The day Trump’s mobs stormed the U.S. Capitol


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.

18 thoughts on “The day Trump’s mobs stormed the U.S. Capitol

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here’s something else that SHOULD have been a bullet. It was on my mind this afternoon, but by the time this evening I was able to set aside time to write the post, I’d forgotten. My old friend and colleague John Monk reminded me:

  2. Carol Smith

    I am so devastated by all of the actions today. At least GA went blue, but that is small consequence after all of this violence. Surely Republicans every where are embarrassed by what their president did today.
    May God bless America!

  3. Randle

    Continue to call out for the Congress to do the right thing and remove these human stains. If we don’t act decisively to remove people who would destroy our country, we will fail. So many of our leaders are craven ciphers; we have to pressure them to do the right thing, as they have no spiritual or moral core. We don’t have the luxury of letting them represent us and going about our business — yet. And the current president still has the codes. He incited an insurrection. He’s a danger as long as he is in office.

    Months ago, I was watching MSNBC, and a GOP operative said “Georgia is blue.” He was advising the campaign to put money somewhere else. So I managed to pick all of the states Biden would win, thanks to him. And win $4 million in a bet with my husband over who would win the Georgia senate races. How sweet it is, although I’m going to have to accept payment in installments.
    Nancy Pelosi just said today was Epiphany. Jan 6 is when my decorations come down because Epiphany marks the end of the season.
    As for the Capitol police, one officer was taking selfies with the rioters.

  4. Matt Bohn

    Maybe things will get better after the nightmare of these past four years. How sad that it’s taken today’s tragedy to expose the madness of Trump for many members of Congress. Watching the House and Senate reconvene earlier this evening gives me hope that decency is still alive.

  5. Bob Amundson

    I appreciate the restraint of law enforcement while dealing with the felons that assaulted our Capitol yesterday. However, we must understand there is a very dangerous racial problem in our country; the lack of preparation is because of implicit bias, an unfair system that punishes people for the color of their skin. I am also posting this message on Facebook, adding “If you don’t see the difference between what happened yesterday and the mostly peaceful protests that occurred after George Floyd’s death, then PLEASE UNFRIEND ME!”

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          By the way, to give some perspective… The biggest number I’ve seen is that 69 have been arrested as a result of the insurrection yesterday in Washington. This tells us that the vast majority of those who forced their way into our Capitol and occupied it for hours were allowed to simply walk away.

          The last count I saw, several months ago, was that 95 were arrested right here in Columbia as a result of the violence and destruction following a demonstration here last spring.

  6. Barry

    A few thoughts

    The obligatory – Yeah, but Trump’s actions never hurt anyone. It’s just talk. (the people that say this are the quickest to point out the language used by politicians they don’t agree with but in Trump’s case, they deflect). We saw yesterday what 4-6 years of Trump’s irresponsible and unhinged talk can do.

    When a Trump supporter tells me “They never gave him a chance,” I remind them that Trump, for years, publicly lied and promoted a racist conspiracy theory that the former President was illegally in office. Trump purposefully undercut the former president, not by voicing his policy disagreements, but promoting a theory that said he was not even the rightful President. So, the people that gave Trump no chance didn’t want to offer him something he was unwilling to do himself. Trump supporters can’t have it both ways- and they didn’t get it.

    A professional contact of mine is a Trump supporter. We never talk politics but he’s mentioned in the past how he likes some of Trump’s policies and his attitude so to me he’s a Trump supporter. This morning he called me about a business issue, and out of the blue said “I’m so sick of his crap.” I asked who he was talking about and he replied something like “Well, you know what happened yesterday and you know who I’ve supported” – and I played it off like I understood but I don’t politics with business contacts so I move on. Maybe even some diehards are just sick of his act.

    I read a news article that the lady who was shot yesterday was a Qanon conspiracy theory promoter and Trump supporter. She was shot while rushing at police. Her mom in law was quoted as seemingly not understanding why she was even in DC. These people have real mental issues. Sadly, one is now an elected member – a Republican from Georgia who said, when asked about the integrity of her election in Georgia said “this is just about the race for president”

    Their inconsistency says it all.

    1. Doug Ross

      Sorry you didn’t get to be as brave with your professional contact as you are as an anonymous troll. Maybe that’s why you hide in the shadows? Hypocrite.

      1. Barry

        My contact isn’t obsessed like you.

        I don’t “hide.” I’m simply not willing to give people like you a chance to hunt me down.

  7. bud

    Remember Benghazi. Republicans went ape**** for years because 4 Americans died? Yesterday was an insurrection at the behest of the president and apparently security was light owing to his failure to call up the DC national guard earlier. Does anyone remember the false stand down charge leveled against Hillary Clinton over Benghazi? Seems like that charge may be true this time.

  8. Norm Ivey

    What we saw yesterday was a bunch of people with no critical thinking skills surprise themselves when they were able to get in. Early in the assault there were images of them strolling back and forth through the rotunda, but staying between the velvet ropes. They didn’t know what to do, so they turned to vandalism because they lacked the imagination to do anything else.

    They’ve begun charging some today. There will be many more. Has any assault ever been more thoroughly documented? I mean, the Capitol is full of cameras, and these people were tweeting and streaming, and the place was crawling with journalists. The only thing that might make identification difficult is that everyone had their COVID masks on.

    Oh. Wait….

  9. James Edward Cross

    Sorry, I give no credit to Pence, McConnell or others of their ilk–including the people who are resigning in “protest” of what happened yesterday–for Doing The Right Thing™. This is simply a massive exercise in CYA and in trying to preserve cushy jobs in the private sector post-government service. They had FOUR years to disassociate themselves from Trump and to publicly oppose his policies. They had a chance to remove him from office. They did not do so and now it’s too little, too late.


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