What was once a routine celebratory national ritual—the inauguration of a new president—grows near, the political and cultural tensions grow evermore severe. Not only is the national Capitol subject to assault by a ragtag mob of self-appointed “patriotic” seditionists, incited by none other than the president himself.
We are also unfortunate to observe the chaotic confusion and indecision of politicians of all stripes and law enforcement “leaders” who seem frozen in their routine practices. Recognition, deliberation, and action seem to have vanished amid the chaos.
Defeat of Democracy Overcome by Rising Fascism?
The stark contrast between the mostly passive response of the Capitol Police to the violent attack on the architectural symbol of democratic institutions and the representatives duly receiving the states’ validated ballots of electors, compared to law enforcement’s aggressive and violent response to peaceful Black Lives Matter and climate protesters, was shocking if not unexpected.
While sworn to ‘protect and serve’ all citizens, the tendency of police has always leaned toward protecting political and economic power against the weak, the vulnerable, and the underclasses struggling to make a life for themselves in the face of economic, social, and judicial inequities.
Law enforcement tends to reflect the values and interests of the nation’s most powerful elites. In repeated incidents around the nation, neo-fascists, white-nationalists, and just plain racists have consistently benefitted from lenient response by cops who have no tolerance for anyone who objects to their own racism, sexism, and classism.
Responding to Risk in Disasters and in Politics
The research on human response to disaster clearly demonstrates certain tendencies toward irrationality. Sometimes irrational acts can save us, more often they are deadly. The first is the tendency to deny the risk that confronts us. To recognize the danger is to step way out of our comfort zone and into the unknown. People seek comfort in habitual practices and beliefs. So, it is not surprising that many find it so difficult to recognize the domestic terrorism that was inherent in the seditious mob-assault on the Capitol a few days ago.
In disaster situations such as an approaching hurricane or flood, people deliberate over the situation mostly based on their past experiences and habits. Yet, past routines often do not fit the exigencies of catastrophic events. Today, the Democrats struggle with the fact that they must do something in response to a unique crisis of a president who incites insurrection and violence.
They demand the president resign immediately. Not likely. They demand that Vice President Pence invoke the 25th Amendment and declare the president unfit to hold office, citing the danger of a deranged psychopath holding the nuclear codes. Pence, slavishly loyal until Trump demanded he violate the constitution by declaring the ballots of key states invalid, nevertheless refuses to invoke the 25th despite being thrown under the bus.
A second impeachment appears the only action remaining. The trial could not be completed until after the Fake President leaves office and the president-elect Biden is inaugurated. But to fail to follow through would create a precedent for future presidential lawlessness and violations of the constitution. The Congress must reassert its oversight authority, regardless of any potential reaction by the insurrectionists and their social-media agitators. No room for the timid here. Bullying and criminality are only encouraged by the failure to suppress them.
To Re-establish the Authority of Democratic Institutions
The violent mob of insurrectionists at the Capitol were not mere “protesters,” which too many reporters called them. The Fake President incited them to violence and they acted in direct response to his deranged directions. Any civil society must not tolerate such seditious actions. But even more important, the authority of democratic institutions must be reasserted in very explicit terms. Let the new independent Department of Justice prosecute the rioters as the law requires and let the Congress sanction the Fake President fully, including banning him from ever holding a federal office again. Then we shall see how quickly his Russian enablers lose interest in their deranged incompetent agent.