Wednesday’s inflection point

As I predicted on Sunday, Wednesday was a day of bedlam at the U.S. Capitol. Thousands of pro-Trump protestors, egged on by Trump at an earlier rally outside the White House, occupied and defaced the Capitol for several hours.

Little was done to stop them, and even less was done to prepare for this predictable event. It was (for the moment at least) the acme of Trumpism. It was also an attempted coup, thankfully one that was badly organized and brought under control within a few hours. It was clearly a coup because it was an attempt to alter the results of the presidential election. Our mighty democracy proved very fragile on Wednesday.

Parts of the Capitol were ransacked and items pilfered. At last count, five people are dead but so far not a whole lot of people have been charged with crimes. It was arguably the first time since the War of 1812 that the Capitol was attacked, this time not by British troops but by all American insurrectionists.

(In 1954, Puerto Rican separatists managed to open fire in the House of Representatives, wounding five members of Congress. But that was not a coup as they were not trying to topple the government. It was also quickly put down. Wednesday’s events were clearly the most brazenly seditious acts since the Civil War.)

Time will tell though if Trumpism dies with this coup attempt. Trump’s social media was abruptly cut off, perhaps the cruelest thing that anyone has ever done to him. Talk of using the 25th Amendment to quickly remove Trump from office is going on even inside the White House.

The coup attempt seemed to take the wind out of those in Congress protesting Biden’s election. Only the electoral votes of two states were challenged (curiously, not Georgia’s) and early Thursday Biden’s election was certified. Yesterday Trump came as close as he has come to conceding the election, saying there will be an orderly transition. I wouldn’t bet on this as a lot of what’s left of his government is resigning instead. My other earlier bet, that Trump would flee to a foreign country, now looks a lot more likely. In the meantime, I would not be surprised if he fled the White House, probably for Mar-a-Lago, never coming back.

The ultimate outcome of this coup attempt will hopefully be to kill Trumpism, but I doubt that will happen. It probably will leave Trumpists chastened, at least for a while. One thing it has caused: the government has slipped into Democratic hands. With two Democratic wins in the Georgia Senate runoff, Democrats will control the Senate. So over four years, Trumpism caused Republicans to go from united Republican government to united Democratic government. You would think that would be a karmic shock to what’s left of the party.

On another level, what happened Wednesday was entirely predictable and was the result of demographic changes long underway that are coming to a head, just given a focus through Trump. That’s why I was not surprised when my prediction posted on Sunday came true. That it actually unfolded the way it did though may ultimately secure a better long-term outcome than if it had been beaten back. Maybe Trumpists will be satisfied with the illusion of a short-term victory in a skirmish, then go back into their conspiratorial holes. Maybe having actually lived out part of their fantasies, that will be enough.

I do suffer from what is likely to be the fantasy that those who perpetrated this crime will be held fully accountable. It would not be hard to identify and locate almost all of these lawbreakers. Aside from the many photos taken on the scene, most brought their cellphones with them. As a DailyKos poster noted, a cell tower data dump could quickly identify who were actually there. Assuming Trump is not quickly 25th Amendment-ed, what’s left of his wits though is likely to issue a blanked pardon keeping all those accountable (including presumably himself) from having justice served. Arguably all these prosecutions would stoke the flame of Trumpists, encouraging guerilla-like actions.

While a lot of this is due to the future coming too fast for Trumpists, we may have a new president that can meet the moment. The coup attempt on the Capitol may make Republicans in their diminished role more prone to compromise. It may mean that some of their craziest members, like Josh Hawley (captured raising his fist to the insurrectionists during the coup attempt) get unseated. It does mean that government can function again, albeit modestly, for a while. There is an endless list of changes that need immediate action. For a while we may get some space for these changes to happen.

My gut though tells me this is hardly over. With Trump sidelined, there will be less animus driving these people forward. But there are a massive amount of loose-cannon Trumpists out there. A likely long national struggle lies ahead.