Republicans realising the costs of the ‘big lie’?-May 18, 2021

I was genuinely shocked to see a news report that Lindsay Graham had said “I accept the results of the election”.

My naive take is that, despite the Republicans in Congress voting to get rid of Liz Cheney for essentially accepting the 2020 election results and committing to fight against the disinformation that’s behind constant criticism of the US electoral process and particularly the outcome in 2020, they may realize they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

Many Republican-controlled states are imposing voter suppression legislation. They badly want to win in 2022, but they’re making it hard for certain groups to vote, but are also dissuading their supporters from voting because they keep arguing that elections are “fraudulent”.

It may also be the dropping again of another penny: the constant hanging onto the coattails of Donald Trump resulted in the double death spiral outcome of losing the presidency and Senate control due to losing both Senate races in Georgia. The other guy is not a winning ticket. Just saying.

#COVID19Chronicles-297: January 29, 2021-Another year passed; interesting times for a birthday

A year ago, I was planning to take a short vacation to England, in mid-February, just because, but also to get a personal sense of how Brexit was rolling in. Now, after it rolled in, I’d have much less desire to make the trip. The pandemic, which was declared as my vacation was ending, is being managed badly there and Brexit is turning out to be the ‘pig in a poke’ that the supporters lied it wouldn’t be. With COVID restrictions, I’d be able to leave Jamaica but would not be able to return from the UK!

A year ago, I had anticipated my daughter returning from school for Spring break in March and my mother-in-law and her sister coming to spend a few weeks while my wife and I headed off on work travel to Colombia. I didn’t anticipate they’d be still here in July and later. That’s life during a pandemic!

A year ago, as I turned 65, I was happy to be retired and enjoying my life as a mainly home-bound person. I didn’t anticipate that the bulk of the country and likewise in many countries would be living their lives as work-at-home or stay-in-place people. That’s life during a pandemic.

Once the pandemic rolled through the world, eyes turned to scientists for solutions; a vaccine was hoped for but would be far off, we thought. Yet, here we are and vaccines have been developed and are being dispensed in several countries; richer ones are better placed than poorer ones. Ironically, the UK is better placed than its EU neighbours, because it had decided to order 3 months ahead of them.

I was keeping an eye on the US presidential elections, due to end in November 2020, and as the Democrats fought over who would carry their torch, my hope was that it would be a strong contender against the incumbent President Trump. Then, the election over, I looked forward to the transition. I did not expect a simple handover—Donald Trump doesn’t do losing well; I recalled his threat in 2015 that he would not commit to accepting any result but his victory. He had warned during 2020 well before the election that he thought the election was rigged. So, when he started digging in his heels and vacillating about accepting results, I knew we were in for a struggle.

On election night, the contest was compelling watching and it was a nail biter than looked like a win for the Democrat candidate, Joe Biden. Waking to that confirmation was frankly delightful.

I did not anticipate a string of efforts to overturn the results. I did not expect the overt efforts to do that! The law suits did not seem too out of line, though it was clear that with nothing inside the paper bags that were being used as briefs for the courts, made it clear that the claims of fraud would go nowhere. I didn’t anticipate that this effort would go on so fruitlessly for so long. I expected some of the lying on the stump but it was clear that the truth had to be told in courts. I had doubts about whether the courts would hold the line, especially as many of them and the Supreme Court had been stuffed with Trump nominees. That they did was an amazing surprise.

As we went through what were usually pro forma events to confirm the election results, I was really nervous about where the presidential resistance efforts would lead. I heard words about “peaceful transition”, but in my mind I could see that was not a given, by a long shot, The level of divided opinions, with nearly 3/4 of Republican supporters believing the propaganda that the election was stolen and Trump had won, by a “landslide”, in his words.

The State certifications became dramas. Normal snooze-fests were now must-watch. After that, the wait for Congressional confirmation turned from being ‘who cares?’ to must-watch. As many turned in to see this dull as dishwater piece of political theatre, it was not part of the popcorn eating to watch an insurrection unfolding in front of our eyes. (As a grim reminder, it was like watching the disaster of the 1986 Challenger launch.)

January 6, 2021 is now seared into our memories as the day when the US democratic system was pushed to the brink.

It appeared to survive on the day, and the institutional finalization of the election, the Inauguration on January 20, again became its usual must-watch event. But who could have anticipated that, in addition, to the COVID protocols that forced fewer people and more distance, we would see Washington DC in lock down and thousands of the National Guard lining the streets and ringing the US Capitol, itself ringed with high fencing? The eerie sight of the Washington Mall filled with flags and free of people will remain a deeply strange image.

The security policy failure has still be fully explained and now proposals may include permanent fencing around the Capitol complex and a ready-response force stationed nearby.

The sight of the sourpuss departing president determined to not accept the election results by not publicly uttering the name of the new president and refusing to attend the Inauguration was in keeping with him, but as distasteful a piece of adult behaviour as one may ever seen.

For me, the fact that his narcissism has extended to letting his Vice President and his family be under siege, maybe in fear of their lives during the siege of the Capitol, was more telling of a moral bankruptcy that is rare in anyone, let alone a politician.

The past 12 months have been dominated by the pandemic. Many wanted to see the back of 2020, but 2021 looks set to be no cake walk.

The physical violence that took place on January 6 now appears to have an underpinning of political connivance and planning that is really worrying as it suggests a serious plot to subvert elected government. The fact that Congressional politicians should be openly expressing fear of some of their colleagues is mind boggling. But, these are indeed interesting times.

As I turn 66, I have the mixed emotions that come as the prospect of a vaccine comes closer. Then, I read yesterday that one of the vaccine manufacturers stating that its vaccine should not be given to those over 64. That’s not the kind of present that I want to look forward to.

A year ago, I did not anticipate not spending Christmas with my family, but home alone for 2020 was how it went, while they went to Grandma’s house.

The end of the pandemic is not in sight, and while we can think that a year from now the situation of lockdowns, quarantines, and other restrictions on what was normal life, it’s not a given. New waves keep occurring in various countries. New highs keep occurring in terms of cases and deaths.

We’ve seen a new president, in his first week, return the office to a welcome state of normality, including important things like a daily press conference where the press are encouraged to ask questions and answers are willingly given. What a time to be alive!

The desire for more-open communications from the White House includes having scientists and other specialists speak directly to the public and media from the White House. Having sign language interpreters is an important step.

We got a quick ‘read out’ of President Biden’s call to Russia’s President Putin, before the Russians issued theirs, and it differed. We also got to see and hear a call with the NATO Secretary General:

In coming weeks, we have the first ever second impeachment trial of a president, albeit now a former president. In coming months, we may see law suits that have sedition charges laid against people in the US and even against the former president, in addition to other legal risks he was facing before. Some of those charged already point towards Trump was their inspiration to riot, as ‘patriots’ whom he’d called to Washington DC. It will be interesting.

What a time to be alive!

My wife baked a cake with bourbon, whose smell wafted up to be as I headed to bed. I’ll look forward to that, at least. One day at a time.

#COVID9Chronicles-294: January 26, 2021-Heading to the second Trump impeachment trial

The article of impeachment of Donald J. Trump was walked to the Senate by the House impeachment managers, yesterday evening:

It was delivered:

It was read:

It will not be presided over by the Chief Justice, as it involves a former president:

The trial will begin on February 8:

Many are concerned that as time passes, the natural pressure to see conviction will abate. it will be difficult to see where 17 Republicans will vote for that, fearing backlash as well as some concerns about the legitimacy of the process. But, in the minds of many politicians and the public, the question will always be that if the actions that can be laid at the feet of the former president do not amount to impeachable events, what does.

Each day, brings out more evidence of a larger conspiracy to overturn the legitimate election results, driven directly by Donald Trump, so his intent to subvert the democratic process is clear.

#COVID19Chronicles-290: January 21, 2021-As the new tenants settle into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Little about the first day in office of President Biden was normal, beyond the swearing in; COVID-19 and an attempted insurrection at the same US Capitol where the event was taking place saw to that. Unparalleled security and near-absent public were two of the enduring memories. But, we will each have our recollections of that momentous day, including the out-going president going out with a sullen whimper.

For posterity, I think it’s worth tagging some key parts of yesterday’s presidential inauguration. So, below are some of the important texts.

President Biden’s inaugural address:

I wrote that Biden was a great speaker…Chris Wallace agreed with me 🙂

Amanda Gorman, the youth poet laureate became the youngest ever inaugural poet, and justly stole the show and many hearts:

Her poem and appearance will give many girls much greater hope and inspiration that was already in the appointment of Kamala Harris.

It was poignant that the inauguration celebrations included a taped message of unity from former presidents, G.W. Bush (43), Clinton (42), and Obama (44):

Control of the Senate passed to the Democrats, with Vice President Harris having the casting vote over the 50:50 split, and Chuck Schumer becoming majority leader (the first Jewish person in that position). Both he and Harris (the first woman as president of the Senate, plus her firsts as a woman of colour (Jamaican-Indian) handled their new positions with a mixture of relief and humour.

#COVID19Chronicles-289: January 20, 2021-Joseph R. Biden, Jr. 46th President of the USA

The coverage by news media was full, and I preferred to watch the BBC World Service, which had a less political flavour, and added some useful pointers for non-Americans, such as the Constitutional rule is power is transferred at noon, but the swearing in was done at 11.48am, so we had an awkward period. In fact, the presidency changed hands midway through the inaugural speech.

It was a great speech, a healing speech by President Biden given with much heart-felt words and tone. He framed unity in its context. He wanted to end this “uncivil war’” and be a president for all Americans. he stressed the importance for truth in trying to build and rebuild.

His deep religious conviction and his true humanity were laid bare, again.

But, he also wanted to make a clear separation with the immediate past regime:

“We will lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”

The other aspects of the Inauguration were powerful, in content and context, especially with the historical first of a woman Vice President, Kamala Harris, with her other uniqueness, but I will just let them have their place.

All was sealed by Amanda Gorman, the youngest ever Inaugural poet, who gave a lot to unpack in her poem:

“Democracy has prevailed.”

Work starts now!

#COVID19Chronicles-288: January 20, 2021-Handing over political power in the USA

President Trump is due to depart from the White House at 8am this morning, amid reports that he’s having a hard time filling the guest list. Notably, top Republican politicians will not attend:

He’s then off to on Air Force One to Palm Beach, Florida. He will not attend the Inauguration of president-elect Biden. Oddly, that means there will be two nuclear ‘footballs’ to cover the gap in transition, instead of being handed over during the Inauguration. What else is new but another piece of political theatre and the breaking of norms?

Last night, he issued another flurry of pardons (73) and commutations (70), including for Steve Bannon (‘a key adviser in Trump’s 2016 presidential run. He was charged last year with swindling Trump supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the president’s wall on the US-Mexico border’-The Guardian), who some would see as an insurrectionist who wasn’t at the Capitol. White House officials had advised Trump against pardoning Bannon, who left the Trump administration in late 2017. Elliot Broidy, was also pardoned: he’s a major Republican party fundraiser, pleaded guilty in October to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, admitting to accepting money to secretly lobby the Trump administration for Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Washington DC is empty and silent, apart from a huge military and police presence. The bridges that connect DC to Maryland and Virginia have been closed!

The general public will not be participating. Having been to Inaugurations, this must be the most eerie of days.

The major event will be virtual, with swearing-in set for the west steps of the US Capitol.

Last night, we got a taste with a memorial ceremony for those who have died from COVID-19. It was the president-elect who paid tribute to them and the many caregivers who have tolled tirelessly for months!

This long-overdue attempt at national recognition of the suffering during the pandemic was on the day when the USA hit another sombre milestone of 400,000 deaths from COVID.

The president gave a farewell address that was taped; it listed his achievements; even then, he had no words for those who had suffered from COVID. Again, what’s new?

As the Inauguration nears, politics continued. The Senate was called back yesterday to start the confirmation process for the Biden Cabinet nominees:

Finally, Inauguration will be bookended by impeachment proceedings. It looks likely that the Senate will start the trial, but not until at least January 21, to not draw attention from the Inauguration. Senate leader, Mitch McConnell gave more strong signals that he may be leaning towards conviction as he clearly laid blame for the insurrection at the feet of the outgoing president: “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

Biden had planned to travel to DC by train from Delaware, but security concerns forced a change to a flight. Before that, he opened a National Guard facility in Delaware named for his dead son, ‘Beau’. He showed his raw emotions, again, as he cried that his son wasn’t there to be hailed as president. His empathy is something refreshing and much needed.

So, let the events roll on. There’ll be end-to-end TV coverage to hunker down to. The entertainment is scheduled to be full of great performers:

Let’s wish president-elect Biden and vice-president Harris luck as they try to mend a country left broken by four years under a leader who had no interest in his States being united.

His day will start with a visit to church, accompanied by politicians from both sides.

#COVID19Chronicles-287: January 19, 2021-Almost there; the final day of the Trump administration

Reports are that President Trump will leave the White House tomorrow, January 20, early in the morning, before the Inauguration, and have a farewell ‘ceremony’. He will not attend the Inauguration (and president-elect Biden rebutted that he was glad about that). He has recorded a farewell address, which will be released during the day:

It will be another demonstration of narcissism as he tries to upstage the new president and keep attention on himself, even though he could just go quietly. He’s refused to act like a graceful loser and may never utter the words of concession that almost all of his recent predecessors have. He will not have shown the simple grace and good manners extended to him and his wife by outgoing President Obama and his First Lady by welcoming them to the White House.

He displays many traits of toxic masculinity that feeds on the idea that displays of strength, rudeness, disrespect for others, especially those weaker and unable to defend themselves are what ‘make a man’. ‘Weakness’ in this optic captures all the things that represent empathy or a hint of caring for others.

He will go down as a sourpuss. He will go down as rude. He will go down as a hypocrite. He will go down as a terrible president. A man who openly said he finds losing hard will show that he actually doesn’t know how to lose. Yet, if you look you’ll see that he’s actually been a serial loser, with business failures far exceeding real business successes, and a list of grifting activities.

He’s a serial liar! It’s on record, so you can see, read and hear it for yourself.

He’s shown he’s a really bad judge of character, if only because so many of his choices are soon dismissed by him! The rate of turnover in his Administration is enough to make desserts for all for life. 🙂

He’ll probably rue the fact that he could have won the election handily had he grasped the ‘Hail Mary’ pass tossed to him by a pandemic, where he could have done all the things that make someone look like a leader. Instead, he fumbled it (extending the American football analogy), by denying it was a problem, recovered it when he was struck by the virus, and then ran it back the wrong way by readily discarding his mask and holding ‘super-spreader’ events at the White House to score for the opposition.

He got more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016 and far outstripped the total votes for any loser. He was more unpopular than any president in recent history, but still amassed 74 million votes out of about 150 million. He wasted the support he has, whether we like to acknowledge that his base is huge (to use one of his favourite terms). The presidential election was actually his to lose, and he lost it! He probably right to think he couldn’t lose, except for the Trojan Horse that was his own set of personal failings.

He will go down as a divider, not a uniter. He could lead, if it was the rabble.

In the end, he also divided the party he leads, resulting in the previously unthinkable of Georgia voting against him as president, and eventually voting in Democrats as Senators, and leaving the Senate tied, not with its previous Republican majority. He burnt down the barn!

For his departure, the Pentagon had already indicated it would not be giving the traditions Armed Forces Farewell tribute:

The White House announced that last weekend Vice President Mike Pence delivered “remarks to sailors on the Trump Administration’s historic foreign policy achievements at Naval Air Station Lemoore,” and then to the 10th Mountain Division, in Fort Drum, New York.

The First Lady gave a farewell speech, yesterday:

It was filled with platitudes that were at stark variance with what her husband had espoused for four years. In that sense, it’s par for the course: living in an alternative reality, where truth is what the White House want to make it.

For those who don’t understand these things, this is classic for autocracy.

Since, the election on November 3, 2020, the vast majority of Americans have believed that Joe Biden won:

Sadly, many Republicans didn’t and don’t and now does Donald Trump. He said he’d accept the results and at every deadline to do that, which confirmed him as the loser, he’s refused to accept the results.

Also, what we’ve seen played out with Trump and the presidential election in 2020/21 is exactly what he promised would play out in 2016/17, if he didn’t win. That much has been a consistent stand. The fact that he said in October 2020 that he was prepared to accept the result, so long as it was not “fake” seemed to miss people and a clear indication that he believed only his winning would not be fake. His true position had been stated back in July—that he won’t agree to accept 2020 election results because it’s “fake”:

The snake oil salesman has to make his sale and he’ll make his pitch, and if you buy the pitch and the products you’re likely to end up with a pig in a poke.

A BBC news reporter pointed out this morning that Trump got his wall, except it’s a series of barricades around Washington DC. That about sums it up.

Finally, to anyone who thought Trump was fit for office or doesn’t think he deserves to be impeached and convicted, I offer one simple observation. When the mob was laying siege to the Capitol, he was again handed the moment to show that he should be president. President-elect Joe Biden went on television and social media and demanded that Trump appear on national television to “fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.” Instead of grasping that moment, he doubled down on rejecting it. He was essentially missing in action. The worst of it was that his Vice President and the leaders of Congress were on the verge of being attacked and maybe assassinated. However, you play that, here was a potential win-win to ‘save’ Congress, quell the riot, show the world that you are the one who can hold the nation together. Instead, a series of huffy tweets and an insincere call to quell activities. Again, that only makes sense if you see that Trump is only about himself.

At some future date, I hope Mike Pence explains what he thought and why he did not immediately resign, knowing that the president never checked on his or his family’s welfare (as they were also in the Capitol to witness the certification of votes). What we know, too, though, was at those crucial moments, the decision-making was done by the Vice President, not the President. When you keep dropping the ball, it’s best to just leave the field and go sit on the bench.

#COVID19Chronicles-284: January 16, 2021-The deeper plot behind the US insurrection?

More than a week on from the insurrectionist siege of the US Capitol (and I’m sure that the historical term has still not yet been set), we’ve learned a lot about the events of January 6, 2021 that are disturbing and suggest a deeper plot was in play and that the political divisions that were behind it are not going to subside quickly. This is just a sample of what has surfaced.

The timeline looked like this:

It shows that credible and disturbing evidence existed within official security circles to have forwarned of the violent events, but a serious lack of coordination of that stopped mobilization of personnel to at least suggest these were credible threats.

On the day, after others speakers (especially Rudy Guiliani and Don Trump Jr.) had done and while President Trump was making his remarks to the rally, the mobs were on their way at about 1pm. President Trump finished his remarks about 1.15pm, then spent some two hours berating his VP and complaining about the election being “stolen”.

At about 2:25 p.m. Trump tweeted criticism of Vice President Pence: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

Around 4.15, Trump tweeted a video downplaying the events of the day, repeating false claims that the election was stolen and sympathizing with his followers, saying: “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. 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. … You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.”

This was while the mob was laying siege to the Capitol, not acting to put in place resources to quell it. His ‘calming’ tweet at 6pm is damning: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

The policy vacuum and failure to anticipate the disruption are now part of the focus of various government agencies:

What also needs to be established, but for a different set of investigations–maybe, if/when the Senate looks at the impeachment charge–is what the president knew (from official briefing and other sources-phone and messaging logs) and how did he act ahead of, during and after the siege of the Capitol. Reports are that at the time he was watching it play out on TV–apparently pleased with what he saw. What he didn’t do was issue orders to quell it–in fact, refusing to approve National Guard responses. His actions were late and too little, and reports suggest that he was not in favour of doing the little he did with ‘softer’ tweets and scripted videos. He issued a denunciation only after being impeached.

As information emerges, there are clear signs that ‘inside’ help was involved, not least in knowing the layout of the complex Capitol building. The matter has led to an Inspector General review.

Wider spread disruptions happened on January 6 and are likely for the near-term. Already, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have warned about potential violent and armed protests in all 50 state capitals.

Arrests and charges are beginning to flow in as culprits are identified. More than 200 case files have been opened. According to the FBI, more than 100 arrests have been made in connection with the Capitol siege. The F.B.I. has received more than 100,000 tips, including photos and videos, and that number does not include tips that people have submitted by phone; the number of arrests is expected to “geometrically increase.” He noted that some defendants had been charged with misdemeanor crimes so they could be quickly arrested, but those people could be indicted on more significant charges, including sedition and conspiracy.

Planning for the presidential inauguration is now seeing a series of cancellations as the security threat widens; the rehearsal, due Friday, has been postponed till Monday, due to security concerns. President-elect Biden will not travel to Washington DC by Amtrak due to similar concerns.

DC has already gone into lockdown ahead of the presidential inauguration:

The National Guard has been deployed in large numbers (20,000+) to DC, with many camped out at the US Capitol:

This response reflects a serious under-estimation of the risks that were emerging last week.

Businesses nearby are also taking precautions and trying to do things that won’t feed the needs of potential troublemakers. For instance, AirBnB has cancelled all existing bookings and blocking any new bookings in metropolitan DC area for inauguration week.

Airlines have invoked ‘don’t fly’ rules for people seen and identified as participating in the insurrection.

Lawmakers are also openly expressing fears for their lives, including risks that may come from Congressional colleagues!

Those who have opposed President Trump in recent days have found themselves harrassed when trying to travel and some report death threats at their homes and offices. Add to that growing evidence that the insurrectionists included people whose intent was assassination.

Retired and current members of the military and police forces are being identified amongst the insurrectonists.

Political fall out for some who supported protests on January 6, continues to be heavy, especially for Senators Hawley and Cruz.

#COVID19Chronicles-277: January 9, 2021-Thoughts on the building of ‘Trumpistan’

While it’s often disconcerting to watch a physical confrontation unfold in front of your eyes, especially when it’s around events that are usually placid or of little real controversy, what unfolded at the US Capitol on January 6 shook many. However, the display of physical opposition to a pillar of US democracy was always on the cards. The US has been led by a president who made it clear he was not much in favour or or in line with the thinking or aims of other US democratic agencies. If you don’t understand what it means for the national chief executive to disregard the national intelligence agencies’ views (taking instead those of a foreign power), or those of the national legal advisors, or trying to build a judicial system that is filled with loyalists then you really aren’t paying attention. Those are just some of the more obvious red flags.

Frankly, we should have seen it coming, as the warnings were there, from recent utterances since the November 3 presidential elections. But, the warnings, as far as the intent to disrupt and disregard democratic norms had been set out by Donald Trump before the 2016 presidential elections.

The US was spared the full extent of what he would do to overturn democratic results for four years, but only those who were not paying attention should be really surprised. In 2016, Trump was not in a position of national power, so had few levers to pull that were more than his private enterprises and his political party affiliations. Since becoming president, he has had the weight and might of presidential office standing behind his intent. People are now concerned about his finger being on the nuclear codes. He’s had that power in his hands for about 1450 days!!!!

He has built his political position into one of even greater power by openly weakening the institutional base of the US governmental structures, most cynically by having loyalists head up agencies, and removing them as soon as they showed disloyalty or did not perform as he wanted. President Trump has been consistent in demanding unswerving loyalty, but giving none in return. I suspect the rotations at the head of agencies under his presidency has been a record by far. The Brookings Institute has a project ‘Tracking turnover in the Trump administration‘, which showed that President Trump’s “A Team” (made up of members of the executive office of the president, it does not include Cabinet secretaries) turnover is 91% as of January 7, 2021.

But, that rate excludes ‘serial’ turnover, only counting the first change of position. So, it’s worth noting that 42% of President Trump’s “A Team” departures have undergone serial turnover as of January 7, 2021. More notable, 25/59 (42%) “A Team” departures have turned over twice or more (some more than 4-5 times).

Cabinet-level turnover has been less, but still far outstrips in total (14) that of any modern administration since Ronald Reagan, with H. W. Bush (8) being the closest.

This kind of turnover can be seen as a classic control tactic of creating a state of constant flux. It’s a state of constant maximum uncertainty.

President-elect Biden has noted that many critical agencies are now extremely weak, after being hollowed out:

It’s easy to see how this plays into the hands of someone who wants to establish an autocracy. It’s also easy to see that it makes it hard for any successor to start with anything like a working chance of success because the legs on which policy should rest have been broken or damaged severely at best. It’s a kind of scorched earth approach–destroying anything that could be useful to the enemy.

Donald Trump has had little real interest in democratic government, of government as an institution; he’s been focused on amassing power in his own hands. This should have been obvious for years. It should also have been clear that a corollary of that is a power base built around ‘popular’ mobilization around him, rather than any organization. It’s building a cult (of personality), but more threatening to those not of the ‘faith’ because it makes its own rules and all who are not of the faith are enemies, to be dealt with harshly.

The USA has for so long seen itself as a pillar or paragon of democratic virtues that it’s been blind to the obvious tendencies of its national drift toward authoritarianism. Sadly, many of the minorities who live in the USA and have suffered this drift at the hands of institutions or local political structures had little doubt. Many Americans did not like to see their country drifting towards a fascist regime (focused on racial and nationalist themes) or the likes of Stalinist Russia–eg, persecuting ‘dissenters’–or any modern authoritarian regime against which it has fought long and hard. The main difference had been that the country had not been led by someone who embodied many of these tendencies. They’ve had it for four years but seemed to not understand what was happening. All the talk of “this is not who we are” is pure self-deception.

Storming the Capitol Building-a dark day in the USA-January 6, 2021, a different epiphany

The seismic political event on January 6 in the USA should have been the Democrats winning both Senate seats in Georgia. But, President Trump had urged his supporters in late December to come to Washington DC yesterday to have a ‘wild day’ as the Congress certified the Electoral College votes, normally a mundane piece of legislative formality.

Trump gave a speech late in the morning at a “Save America” rally, which ended with his urging those at the rally to “walk to the Capitol” to “cheer on” those who were due to object to some votes being counted. Rudy Guiliani (“trial by combat”) and Don Trump Jr. egged on the crowd beforehand, including saying to those who were “zeroes not heroes” they were “coming for you…and have a good time doing it”.

They listened and marched to the Capitol Building, and gradually all hell broke loose. The supporters massed on the Capitol steps and then started to breach the line of security personnel and break into the building, some climbing onto balconies and breaking windows to enter. Once in, some proceeded to break into the chambers and into the offices of politicians, parading ‘Trump 2020’, Confederate and other flags. Confrontations ensued. Live TV coverage showed protesters strolling around the hallowed halls taking selfies, lounging in chairs, taking mail and other objects. It was rioting. It was also an attempt at insurrection. It was sedition.

This happened just as Congress was beginning its business of counting Electoral College votes.

We heard that the Capitol was being evacuated and saw Secret Service officers usher out VP Pence to an undisclosed location within the Capitol. We heard that the building was in lockdown and people were told to shelter in place. The world looked on, shocked. This was supposed to be a mere formality, but it had been set up to be a litmus test by the president and his supporters took up the challenge. Congress had stopped its business, at least, temporarily.

These events soon led to reactions from all points, starting with the media and then a stream of US politicians, including Republicans who had already signalled their opposition to the president. Senator Mitt Romney was among those whose condemnation was early and unequivocal, also pointing to Trump as inciting these events:

Reactions from US allies and other countries began to flow in, shocked and condemning what they saw and urging orderly transfer of power. The country that was so often exporting democracy was watching it fly out of its window.

President-elect Biden reacted by making a speech to the nation that ended with his saying “Enough is enough!” He called on the president to “call it off”.

Later, Trump issued a tweet stating “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” He later issued a video, which opened with him saying, “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now.” He also went on to call the supporters “very special.” He also said, “we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”

Blame was pouring out, quickly.

Many also were pointing to the need to invoke the 25th amendment (removing the president as not fit) and call for new impeachment:

The president’s social media accounts had posts removed and were blocked and suspended for inciting violence:

Too little too late?

It made for an eerie calm in the stream of noise he would usually throw out late at night.

DC’s mayor asked for the National Guard to be brought into action to quell the situation (they had been used so far to help with traffic control). This was initially rebuffed by the Pentagon and president Trump, then approved by VP Pence. Virginia’s governor called out his state’s National Guard to help in DC.

The mayor had earlier announced a curfew from 6pm.

The Capitol was gradually cleared inside and out and as curfew arrived word came that Congress would resume its business, with the Senate due to restart at 8pm. The Congressional leadership made clear that the business would be finished “tonight”. They resumed with strong statements about the earlier events:

Once business resumed, in brief, the challenges (to Arizona and Pennsylvania, though some 6 States had been likely to face objections) were rejected as several Senators (eg Georgia’s Loeffler) decided to walk back their previously stated positions and not support the challenges made by House members. Still, 6 Republican Senators supported the objection against Arizona and 7 that against Pennsylvania, AFTER THE BREACH OF CONGRESS!! In short, the objections all failed, as they were due to, anyway.

Some politicians made clear their disgust for what had taken place and been abetted by their colleagues.

The counting was completed in the early hours of January 7, certifying Biden and Harris as president and vice president:

Vice President Pence concluded his ministerial task and will have to see what being “liked a little less” means to his boss.

Following this, a statement was issued by an aide that President Trump will go with an “orderly transition”:

But will he abide by this? Trump has a history of major backtracking, especially when views are expressed by aides.

Questions were being asked early yesterday and continue into the apparent security failures, including hints that the police were somewhat complicit. Despite the hours of images of people committing crimes at the Capitol and then breaking curfew, only 52 people were arrested. Some were found to be carrying weapons.

Many also saw a stark contrast in how the protesters were treated and how it had a clear racial bias:

One can understand the delicate balance of firm control and not wishing to see that turn into a major confrontation, especially if it became militarized.

The FBI is now asking for help to identify people involved:

Tragically, the incidents were marred by a woman being shot by police in the Capitol and dying after being seen stretchered away. In total, four deaths occurred, three from medical emergencies:

DC’s emergency measures have been extended for 15 days, thus covering Inauguration Day on January 20:

Some of the politicians who facilitated moves to object to the Electoral College certification are already facing harsh criticism, some from places and people who would usually be supportive:

Many political experts saw these objections to the Electoral College votes as veiled attempts at positioning for the 2024 presidential elections.

What were the reasons for this swelling of public anger? No doubt, the USA is deeply divided, 74 million voted for Trump. But, their support his been fuelled by steams of disinformation and conspiracy theories and a scary disregard for truth.

Some politicians don’t see they have any part of this, even though deep in it, such as the denialism of Senator Ron Johnson:

The next 13 days will be filled by an uneasy calm as it’s still not clear what President Trump may do. Reports have surfaced about his fragile mental and emotional state. He still does not accept the election results!

Those who support him, hang on his version of reality.

The DC protests were accompanied by smaller protests in several other state capitals:

Resignations from the White House have begun as a trickle but reports are they may accelerate.

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