There was just so much going on at the same time, even before the barbarians knocked down the gates of our nation’s seat of government and defiled the place where our laws are made.
Even before that, so much history was being made…
I’d been scoffing for weeks at all the people talking about Georgia “turning blue,” just because Joe Biden — who, if we were a nation of rational people, should have swept the vote in every state — managed to squeak by there by 11,000 votes. The “blueness” was something yet to be demonstrated. There were a lot of things going on as the two Senate races ground slowly toward the runoff that seemed to take eons to arrive. Too many to predict what would happen, as the nation focused not only its attention, but ungodly amounts of resources, on the state next door to us. Any one of a number of combinations could have come out of all that. But the one that came was that the Democrats — who, in case you hadn’t noticed, don’t win Senate seats in the Deep South — won BOTH seats, and the slimmest of advantages in the Senate.
So I guess Georgia has indeed “turned blue,” to the extent such phrases have meaning. Or purple, anyway. For my part, I was happy for my man Joe Biden. The restoration I’ve been hoping and praying for will come easier now. Not easy, but easier.
That should have been the whole story — it was big enough to keep the country busy trying to absorb it for some time to come.
But because of our intolerable situation in which we’ve found ourselves the past four years — having Donald J. Trump as our president, and the Republican Party enslaved to him — a boring little bit of processing that none of us have ever paid attention to before, the acceptance of the Electoral College’s verdict on a presidential election, was going to have everyone riveted all day. We would watch as the (Thank God) rational majority dealt with a wretched, nauseating spectacle being perpetrated by my own congressman, Joe Wilson, and a bunch of other despicable loonies such as Ted Cruz. (Remember Lindsey Graham, who used to be a decent human being? He once said nominating either Trump or Cruz would be the death of the Republican Party. “Whether it’s death by being shot or poisoning doesn’t really matter,” he said. He was right. Back then. The gun went off and the poison fully kicked in today.)
It was low, grotesque farce that would accomplish nothing. But until it was over, we’d be riveted nonetheless — while waiting for the final assurance out of Georgia, which still hadn’t come at midday, when Donald J. Trump started shoveling truckloads of steaming bovine excrement to a crowd that loved him.
Lost amid all that was some very good news: Biden plans to nominate Merrick Garland as his attorney general. That was wonderful to read — not just a great move by Joe in filling a key position, but a moment of historic justice. But no one was really noticing. By the way, E.J. Dionne wrote a good piece about why this would be great weeks ago, when we all had time to think about such normal things. I recommend it.
And then, of course, came the determined attack of the home-grown America-haters on our Capitol.
That had so many aspects, and they are so profound in implication, that all I can do tonight is throw out a few bullets that may start conversation. Each is just a thumbnail. Each bullet could be a book. But let me throw them out:
- When did anything like this ever happen in our history? Well, nothing in my own lifetime, and I’ve been around awhile. Or at least, not in the years when I was aware of such. Many years later, I remember being shocked when I learned about something that happened when I was a baby, back when the country was supposedly so peaceful and quiet and Ike was our president: Wikipedia calls it the “1954 United States Capitol shooting.” It occurred on March 1, 1954, when four Puerto Rican nationalists fired on members of Congress and wounded several. As shocking as it was, though, it was just an act of violence by a small group of extremists. It wasn’t the personification of the Trumpian Id, actual Americans (technically) rising in unison to strike at the very heart of what makes our republic work — the peaceful transfer of power after elections. The Puerto Rican thing was small by comparison. Maybe we have to go back to when the British burned Washington in 1814. But that was just an act of war, a war that would soon be over. And Americans were pretty unified in being appalled by it. If Al Qaeda had succeeded in flying that other plane into the Capitol or the White House, it would have been spectacularly shocking and tragic — but it wouldn’t have been an instance of the country trying to tear itself apart over… a bunch of transparently absurd lies. So I haven’t been able to match it yet.
- Before the violence broke out and the Capitol shut down, another sadly encouraging thing happened: Mitch McConnell (buh-bye, Mitch!) was actually standing up and saying the kinds of things — reacting to the Joe Wilson insurrectionists rather than the ones outside — he should have been saying for the last four years. As I wrote, “Mitch McConnell is actually giving a pretty good speech right now. We haven’t heard such common sense from him in a long, long time. A good way for him to go out… Oops, never mind, he just shifted into paranoid anti-media rhetoric… OK, now he’s back to saying sensible, responsible stuff meant to preserve our republic. So, good for him again…” No, we shouldn’t have had to wait all this time for the leader of the U.S. Senate, once the world’s greatest deliberative body, to say such things — which is why I said “sadly.” But at least he was saying them. I resolved that if I found time today, I’d write a blog post about one thing he said — the fact, ignored even by many who voted for Joe, that this wasn’t even a particularly close election. I’d meant to write about this many weeks ago when Jennifer Rubin made the same case, more eloquently (“The size of Joe Biden’s victory matters. And it is huge.“) — but hadn’t gotten around to it. Mitch’s point, of course, was to point out how completely absurd it was for anyone to question, even for a moment (as Mitch himself did for weeks), Joe’s victory. But then the troglodytes started crashing through the doors, and I didn’t get around to it.
- At one point today, I retweeted a particularly brief message: “Impeach and remove. Tonight.” Well, yes, that would happen in any just world. And it would be fully justified. You could say it’s a waste of energy when Trump’s about to be gone anyway, in mere days. But it would be right and just, and it would make sure no one thinks Trump is leaving office with the equivalent of an honorable discharge. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen tonight. Hey, I’d settle for Mitch just allowing evidence and holding a real vote on the first impeachment — although Trump’s crime this time is even worse. Arguably. The first one was pretty damned horrible, and unquestionably the sort of thing for which impeachment exists.
- I mentioned this earlier in a comment, but I’ll repeat it as a bullet here: “The Post and Courier, and my old paper The State, should call for the immediate resignations of my congressman Joe Wilson and everyone who encouraged this insurrection in Washington today — including the Inciter in Chief. For starters…” I’m not holding my breath, but I’m waiting. There was a time when no one would have had to wait. Our editorial in 1998 calling on Bill Clinton to resign was on the page within a very few hours after he admitted he’d been lying to the country when he shook his finger at us about Monica Lewinsky. And he should have resigned. But while that was a firing offense, what Trump has done is astronomically worse.
- A woman was shot and killed as a result of the attack by these thugs. I don’t know what to add to that. The members of Congress shot by the Puerto Ricans at least survived.
- I just want to ask, and maybe some of y’all can tell me: Now, I won’t have to hear anyone say, “Despite all your hand-wringing, nothing really BAD happened under Trump, did it?” ever again. Will I? Please say no.
- Finally, the evil of today has led to some long-overdue good. As I’m typing this, I’m listening to McConnell saying the Senate won’t be deterred from doing its duty by an “unhinged crowd.” Suddenly, people who have cossetted and supported Trump as he trashed our nation’s honor for the past four years are saying things they should have said all along. This doesn’t in any way excuse their utterly inconceivable, inexcusable behavior up to now. Nothing does. Their cowardice in the face of the Trump “base” cannot be justified. But the fact that they’re doing it now is good.
The story continues into the night, and I don’t know what will happen next.
But I expect this: Members of Congress are going on to carry out the routine task for which they assembled today — before being interrupted for four hours. The criminals failed, just as their hero has failed, completely.
Joe Biden will become president. His party will — barely — control the Senate. The job of restoring our country — starting with defeating the coronavirus — won’t be easy. But it will go on, and I believe it will prevail.
But we will never forget this dark day. Or those who made it happen — those who hold offices of trust and have defiled them, and those who did not.