Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The attempt to thwart the certification of electors: some quick thoughts

I'm pretty exhausted at the moment, given the unexpectedly long day we experienced here in the US, and perhaps around the world. This is the first time that I have ever witnessed something like this in our nation's capital. I am aware this happens in fragile democracies elsewhere. So, we're really not that special, I suppose. So I offer a few thoughts. Perhaps I will expand on those later.

I think it is interesting to be reminded that the last time the Capitol Building had been breached by insurrectionists was during the War of 1812. Thanks to Sen. Cory Booker for the history lesson. In each case many insurrectionists carried flags devoted to a single despot. Back then, it was a King of England. Today, it is actually a sitting President. The difference then is that this particular day of violence was instigated not by a foreign adversary but someone who had sworn to uphold the US Constitution. 

I've been reading The Authoritarian Nightmare by John Dean and Bob Altemeyer. I suspect that authoritarianism explains much of what we saw this January 6, 2021, and really events leading up to this moment. The authors rightly point out that often we focus on the despot in situations like this, and that is important. But, every despot needs willing followers. In our case Trump is the despot. He would probably score as an authoritarian if he were to complete any of a number of authoritarianism questionnaires. He's highly social dominant as well, which is pretty obvious to all. His followers tend to wish for some fantasized past that either no longer exists or never really quite did, are submissive to an authoritarian leader's demands, and are willing to accept or participate in aggressive and violent acts if encouraged by authoritarian leaders. Trump has been practically shouting via Twitter (his favorite means of communication) and rallies that he won by a landslide and that the election was stolen. He spouts a lot of conspiracy theories for how such a highly unlikely thing could happen. His followers are enraged as he would want. He's been encouraging them for a bit now to come to a rally he'd hold in DC during the Congressional certification of Biden as the duly elected President and Harris as the duly elected Vice President. He spouted more of the usual, along with a few others sharing the podium with him. He encouraged the crowd to march to the Capitol Building, which they did. And the rest is history. 

That's the short version of the story, anyway. It's probably a bit more complicated, but that appears to be the gist. Inside the mind of those willing to do his bidding, the Congressional leadership has become the enemy. Trump has quite a number of elected Congressional members willing to do his bidding, minus the violence as well. We are witnessing that, which is why certification of the Electoral Vote will stretch into the wee hours overnight.

I would watch for what Trump says and does. Chances are that he will demand even more extreme actions from his followers in the days leading up to Biden's swearing in on January 20th. I would certainly hope FBI officials are monitoring the usual places where his followers congregate on social media (Parler, Gab, etc.). His true believers still believe, and are still almost certainly willing to act.

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