Editorial: Was Wednesday’s Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Really Surprising?

What may be the ultimate failure for a democratic country— an attack on its government by its people, instigated by its leader— Donald Trump saw only as a huge tribute to himself. President Trump, the leader of the free world, incited a MAGA insurgence at the United States Capitol on Wednesday, in efforts to stop the lawful certification of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. 

Going far beyond peacefully and legally protesting, the large mob broke windows, breached security boundaries, and got inside the building, invading the Senate and House chambers, and other private spaces, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Lawmakers, along with Vice President Mike Pence, hid under furniture, or were evacuated from the chambers, fearing for their safety. A pair of rioters tore down the American flag hanging on the Capitol building and replaced it with a blue Trump flag.

One would expect the president of the United States to put down anything resembling a coup, let alone the trespassing and vandalism of the U.S. Capitol, the threatening and endangering of lawmakers and staff members, and the violence that resulted in five deaths and numerous injuries. But Donald Trump was nowhere to be found. 

Americans, as well as people around the world, found Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol building by Trump loyalists shocking and horrifying, as they should. 

But why should any of us be particularly surprised? Why were the U.S. Capitol Police so unprepared for this? We all knew it was coming. 

Donald Trump has been pushing lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election since long before the election. He has insisted, over and over, that Joe Biden won the election only because of voter fraud. Congressional Trump loyalists have gone along with Trump, either out of self-preservation or delusion, even though Trump’s claims have been shown to be entirely baseless.

Trump has programmed his MAGAs to view non-support of Trump, especially among Republicans, as treason. He has convinced them that it’s not only ok, but in fact a mark of patriotism, to employ violence and harassment against those who choose to follow the rule of law instead of the cult of Trump. In Trumpworld, there is no acceptable reality other than fealty to Donald Trump, the rightful president for (at least) four more years, no matter what the democratic process says. 

On the day when Congress was to meet in a joint session to formally certify the electoral votes from presidential election that had already been certified by all 50 states, Trump knew what his supporters had in mind as they gathered on the White House Ellipse. He told the crowd of MAGAs that he would go with them to the Capitol. 

“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said. “Let the weak ones get out. This is a time for strength.” 

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s later, told them, “Let’s have trial by combat.”

Trump did not go with his supporters to the Capitol. He left them on their own to do what they would— what he must have known they would. 

It wasn’t until President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation, denouncing the spectacle as “insurrection,” and calling on President Trump to deliver a message to calm the chaos, that Trump created a short video message. Though the video told the MAGAs to “go home,” the real message was clear: “Ya’ done good here today.” 

“I know your pain, I know you’re hurt,” said Trump in the video. “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened…”

“This was a fraudulent election,” Trump continued, baselessly. “But we can’t play into the hands of these people. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”

People who subscribe to conspiracy theories like being told that they’re “very special.” In fact, scientists and psychologists have found a correlation between “a need for uniqueness” and belief in conspiracy theories (“I know things they don’t know”). The crowd of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol had varying backgrounds; many were supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory. A common thread among all of those present, however, was that they all believed the conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. 

Instead of putting down the insurrection, Trump was thanking those who participated. Telling them that they were “very special” was a pat on the head he surely must have known they’d latch onto. 

As the FBI and other law enforcement agencies work to identify and prosecute those involved in Wednesday’s uprising at the Capitol, and as lawmakers denounce it and say it must never happen again, we shouldn’t be so confident that it won’t happen again.

Many who were involved in Wednesday’s rioting have already declared their willingness to go to jail or even to die for what Donald Trump has deluded them into thinking is a “cause” for freedom and democracy. They won’t be deterred by the threat of legal consequences, but will instead continue to be spurred on by the promise of being “special” to Donald Trump; of being “true patriots.”

The day after the riot at the Capitol, perhaps fearing that his last days in office might be marked by an act of censure, Donald Trump turned on his “patriots,” delivering a message that was clearly scripted.

“I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness, and mayhem,” he said. “Those who broke the law, you will pay.” 

The MAGAs have shown that they will do anything, forsake everything, for their leader, Donald Trump. One could almost feel pity that Donald Trump is then willing to throw them under the bus when he needs to, for self-preservation. The MAGAs will continue to explain away Trump’s betrayal, and will be standing at the ready for Trump’s next dog whistle. How tragic that this delusion of patriotism is really only in the service of nourishing Donald Trump’s cavernous ego.

Pro-Trump mob launches insurrection at US Capitol amid Biden certification | Nightline [2021-01-07]

President Donald Trump absent as supporters storm Capitol Hill
CNBC [2021-01-06]

Editorial: Trump Denies Talking Martial Law, But The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown

As absurd and unhinged as Donald Trump’s rejection of the 2020 presidential election results has been, the suggestion of using martial law to overturn the results transcends absurdity. The idea that Trump could possibly entertain invoking martial law to force an American election to turn out in his favor has alarmed even some Trump officials who normally don’t have a problem with Donald Trump’s authoritarian behavior.

Some Trump loyalists have recently called on Trump to invoke martial law to overthrow the 2020 election, which they (and Trump) have baselessly insisted was rife with voter fraud. Trump aides who were present at a December 18 Oval Office meeting have said that Trump discussed the idea of invoking martial law during the meeting.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump recently pardoned for criminal charges relating to the Russia investigation, tweeted that Trump should “temporarily suspend the Constitution” and declare martial law. And just days before the December 18 Oval Office meeting, Flynn, on conservative station Newsmax, suggested that Trump send the U.S. military to swing states where Biden won, to make them “rerun the election.” 

“He could order within the swing states… if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states, and basically re-run an election in each of those states,” said Flynn.

Republican Virginia state senator Amanda F. Chase, a contender for Virginia governor, has also taken up the “martial law” flag. Shortly after the electoral college confirmed Joe Biden as president-elect, Chase took to Facebook. 

“Not my President and never will be,” wrote Chase, referring to Joe Biden. “The American people aren’t fools. We know you cheated to win and we’ll never accept these results. Fair elections we can accept but cheating to win; never. It’s not over yet. So thankful President Trump has a backbone and refuses to concede. President Trump should declare martial law as recommended by General Flynn.”

Trump has dismissed the reports that he has discussed invoking martial law.

“Martial Law = Fake News,” tweeted Trump on December 18. “Just more knowingly bad reporting!”

It doesn’t matter much whether Trump is telling the truth about that conversation. He’s sounded yet another dog whistle for his base. As with Trump’s references to QAnon, the Proud Boys, and other fringe groups and activities, his mere mention of martial law is enough for many Trump supporters to take it as a signal of support from their leader. Those who have been waiting for the opportunity to use their weapons to play Army (and who don’t fully understand the concept of “martial law”) could be incited to violence in the name of “patriotism.” 

Elizabeth Neumann, former assistant secretary of Homeland Security under president Trump, told CNN’s Reliable Sources, ”In the conspiratorial conservative base of supporting Trump, there are calls for using the Insurrection Act to declare martial law.

“When they hear that the president is actually considering this, there are violent extremist groups that look at this as a dog whistle, an excuse to go out and create … violence,” said Neumann. 

She refers to it as acceleration. These groups try to overthrow the U.S. government…”through a civil war and look to accelerate the chaos, accelerate the coming of the civil war.

“So when they hear that the president is open to this idea of martial law, we may see certain groups mobilizing to commit acts that, in their minds, a justification for the use of the Insurrection Act,” Neumann said.

But aren’t these Trump-supporting extremist groups misreading what the Insurrection Act of 1807 really is? This federal law empowers a U.S. president to deploy U.S. military and National Guard troops in the United States to suppress insurrection and rebellion. In the fantasy world of violent extremist Trump supporters, they apparently see themselves as the heroes who will, right alongside real military troops, vanquish the evil Biden voters, or force them at gunpoint to vote for Donald Trump. 

Various notable members of the U.S. military, however, have spoken out to affirm that the military has no role in the outcome of an American election.

Retired 11th Commander of US SOCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command) Tony Thomas, for example, tweeted on December 18, “Mike (Flynn), stop. Just stop. You are a former soldier. You know that leveraging the military to “rerun elections” is a totally inappropriate role for the profession. You are also undercutting the extraordinary trust and confidence America has in their military. Stop!”

As for those Trump supporters who aren’t part of violent extremist groups, or those who aren’t living in the middle of a conspiracy theory, how do they reconcile “land of the free” with instituting martial law to overthrow a U.S. election? How do they apply “home of the brave” to any of the GOP lawmakers they’ve elected and re-elected, who can’t muster the courage to stand up against Donald Trump’s continued attempts to take down democracy? 

INSANE: Trump Actually Considering MARTIAL LAW | 
The David Pakman Show [2020-12-21]

Oval Office Meeting w/ Sidney “Kraken” Powell, Mike “Martial Law” Flynn & “Dangerous” Donald Trump | Glenn Kirschner [2020-12-20]