Indignity Vol. 2, No. 48: ‘Slipping in people's blood’
LIVING HISTORY DEP'T.
What Will We Learn From the Jan. 6 Hearings?
CAUSES HAPPEN BEFORE effects. The story of January 6 was never hard to understand, as a sequence of people's choices leading to people's actions, and this made the House investigative committee's prime-time opening session a refresher on just how much effort it has taken to get a large segment of the public to misunderstand it.
The events the committee went over were all highly visible public events when they happened, or were things that became public fairly quickly afterward: Donald Trump declared that he had not lost an election he had obviously lost; he led multiple rallies to rouse his followers against accepting his defeat; he formed a plan to falsify and suppress the Electoral College results; and he gathered his final rally crowd in Washington D.C. and sent it to the Capitol with the goal of interrupting the legal count of the Electoral College votes, aiming to give his allies an opening to create an alternative count where he would be the winner.
Trump's supporters attacked the police at the Capitol, broke through them, smashed their way into the building and roamed the complex, breaking into offices and the Senate chamber as they looked for members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence, convinced they could stop the Electoral College count by force. They did, in fact, stop the count by force. That it resumed later on, and that Trump's plan to use the delay to subvert the votes failed, didn't change the fact Trump had successfully interposed violence into the transfer of power.
It was clear at the time that this was a coup against the constitutional order. All of this is mostly just retyping what I wrote when it happened. The military and other parts of the executive branch understood it was a coup, and they turned to the vice president for their orders, in what was functionally a counter-coup.
Really, Trump had established where things were heading on election night, when he went on TV well past midnight to announce that the still-undecided results were a "major fraud." But our political system—biased toward hoping things would work out normally, and in the habit of assuming Trump could never literally mean what he said—couldn't absorb the truth of it until the mob was inside the Capitol.
Then, for a few days or weeks, the truth sank in. When Congress impeached Trump for the coup—soon but not soon enough after it had happened—no one seriously disputed what had happened. By that point, the Republican Party had restored only enough partisan discipline to prevent Trump's conviction in the Senate on the procedural grounds that he had already left office. He was guilty, Mitch McConnell conceded, but there was nothing to be done about it.
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