The events at the capitol today are horrifying, and to many of us seem like the natural outcome of Trumpism and the morally degenerate enabling of the Republican party. But the events today may well end up strengthening our democracy.
I suspect that Trump has badly overplayed his hand. The images of thugs running loose through the capital will horrify a significant part of Trump’s law and order base. In the court of public opinion, this will be worse than Charlottesville. His appeal for peace emphasizing his election grievances will not help much; it was the least he could have done, another Trump hostage video.
Trump will also lose at least some support from Republican pols. This was bound to happen anyway, but today’s events will accelerate the process. It will be interesting to see how Cruz and Hawley react. I think it is possible, though perhaps not likely, that some Republicans will drop their objections to Biden’s electors. In any event, this may haunt Trump’s enablers for years. Let’s hope.
The police preparations were shockingly bad.
Yes, there is clearly a double standard, with people peacefully protesting police brutality getting treated far more harshly than illegally armed rightwing thugs threatening the peaceful transfer of democratic power. But at the end of the day, a harsh police response today would have diverted attention and condemnation from Trump and his extremist supporters.
Those – including Biden – who have emphasized that the words of politicians matter have new evidence to support their position. Trump supporters do not believe the election was rigged because they have independent evidence of vote fraud; they believe it because Trump tells them it was rigged. They showed up in DC and stormed the capitol at his urging. McConnell gave a good speech defending democratic procedures tonight, but only after weeks of refusing to challenge Trump’s false election fraud claims. It is as if he told an energetic, poorly behaved toddler that people can fly by waving their arms, brought the toddler to the top of a tall cliff with no fencing, and then sternly advised the poor child to stay clear of the edge. Those playing footsie with Trump for short term political advantage need to rethink their priorities and the way they assess probabilities. In fact, the all-too-common willingness of establishment politicians to accommodate authoritarian outsiders – a main theme in How Democracies Die – may partly reflect the general human inability to think clearly about uncertain events, such as the risk of a democratic collapse.