snobbery of the progressive left. They also think they know what the people want, or should want if they were as intelligent as the progressive left.
And both groups know how to get their supporters riled up. Fairness. Trump supporters shout that its unfair that progressive globalists have given their factory jobs to the Chinese and the Indians. Students wail that it is unfair that giant corporations spewing carbon dioxide are stealing their future. Only unfairness can rouse the lunatic fringe to such paroxysms of hate and anger.
And the populists fan the flames under this simmering anger until it boils over because it serves their purposes. Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Chavez all urged their supporters to take to the street and express their anger. And in Russia, Italy, Germany and Venezuela the ordinary people watched in horror as their countries spiraled down into dictatorship and tyranny.
America cannot follow in those footsteps. Joe Biden has been talking the talk of unity among citizens of all political persuasions. Let’s see if he walks the walk when he presents his policy agenda.