Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
After last Wednesday’s Trump rally at the Ellipse in D.C., some of the up to 100,000 present walked over to the Capitol, where Congress was meeting to ratify the Electoral College vote. While there an even smaller number, a few hundred at the most, broke into the Capitol lobby, with some proceeding into a few Congressional offices.
So, a rally attended peacefully by the majority of people, was taken over by a small mob of knuckleheads and day-trippers who invaded the Capitol. Sadly, a woman and a police officer were killed, and three other protestors died from “medical emergencies.” Scores more including police officers were injured.
The police authorities in D.C. had bungled badly their security preparations, and bear a large share of the responsibility for this fiasco. But as always, the guilt lies with those who broke the law and should be punished. “The doer suffers,” as Aeschylus says.
But after five months of incessant rioting, vandalizing, and looting tolerated, ignored, rationalized, excused, encouraged, or even celebrated by the progressive Democrat leadership, media, commentators, mayors, and governors, this half-day-long violent episode is pretty far down on the list of civic mayhem––and the only one of hundreds of protests this year that was fomented by supporters of the President. Indeed, maybe security was light because Trump has conducted massive rallies for four years without any significant violence.
Reaction, however, to the Capitol riot has elicited even more-intense hysterical attacks on the President. Worse, now Republican and conservative lawmakers and commentators have indulged the bathetic rhetorical excesses that mechanically issue from Dems and NeverTrump Republicans skulking in digital hovels like The Lincoln Project and the Bulwark. They are demanding the President’s resignation, impeachment, or removal from office via the 25th Amendment, some preposterously professing anxiety that Trump will launch a Parthian nuclear strike as he leaves office.
Clearly, the D.C. bipartisan establishment has had enough of the outsider Trump’s presence and can’t even wait a week for him to go away, with diehard NeverTrumpers seeking vengeance as well. The invasion of their company headquarters just pushed them over the edge.
The scapegoat must be driven into the wilderness.
The hysteria of the rhetoric can be seen in the hyperbolic words and phrases flooding the commentary on the incident: the riot was a “Pearl Harbor” and a “day of infamy”; an “insurrection” or “coup” perpetrated by “traitors”; a “conspiracy to commit sedition”; the president has “blood on his hands,” and is guilty of a “flagrant dereliction of duty.” Such hyped-up rhetoric used to describe a half-day riot has no connection with reality, but instead reflects the deep irrationality Donald Trump has aroused in the so-called “cognitive elite” who manage Leviathan Inc., the hypertrophied federal government that has expanded its reach into, and power over our lives based on their arrogant pretensions to superior technical expertise.
As many of these phrases show, stupider yet are the many claims that Trump “instigated” the attack on the Capitol or “egged on” the relatively few participants to attack the government and violate the peaceful transfer of power. As such he is guilty of an indictable crime––one House Speaker Pelosi is promising will result in impeachment. His alleged nefarious aim was to disrupt and stop Congress from certifying the election results, which of course still happened on the same day.
This fantasy is belied by the transcript of the speech, as FrontPage’s Joseph Klein reported. Trump says nothing that any reasonable person would construe as suggesting the protestors turn to violence in order stop the certification of the election results. As for indicting the President for “incitement” to commit a crime, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh points out that Supreme Court precedents like Brandenburg vs. Ohio have made the bar for criminalizing protected speech as incitement very high, requiring a proof of intent beyond all reasonable doubt.
Similarly, the elevated rhetoric about the Capitol as the “temple of democracy” or the “people’s temple” is pure bathos. It’s also strange considering that the “people” year after year express in polls their contempt for Congress. And such dislike is well deserved, given how serious problems like ballooning debt and unfunded liabilities are kicked down the road year after year, or pork-laden spending bills are passed, like the recent $1.4 trillion one crammed with superfluous goodies for various political clients. We know that with few exceptions, members of Congress continue to monetize their “public service” after they leave office, joining consultant businesses and white-shoe law firms, and sitting on corporate boards. With a few noble exceptions, there are not many Solons or Lincolns stalking the halls of Congress.
As for venerating buildings and monuments, such talk from the Dems is utterly shameless, given how they have endorsed and celebrated the toppling of public monuments to our history, and shrugged off the burning of federal buildings by BLM and their Antifa black-shirts.
In any case, what we should admire and respect is not the bricks and marble of the Capitol, but the Constitution and the ideals that the Capitol represents: political freedom, separation of powers, accountability to the citizens, and federalism. The progressives have been vandalizing these Constitutional bulwarks of our freedom for going on a century; it is likely that a Biden administration and Democrat control of Congress will further that destruction. That outcome will be more consequential and shameful than the broken windows in the Capitol building.
“Men make the city,” the Athenian Nicias exhorted his beleaguered hoplites in Sicily, and no amount of stately architecture can make up for corrupt men.
Finally, the real question is, why? Why, with only a week left in his term, expend all this dudgeon and hatred on a lame-duck president?
Because Donald Trump blew up the whole technocratic elite paradigm with his candidacy, election, his success in office. All the big-government fiefs and their received dogmas that had year after year failed even as they grew more powerful, were exposed as staffed by tenured clerks at best, and globalist grifters at worst. He scorned the bipartisan consensus that “democratic norms,” “bipartisanship,” and federal agency guild loyalties are more important than defending the Constitution, protecting the freedom of citizens, and tending the nation’s security and interests. And he did it by succeeding both at home and abroad. In any endeavor, success by an outsider is the unforgiveable sin.
Most important, he exposed the “woke,” politically correct tyranny over the culture, schools, and government that too few Republicans, again with some noble exceptions, fought against. Indeed, they preemptively cringed like a battered housewife and legitimized many “woke” shibboleths by using their Orwellian vocabulary like “sexist” or “racist” or “xenophobe,” instead of vigorously repudiating them. Trump spoke for the working class and the patriots whom their party solicited for votes, but whose interests the D.C. elite neglected and culture they deplored.
Trump’s exposure of that bipartisan failure, along with the elite’s class and credential snobbery, was so painful that a sitting president––Barack Obama––instigated an illegal investigation of the newly elected president by corrupting and weaponizing officials in the FBI and DOJ. They failed, but a pandemic gave the Dems an opportunity they did not let go to waste. And even though they have won––under suspicious circumstances, we should always note––they still want to take vengeance and humiliate their tormentor.
As for Republicans who didn’t descend into the NeverTrump swamps but gave Trump his due, they now figure there’s no more upside to being tainted by association with such an allegedly reprehensible character and possible criminal. Their rhetoric about the D.C riot is a form of preemptive virtue-signaling to assure the new regime that they’re done with Trump and Trumpism, and are ready to go back to the postwar paradigm of fundamental agreement about the redistributionist federal Leviathan, and the “rules-based international order.” Sure, there will remain disagreements here and there over details like marginal tax-rates or budget items, but there will be no revolutionary changes like Trump’s. Our one chance for rolling back a hundred years of progressive abuse of the Constitution will be lost.
So all the disorder, tweet-storms, fake news, “cancel culture,” riots, vicious attacks, and social ostracizing instigated by the progressives will be loaded onto Trump’s back. He will be driven from the public square into the political wilderness, and we all can return to our cherished “democratic norms” and bipartisan bonhomie.
I don’t think so. The further assaults on our freedom, our traditions, our history, our faiths have only just begun.