Tag Archives: Jan 6 Putsch

January 6 Committee Hearing

The January 6 Committee offers a vision to America:

America belongs to Republicans, but they ought (which is not to say that they must) govern according to orderly processes.

Reading between the lines of how independent observers summarized and commented on the Committee’s first prime time hearing, this is the prevailing conceptual framework whether or not most people realize it.

America is ailing badly from a rotten, toxic system. (Either extreme inequality, mass shootings, an appalling COVID response etc., etc., have been adequate to establish that context, or else just never mind any of this.) The January 6 Committee is, above all, a reaction to Donald Trump’s guidance for Republicans, to exploit people by encouraging the rottenness.

Rep. Liz Cheney calls on her party to reject Trump’s guidance, and instead exploit people by preserving the system. It’s an entirely logical entreaty: The system advantages Republicans, and Democrats are willing to help uphold it nonetheless. Even now, the system is furthering Republican policy, and it was and remains irrational for Republicans to risk that simply to prevent a non-Republican from getting Air Force One for a few years. Cheney and her colleagues ask Republicans to wise up, embrace the system and strategic victory, and accept relatively trivial tactical reverses.

Nowhere in any of this is reform, or liberalism, or even democracy. The narrative being generated by the Committee uses that last word a lot, certainly, but the word is very firmly betrayed by the story being told around it.

(I wrote a short version of this analysis a couple of days ago.)

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American Self-Endangerment

The past day or so, despite mass shootings and plague and everything else, some journalists and Democrats have tried making a story out of “Trump expressed approval of his supporters chanting ‘hang Mike Pence.’”

This is hapless in multiple ways. There’s really nothing substantive and new, here. All the remotely significant elements, just like the larger picture of the Capitol putsch, have been in front of us since the beginning: violent attack on political leaders’ workplace, carried out by Republican base with the encouragement of Republican leaders, very willing nonetheless to extend violence including hanging to leading Republicans including Pence, and most Republican leaders more concerned with circling the wagons as a party than with anything else. None of that’s new. The basis for this “story” seems to be “The Jan 6 committee has testimony that Meadows told colleagues that Trump said something to the effect that…” Come on, how do you not finish that with “Ferris passed out at 31 flavors.”

But there is perhaps something, here, which fits into an actual meaningful pattern. The elites trying to make this into a story seem, as best I can judge, to perceive something extra alarming in the fact that Republicans are not only comfortable with violence, they’re apparently comfortable with endangerment of themselves. Shouldn’t more of them break ranks, wonder the journalists. Shouldn’t more voters be turned off, wonder the Democrats. Isn’t this attachment to closing ranks, as a greater priority than even self-preservation, disturbing to people besides us, they all ask?

The answer they miss is that such priorities are widespread in our culture, certainly among its elites including journalists and Democrats.

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Why wasn’t Jan. 6 more disruptive

I highlighted this recent thread from Kamil Galeev because it’s insightful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. One paragraph in particular has been on my mind as a big contrast with the US:

As a general rule, a large organisation suffering from the problem of attribution can start rewarding high and extremely high performance only if the organisation feels an immediate existential threat. Which happened in Ukraine after 2014. Fear changed the system of incentives…

I’ve seen Ukrainians say, quite plainly, that Russia has been waging war on their country for eight years. To review, for my own sake, Ukraine drove the corrupt Putin stooge, Yanukovych, out of the country. Putin then launched some Civilization shit in Crimea, combining Russian troops, a Russian-supported local insurrection, and a staged referendum for annexation. (Much the same program which Russia expected, based on this experience, that they could repeat with much more of Ukraine this year.)

To be absolutely honest, that’s a big deal. I presume it’s at least on the order of e.g. a dodgy Mexican annexation of Arizona, if we imagined Mexico as the seemingly stronger military power and the US kind of stuck for any immediate options to retaliate. Nothing remotely like that has happened to the US in ages, if ever.

But then, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were not at all like a hostile foreign power annexing an entire state. Despite that—and despite my own belief then and now that they should have been treated more like a crime than like an existential threat—they produced plenty of panic and change.

So it seems like a violent insurrection invading the nation’s Capitol itself, at the prompting of a defeated president and his political allies, could qualify to change the usual approach of the same people doing the same things. It really did not in this case, at all.

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Accountability vs. Mythmaking

Mythmaking seems like the greatest challenge to accountability for the January 6, 2021 Capitol putsch. I have written a bit about the mythmaking before, and about my skepticism toward accountability efforts, but I perceived the connection a bit more clearly today, I think.

Marcy Wheeler brought up the bureaucratic martial artistry of the Cheneys again, today, and in replying, it occurred to me that the biggest problem for Liz Cheney (and ultimately the rest of us) might be this:

  1. For Cheney, as I have posted here before, I’m not sure how her political career avoids a dead end, now, without making the Republican Party regret becoming the party of the Capitol putsch
  2. I’m not sure how she or anyone else can do that, partly because it seems like it would require turning all of American politics on its head; short of an electoral leveling, I don’t see how Cheney overturns even Republican elites’ ire, and I don’t think investigations, reveals or even convictions are going to produce such a leveling
  3. Also however, it occurred to me today, there is a larger problem that the Big Lie about a stolen election has now taken hold among Republicans and I don’t see anything which might even begin to reverse that. Unless something did so, how and why do Republicans end up genuinely regretting an aggressive attempt to “stop the steal”—?
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Elites for Oligarchy

I wrote a reply to the “Republicans for democracy” feature in today’s The Morning email newsletter. Partly I was just reacting to the ongoing stupidity of this elite fantasy about a “grand coalition” in which democracy is saved by teaming up with anti-Trump Republicans. This is fan fiction, and bad fan fiction at that. But, I think my efforts to compose a relatively tight response helped clarify some concepts which are important. So here’s my email.

I appreciate The Morning emails. They are frequently informative and often thoughtful.

“Republicans for democracy” is really not good analysis.

One, your premise of a crucial division between the Republicans of Trump and the Republicans of Cheney is entirely arbitrary. Trump aspired to use procedural mumbo jumbo to overturn democracy; Bush and Cheney actually did so (as did Trump 16 years later), it’s called The Electoral College.

“But The Electoral College is a legitimate institution,” except it’s an antidemocratic and [as employed since the 18th century] extra-Constitutional institution, which the Cheney Republicans were and undoubtedly remain ready to delegitimize the instant that it might disfavor them instead of Democrats.

20 years before Trump did so, the Bush-Cheney team ginned up a mob to storm and disrupt official post-election processes. You pooh-pooh this precedent as mere “hardball,” and insist that the greater violence of Trump’s mob makes it “not consistent with American democratic traditions.” Yet in the very sentence before you insist that violence and supportive lies are firmly out of bounds, you insist that lying the nation into an entire war is firmly in bounds. Please.

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Jan. 6, 2022: the cupboard is bare

There is not a lot I can add, a year after the January 6, 2021 Capitol putsch, aside from perhaps the sense that everyone who does not want fascism to win seems at a loss for what to do.

As I posted on Twitter a few days ago, I give points to the investigators in the US House and the Department of Justice for surpassing that dismal average. Despite all the people screaming at them, they’re doing their part and doing better than I expected against the thicket of lying, stalling and obstruction.

That, by itself, is not going to preserve democracy, though. I repeat this phrase again and again, but on January 6, 2021, a horde of Republicans decked out in the defeated Republican president’s flags and banners invaded the US Capitol to break shit and attempt a violent insurrection. What’s more, one year on, the Republican Party is even more allied to the insurrectionists than it was then. For all that Republicans scurry and squirm to keep details of January 6, 2021 secret, there is logically no hidden link or smoking gun more damning than what has been right in front of us for a year.

Politics is not entirely logical, granted. But no matter what the investigators come up with, I don’t think they can transform all of American politics by themselves, and to all appearances they’re on their own.

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Coups, procedure, & cultural senescence

Picking up from “Systems are living forms… They, too, are born and die,” I want to make a few notes related to the recent “reveal” that Trump sought to overturn the presidential election.

Where even to begin, though:

  • Uh, we know that Trump sought to overturn the presidential election; how many times can this be “BREAKING” news?
  • In any meaningful sense, Trump already did use arcane procedural mumbo jumbo to overturn the presidential election in 2016, when he lost by nearly 3 million votes.
  • George W. Bush used arcane procedural mumbo jumbo to overturn a presidential election even 16 years before that, and even if you’re determined to look for sinister scheming, that’s where to look, since after that point America just normalized using arcane procedural mumbo jumbo to overturn presidential elections.

Seriously this is just ridiculous that even “experts” in these matters won’t see past the obsession with Trump to recognize that everything alarming in the Pence/memo/coup story is long-established and accepted.

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Jan. 6 Committee, Day One

The realization, starting in my late thirties, that “responsible adults in charge” is mostly a myth no matter how high up you go—this is one of those realizations which always remains difficult to believe.

Day One of the US House Select Committee on January 6 2021 has provided another dismaying booster for that realization, though.

I have gone back and forth on the whole idea of this House investigation. There are meaningful questions which ought to be answered. A professional investigative agency seems much better qualified to pursue most of them. The Department of Justice seems like in practice it is going to stay far away from many “politicized” areas. The politicians’ fixation on a “bipartisan” investigation is just lunacy. Republicans are so in thrall to sabotage that they turned an offer of 50/50 membership into a mostly Democratic committee.

Day One of the Committee seemed mostly to be a lot of weeping for the cameras, on behalf of the ruined virtue of America’s wonderful institutions, rather than investigation. Some allowance can be made for Opening Day, and I’m aware that politics and really all culture involves some degree of playacting.

But the whole premise which this Committee is making into the theme of its pageant is fundamentally, childishly, misguided. A violent putsch assaulted America’s Capitol on January 6, and an assault on America’s democracy needs our urgent response, but they are not the same things.

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What Capitol Insurrection?

This morning, Marcy Wheeler shared a blog post featuring an entirely ordinary image from the January 6, 2021 Capitol Insurrection, and it hit me.

A horde of Republicans decked out in the defeated Republican president’s flags and banners invaded the US Capitol to break shit and attempt a violent insurrection.

Months later, it’s like that never happened. Politics is carrying on exactly as it would had there been no Capitol Insurrection.

This seems like it’s as simple as this can get. America is a zombie failed state, just shambling along braindead waiting for the next chainsaw, as demonstrated in a few simple lines without resort to any of my charts, timelines, or arm-waving jeremiads.

Since the latter items are the primary fare here, however, a few notes on potential rebuttals or excuses and why they are nonsense:

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Nullification 2021

America’s factions of privilege have a long history with “nullification” in various forms, so it isn’t exactly surprising to see Republicans playing with the concept again. It’s at least a little strange to watch them open a door to judicial decisions carrying no authority unless one agrees with them right after they spent several years packing the federal courts with partisan Republican operatives, but that’s where we are.

Republicans don’t seem to have worked out any cohesive strategy for dealing with the January 6 putsch. To some extent this is a concentration of their overall problem dealing with Trump, but January 6 seems to have actually flummoxed them. The initial direction from leadership was basically “disperse, lie low, hold your breath” and the party seems like it hasn’t ever quite filled that vacuum.

First the Senate went into recess through the end of Trump’s term, effectively a refusal to look at any impeachment articles while Trump was in office. Then Republicans introduced the objection that “we can’t act on impeachment now because Trump is out of office.” This classic chutzpah is entirely typical of them, and they might have pulled it off if they still had the votes to control Senate business completely, despite the fact that the objection is not only hypocritical but totally false. Never mind obscure precedents; the Constitution itself says “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”

Republicans’ willingness to ignore that and claim that an impeachment trial is “unconstitutional” should shock people. If language that clear is “open to interpretation” then the Constitution might as well be oracle bones with no meaning except what judges say it has. But in a sense this is exactly what Republicans want: to transfer authority to an unelected, rigged judicial priesthood.

That strategy depends on judicial decisions having unquestionable authority, though, and now Republicans are actively flirting with a nullification doctrine. If Republican senators end up trying to evade reckoning with January 6 by saying “based on the evidence I would vote to convict Trump if the Senate had that power, but it does not so I have to oppose conviction” they will be declaring judicial decisions optional along with the language of the Constitution.

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