Today, Tuesday Feb. 9, 2021, is a historic day. Future generations of academics will write textbooks about this second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Future generations of Americans will see the tape of the protesters storming the U.S. Capitol building and wonder if that is what democracy is all about and question how we are different than any number of other countries who choose new governments that way. This is historic, because this has never happened before and American democracy came just that close to collapsing. We’ve prided ourselves about the orderly transition of power, the outgoing president and wife receiving and welcoming the new president and wife and then later all riding together to the inauguration. Is that over? Was it just a social custom like when we all used to wear gloves and hats, nothing more than a courtesy or simply good manners? Was Trump just an aberration or is this the new normal? I frankly don’t know; nor, I suspect, does anyone else know yet.
This morning, the Democrats opened the prosecution of the case for conviction with a video of the insurrection, although they were careful to call them “protesters” and not insurrectionists or terrorists who wanted to overthrow the government by force. They understood this proceeding is also political theater and the best evidence is always when the defendants convict themselves out of their own mouths.
In 12 or so minutes of videos, many things become very clear. There was an enormous number of protesters invading the Capitol building. The Capitol police protecting the building were ill prepared. They were there but not in body armor nor wearing protective masks, nor were they holding military style weapons that you always see whenever trouble is anticipated from a demonstration. There was a total absence of some sort of armored vehicles or SWAT team vehicles, and a police or military style command trailer. We’ve all seen many demonstrations on TV. We all know what’s normal in those situations. The numbers of Capitol police were almost insignificant compared to the thousands of protestors set loose down Pennsylvania Avenue by President Trump. The police were hatless, few wearing sunglasses, and you could see their faces. They appeared to be as casual and unprovocative as they could be. Sort of a nice afternoon with lots of tourists visiting the Capitol. Except it wasn’t. Social media had been filled with plans, thoughts, threats, commitments to come to Washington, D.C. and, as they said, “stop the steal.” Trump had been pushing it, encouraging it, inviting it. He had stirred the pot; this was his last stand and no one could escape the implication to use force if necessary. He had tried the political route and lost. He lost the total vote and the electoral college. He tried challenging the ballots in certain battleground states and lost again. He had gone to court 60, 70 times and lost each time, even before his own Trump-appointed judges, which I suspect had probably shocked him. He tried leaning on election officials like in Georgia and they pushed back and he lost again. Even his own tried and true loyalists like Attorney General Bill Barr were balking at saying the election was stolen and didn’t seem very willing to go down with the Trump ship. I kind of believe that behind the facade Trump is a realist and he knew he was going down, so what did he have to lose by unleashing the gods of insurrection? Perhaps the constitution, but that’s just a piece of paper to him. So he sent his true believers on a mission down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. He said he was going to the Capitol with them but at the last minute he didn’t go. Perhaps his bone spurs were acting up again?
This is where my own paranoia kicks in. I wonder what the protestors would have done if they actually caught Speaker Pelosi or even Vice President Pence, whom they were shouting was a traitor. Would they be alive today? Trump specifically called out to Pence to throw out the states Trump lost and take alternate slates of electors. “Mike, do the right thing,” Trump said, which obviously means change the result, and his supporters believed him—believed they could change the result and marched to the Capitol. You hear it on the video, them telling the Capitol police that Trump sent them. Understandably, because to many of them Trump is the government of the United States. That’s what he’s been telling them and that’s what they believe. There is another part of my paranoia as to why there was no greater police or national guard presence. I can only logically conclude they were intentionally pulled off and then later delayed in responding. No other explanation makes any sense. If they were pulled off intentionally then you could conclude that this was an attempt by a sitting president to pull off a coup. It’s not that unusual. It’s happened in other counties. Why would you think it could happen here?