Posts Tagged ‘insurrection’

The Past As Prologue

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

Today is a seminal day in American history. The one-year anniversary of a serious attempt by violent insurrectionists to stage a coup d’état in our nation’s Capitol. This is a day for remembering how close we came to losing our American soul. In the year since the attack, the attack has continued, albeit peacefully. I ask you to bear with me for a moment, for I am struck by the frightening similarities between what is happening in our nation today and what happened long ago in another country going through rough times. That country turned to a devil in disguise, a master manipulator who persuaded its citizens to follow him willingly straight through the gates of hell.

Then: 1918 – 1933

In November, 1918, high-school dropout and failed artist Adolph Hitler was recuperating in hospital from a Mustard Gas attack suffered the previous month on a battlefield of World War I. He’d been a Corporal in the German Army and had distinguished himself as a messenger, running between units to deliver orders and bring replies, sometimes under heavy fire.

While he was in hospital, the war ended and the warring armies signed the Treaty of Versailles, which levied tremendous reparations on Germany and caused rampant inflation that wiped out savings overnight. Hitler wrote later that at that moment he realized his purpose in life was “to save Germany.”

Before the war, Hitler had lived in Munich, the capital of Bavaria in southern Germany, and after recovering he returned there. He was hired by the police as a spy and told to infiltrate a small group called the German Workers’ Party. However, rather than spying on the group he fell in love with its nationalistic and anti-Semitic ideology. He joined the Party in 1919, and two years later became its leader.

With mentoring by the group’s co-founder Dietrich Eckart, Hitler became an unparalleled public speaker, addressing thousands in local beer halls. In 1921 he changed the name of the German Workers’ Party to the National German Socialist Workers’ Party, or the Nazi Party, and the Party’s members elected him leader in July of that year.

In the following two years the Nazi Party grew as Germans responded to Hitler’s rants about how the Treaty of Versailles had emasculated the country, bringing shame and humiliation that had to be avenged. In Hitler’s mind the Weimar Republic had failed its duty to its citizens and had to be replaced. So, on 8 November 1923, Hitler and hundreds of Nazi Party members surrounded the Bürgerbräukeller, one of the biggest beer halls in Munich, where Gustav von Kahr, state commissioner of Bavaria, was speaking. Hitler burst in, fired a shot into the ceiling, commandeered the podium, and declared a “national revolution.” Thus, the Beer Hall Putsch began.

The rest of the night went downhill for Hitler. He had wanted to lead a march on Berlin, as Benito Mussolini had done a year earlier in Rome. This was not to be. His followers tried to take over government buildings, but were foiled by the police. Early the next morning, Hitler and World War I General Erich Ludendorff, whom Hitler had persuaded to join the Nazi Party and help in the Putsch, led 3,000 of their followers to the city center in an attempt to salvage the coup. They were met by state police. Shots were fired. Four police officers were killed, along with 16 Nazis, whom Hitler would later describe as martyrs and entomb in two “temples of honor” in downtown Munich. Two days later, Hitler was captured. He was tried for treason, convicted and sentenced to five years in Landsberg prison. He served one year and was pardoned on 20 December 1924. During that one year, he wrote the first volume of “Mein Kampf” (“My Struggle”), dictating the work to his fellow prisoner and sycophant Rudolph Hess.

Hitler had done a lot of serious thinking in prison and realized a violent takeover of Germany would be tremendously difficult. He concluded that the way to power was through legal means, but that the legal and political means had to be manipulated by the Nazis for the effort to succeed. The way to rule Germany was to win elections. The Beer Hall Putsch and Hitler’s subsequent trial, during which his defense speeches were printed in all the newspapers, grew the Nazi Party exponentially and brought him and the Party to national prominence.

In 1933, nine years after walking out of Landsberg prison a free man, Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.

Now: 2021 – 2022 and beyond

Today is the one-year anniversary of the Insurrection of 6 January 2021, America’s version of the Beer Hall Putsch.

Last month, in a long essay in The Atlantic, Barton Gellman persuasively and scarily argued that 6 January was a dress rehearsal.

He began his essay this way:

Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect. The prospect of this democratic collapse is not remote. People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already.

Gellman is no “Chicken Little.” He has a distinguished and long career. His awards include the Pulitzer Prize, an Emmy for documentary filmmaking, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. When Gelmann writes, smart people read.

As he lays out what is happening in America right now, one cannot help but think how eerily similar the Republican Party’s current actions are to Hitler’s battle plan for taking over Germany. Hitler realized violence would not result in victory. Winning elections and manipulating the election process would allow him to rise to total power, and the rest of the world would welcome him as the new leader of the German people, achieving that distinction by apparently (but not really) fair means.

Will someone please tell me how that differs from today’s Republican legislators, who, understanding that another violent insurrection would not achieve their aims, cottoned on to the idea that changing the election rules in 19 states would set themselves up to win the 2022 mid-terms, the 2024 presidential election, and elections into the future, thereby “legally” allowing a minority to rule a majority in what purports to be a democracy?

As Gelmann writes,

As we near the anniversary of January 6, investigators are still unearthing the roots of the insurrection that sacked the Capitol and sent members of Congress fleeing for their lives. What we know already, and could not have known then, is that the chaos wrought on that day was integral to a coherent plan. In retrospect, the insurrection takes on the aspect of rehearsal.

Right now, many Republican Party wannabe leaders make the pilgrimage to Mar-A-Lago to genuflect at the knee of Donald Trump. Amazingly, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll finds 58% of Republican voters still believe the Big Lie, despite a plethora of audits and investigations, many led by Republican election officials, finding exactly the opposite. These voters continue to believe with biblical certainty that Joe Biden is an illegitimate occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How can this be?

Today, the very few GOP dissenters to the Lie are being cast out into political oblivion. “2 down, 8 to go!” Trump gloated at the retirement announcement of Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of 10 House Republicans to vote for his second impeachment.

After the Insurrection of a year ago, I, like so many others, believed the insurrectionists were on the far right fringe, out of work unhappy folks angry at the world. Life’s dissatisfied customers. But in the year since we have learned that this is not the case. Most insurrectionists were not members of any far right groups like the Proud Boys or OathKeepers. No, they were the guys next door. Managers, even CEOs of middle of America companies. When this came to light, for the first time I began to think as Gelmann thinks. Now, I’m wondering if there is any way to change what appears to be an inevitable arc of history.

There are currently two voting rights bills languishing in the U.S. Senate, the For the People Act of 2021 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021.  In order to pass either of these bills requires a carveout to the filibuster, which would allow a simple majority to determine the vote. West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin calls this “a heavy lift.” He, one senator out of a hundred, will not allow this. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t have such qualms when he engineered exactly the same kind of carveout to insure Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court would be confirmed by simple majority. He did, and they were.

Today, 6 January 2022, there will be events and reports all over the country marking the occasion. You won’t see Republican legislators in any of the videos or photos. They maintain it’s just a distraction from the important work of governing, that is, obstructing anything and everything the Biden administration is trying to do.

Their plan is infuriating. And it’s working with a little help from the Coal guy on the Houseboat. Manchin seems to enjoy the spotlight, a one man wrecking ball of American democracy.

Making Trumpism Trumwasm

Monday, February 8th, 2021

Tomorrow, the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins. Don’t blink. It will be quick. There is a single charge: Incitement of Insurrection. The charge is all about Trump’s speech, if you can call it that, at the Ellipse on 6 January, after which…well, you know what happened.

Many people say, “Why bother? It’s a foregone conclusion he’ll be acquitted.” There may be a few Republicans who vote to convict, but it will take 67 total votes to do it, and, as my Dad used to say when I would plead for the keys to the car after not exactly distinguishing myself in my studies, “Son, that ain’t happening.”

Also, there are serious and sincere people who believe the way to make Trumpism Trumpwasm is to deprive Trump of any attention at all. Ignore him. Simply let him fade away and disappear into the mist of time. Without him, his cult-like followers will lose the leader they need. That seems wishful thinking to me.

If the trial focuses only on Trump’s speech, it will be like looking at an arrow whizzing past a crack in the door. But to get the full measure of what happened we need to throw open the door to see where the arrow began its flight and where it ended.

The events of 6 January had been carefully planned and orchestrated for nearly three weeks. On 18 December, Trump tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there. Will be wild!” Thus began the insurrection.

Trump’s cattle call to protest mobilized his followers around the country and resulted in seven different rallies in D.C. on the 5th and 6th, all of which received permits from the National Park Service. Excluding Trump’s, the other six were:

  1. The Rally To Revival, sponsored by The Eight Percent Coalition which had been founded by Trump supporter Cindy Chafian. This rally was on Freedom Plaza.
  2. The Save Our Republic Rally, sponsored by Moms For America, held at Area 9, across from the Russell Senate Office Building.
  3. The One Nation Under God Rally, sponsored by Virginia Women For Trump, held near the Supreme Court Building (Roger Stone spoke at this rally).
  4. The Silent Majority Rally, organized by Proud Boys member James Epley, and held the evening of 5 January and morning on 6 January at the North Inner Gravel Walkway on the National Mall. There were more than ten arrests at this rally on the 5th, and there were  weapons charges.
  5. The Wild Protest Rally, organized by Stop The Steal and held at Area 8 across from the Russell Senate Office Building.
  6. The Freedom Rally, organized by the Virginia Freedom Keepers, Latinos For Trump, and the United Medical Freedom Super PAC, and held at 300 First Street, Northeast, near the Russell Senate Office Building.

Finally, there was Trump’s own rally, the March To Save America. After Trump’s 18 December tweet, Amy Kremer, co-founder of Women For Trump,  and “one of the founding mothers of the modern day tea party movement,” according to her website, began the planning for this event and applied for and was granted a D.C. permit for a gathering of 5,000 protesters on the Ellipse. After Trump tweeted on 2 January he’d be at that rally, Kremer turned over managing it to the White House.

Prior to Trump’s speaking at the rally, his openers were his two sons and Rudy Giuliani, who admonished the crowd,  “Let’s have trial by combat,” and showed a propaganda video Joseph Goebbels could learn a thing or two from.

Then Donald Trump took the stage.

He spoke for one hour, thirteen minutes and twenty-two seconds; more than 11,000 words.

During the speech, he used the word “peacefully” once, which will be one of the painted hooks on the Senate wall upon which his attorneys will hang part of his defense:

I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.

He also made 17 incendiary, insurrection provoking statements:

These people are not going to take it any longer. They’re not going to take it any longer….

We will never give up, we will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved….

Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with: We will stop the steal….

We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen, I’m not going to let it happen….

(At this point the audience began chanting, “Fight for Trump.”)

And then we’re stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot and we have to live with that for four more years. We’re just not going to let that happen….

(Here, the audience began to chant, “We love Trump.”)

We’re gathered together in the heart of our nation’s capital for one very, very basic and simple reason: To save our democracy….

We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them….

Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated….

You will have an illegitimate president. That’s what you’ll have. And we can’t let that happen….

That’s going to be the end of the Republican Party as we know it, but it’s never going to be the end of us. Never. Let them get out. Let, let the weak ones get out. This is a time for strength….

We got to get rid of the weak Congress, people, the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world. We got to get rid of them. We got to get rid….

The radical left knows exactly what they’re doing. They’re ruthless and it’s time that somebody did something about it….

The Republicans have to get tougher. You’re not going to have a Republican Party if you don’t get tougher….

And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore….

So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I love Pennsylvania Avenue. And we’re going to the Capitol…

The Democrats are hopeless, they never vote for anything. Not even one vote. But we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help. We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country….

So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The insurrection on the 6th showed just how fragile democracy can be. It also illustrated in granular detail the depth of the political and social fissures besetting America. Trump may be gone, but the Republican Party is still Trump’s party. Correcting that will be a generational undertaking. The Biden administration’s successful revival of the economy with significant movement toward economic equality, and the defeat of the coronavirus, would be monumental first steps.

By the way, although he said he would, Donald Trump did not “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.” Rather, he retired to the White House to watch the bomb explode from the fuse he lit.