In the aftermath of yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, a history publication posed provocative questions to me.  These are my responses:

  1.  What is your view of what happened at the Capitol yesterday? Was this an attempted coup d’etat, or peaceful demonstration gone wrong?

Neither.  The attack on the Capitol was not a true coup d’etat, which ordinarily involves applying concentrated force and the determined pursuit of a goal.  Rather, it was a poorly organized and ill-thought-out attempt to strongarm Congress into refusing to accept the results of the election, an action that Congress has no constitutional power to take.  Donald Trump is, in fact, a dangerous figure with delusions of becoming a totalitarian leader, but we should not overlook how inept he is at forming any plan of action and pursuing it.  Sending to Congress a bunch of yahoos recruited on social media was not a serious attempt at a coup.  Nor, however, was it a peaceful demonstration.  The rioters were recruited with promises of violence and were stirred to rage by the president and Rudy Giuliani.  We are simply fortunate that they were no more competent than Trump is.  The failure of law enforcement to anticipate and control the rioters suggests a disturbing stupidity, rot and lack of will among congressional leaders.

2. Is this a turning point in our history or a sign of things to come with such a divided nation?

This question reminds me of a saying in economic theory that the stock market has predicted eleven out of the last four recessions. Turning points seem to be thick on the ground as we live life, but in retrospect there are not so many.  A turning point requires, at least, that President-Elect Biden win the support of more Americans than voted for him, that the media stop parroting Trump lies, and that our political leaders start treating each other with respect.  Even after the violence at the Capitol, more than 100 Republican congressional representatives voted to  “investigate” the integrity of the 2020 presidential election in several states, something they have no power to do.  That is an appalling fact that suggests the attack on the Capitol was not a turning point for one-fourth of the members of the House of Representatives.

3.  Who is to blame? Trump? The media?

Blaming Trump and the media is like blaming nature for a snowstorm.  Trump will always be a lying blowhard and the media will forever chase after every shiny, insubstantial headline that may increase their clicks and viewers.  Neither can change their natures.  The true culprits are the intelligent leaders of the Republican Party who made a deal with the devil when they embraced Trump.  They got their tax cuts, their right-wing judges, and the savaging of the planet through reduced regulations.  The price they paid was normalizing a congenital, vicious liar and giving him immense power to inject toxic venom into our political culture.  They have much to atone for.

4.  How has this reflected on American democracy around the world?

We are revealed.

5.  What are your thoughts on the lasting meaning of the Trump Presidency?

In the formulation by Abraham Lincoln, you can fool some of the people all of the time.  Trump has done that with his “base,” feeding them a relentless diet of lies which they unthinkingly swallow.  The unhappy wake-up call is that we are no better than any other nation on the planet.  We are not exceptional.  Our Constitution and our political culture can be reduced to rubble if we give power to the wrong people.  James Madison wrote that the nation would not survive, whatever the strengths or defects of the Constitution, unless the people retained “virtue.”  Still true.

10 Comments

  1. Andrew Fenzel on January 7, 2021 at 1:07 pm

    Republicans can never repent for their sin of making a deal with the devil. It’s not in their blood or political culture. Plus, as you pointed out, they got what they wanted in return.

  2. Charles Blau on January 7, 2021 at 2:07 pm

    Great response. Respect and civil liberties for each other took a hit yesterday.

  3. Ilze Auzers Jurkane on January 8, 2021 at 9:09 am

    Wonderful article!

  4. Natasha Spearman-Isip on January 8, 2021 at 12:54 pm

    Excellent analysis!

  5. Jan Gra on January 8, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    Terrific!

  6. Stan Prager on January 8, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    Excellent analysis. Best excerpt & spot-on: “Donald Trump is, in fact, a dangerous figure with delusions of becoming a totalitarian leader, but we should not overlook how inept he is at forming any plan of action and pursuing it. Sending to Congress a bunch of yahoos recruited on social media was not a serious attempt at a coup. Nor, however, was it a peaceful demonstration. The rioters were recruited with promises of violence and were stirred to rage by the president and Rudy Giuliani. We are simply fortunate that they were no more competent than Trump is.”

  7. Ruth E Levin on January 10, 2021 at 4:22 pm

    Very good analysis. The far right and their political enablers may quiet down for a while, but given an opportunity, they will be back and supported by a consistant portion of the American population.

  8. Ralph Fago on January 12, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    Hey David. The effect of your analysis on me, is truly unique. Universally, whenever I might read any pro-right commentary, my levels of anger toward the right, invariably intensifies. Whenever I read any pro-left commentary, my levels of anger toward the right, also invariably intensifies. In either case, my anger and frustration levels are relentlessly growing, and my levels of animosity for the right are always on the rise. But your incredibly well-balanced and thoughtful analysis leaves me little choice but to be a bit more reflective myself, and leaves me somewhat less angry at the right. In a way, I would rather be shielded from your comments. As that would free me up to be as angry at the right as I would otherwise be. But after reading your perspectives, I realize that I must also reserve at least a very small, or more accurately, tiny, portion of my anger, for the inherent flaws of the human condition, as well as for the less than perfect American version of democracy that we must acknowledge is still in need of much improvement. So you have managed to reduce my hatred of the right from roughly 99%, to about 98%. Few others have moved me so much…….Kudos for writing such an insightful article, David. Swish!!

  9. Paul Hancock on January 13, 2021 at 10:07 am

    Love it Ralph, well put. 😀😂
    Mankind never ceases to amaze me!
    On the other hand, Mankind has not really changed a whole lot mentally from the caveman era!
    What impresses me is how easily, even intelligent people can be brainwashed. All you need is a intelligent (in some ways) sociopath to bring out the worst in people!
    Donald Trump has done this sadly.

  10. Paul Hancock on January 13, 2021 at 10:16 am

    You have hit it on the head again David. The people truly responsible are the Republican leadership.
    Their greed for power is a slap in the face for all Americans and for our Democracy of course.
    Unless they receive severe condemnation from the People and other politicians, no matter left or right,
    this madness will continue.

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