There are dates and events that happen in history that are maybe glossed over for a few minutes in a high school class. Some stick with students, others don’t.
Then there are the larger moments. Some might take half a class period to talk about. Others maybe the entire period. And yet others can take a whole week.
Wednesday was one of those latter moments — and it was what I would call the second one in my lifetime, right alongside the 9/11 attacks.
Do you remember what happened Wednesday? I know in the Trump presidency it can be hard to remember what happened two or three days ago, because the entire four years have been a bit of a nightmare blur with incoherent ramblings, entire speeches written as Instagram hashtags and wild thoughts spoken out loud. It has been a lot; it really has.
I could write about these past four years using all 12 pages of each issue for the next four years, and I still couldn’t have covered it all. Like I said, it has been wild.
But Wednesday jumped up a couple of notches, and it all came on the heels of Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeating two Trump allies, tying the Senate at 50/50, which essentially flipped control with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris officially holding the tiebreaking vote on any measure. I’m not going to mince words here: On Wednesday, fascist, domestic terrorists won the afternoon — but America won the day, week, year and future.
You see, back in November Trump lost his reelection bid, and didn’t accept the results, just as he said suggested five years ago. The man either doesn’t understand how votes are received, tallied and announced, or (more likely) he just doesn’t care. Despite all the attempts to slow down or ruin postal delivery of mail-in ballots (a perfectly legal process used for over 100 years) because he knew there’d be more during a pandemic that he’d been botching for 9 months, America still showed up in force, to the tune of 81 million votes against him (to 74 million for him, a difference of 7 million more for Biden). Five states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan and Georgia — all semi-narrowly flipped their support from 2016, in essence, flipping the Electoral College to Biden.
Trump, his allies and his mega fans decried election fraud, but presented zero items of evidence. Hearsay and affidavits taken from ad-lib books do not count as evidence. Because of that, Trump is worse than 1-for-60 in court filings trying to overturn election results. In many of these courts are his own appointed judges, including in the U.S. Supreme Court, where he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rushed in a candidate in the weeks leading up to the election.
But again, Trump lost. In December, the states certified their results and the Electoral College results were to be counted Jan. 6 by Vice President Mike Pence. It is generally a simple formality, and the ability to reject the will of the people is simply not there in a realistic world.
The discussion for the merits of the Electoral College, its history and whether to keep it are for another day. But on this particular Jan. 6, which was Wednesday, the president and his outgoing cronies held a predetermined rally in Washington D.C. His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, son Donald Trump Junior and the president himself effectively told the crowd to storm the U.S. Capitol Building. Trump told the mob to “fight like hell — remember; you’re stronger, you’re smarter … we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and give Republicans the boldness” their missing. Giuliani suggested a “trial by combat,” while Don Jr. told the crowd to “stand up and fight.”
What was the end game? Were they going to hold Nancy Pelosi, Mike Pence and all of congress at gunpoint and change their vote to certify the election from President-Elect Joe Biden to Trump? Some in the crowd said so, while others in the mob said they were ready to execute all of congress on the front lawn. Was the show-of-force charade to buy time for Trump’s team to think of another way to keep him in office after Jan. 20? By law, even if Biden wasn’t certified, Trump wouldn’t remain the President, and Pence wouldn’t take over either — it would fall to Pelosi. But laws hardly matter to the administration that declared itself long ago the one of Law & Order. (Somewhere Dick Wolf shakes his head for his franchise TV show getting a bad name simply from correlation. Dun dun.)
When the mob of hundreds of MAGA supporters hurdled the first fence and moved toward the Capitol, they were met with some light resistance of Capitol Police. Once they reached the front entrance, haphazard metal fence barricades were simply a slight deterrent. Some “protesters” made their way past police officials, which didn’t used the kind of show of force of tear gas or rubber bullets like they did to peaceful protesters sitting on the sidewalk outside of a church in D.C. in the summer when Trump wanted to take a picture with a bible upside for a photo op.
The protesters turned to rioters when they broke windows to get inside the building, in which congress was counting the votes to certify. Pence even said he would not attempt to decertify, as it was the will of the people that Biden won. Pence was then quickly ushered out of the chambers, and the gavel soon sounded to pause proceedings, because these protesters turned rioters turned domestic terrorists had breached the interior of the building — some armed.
Members of congress and their staffers were told to shelter in place, then evacuate through the underground tunnels to an undisclosed location. A woman (an Air Force veteran) was shot and killed by Capitol Police, and three others died outside the building from other medical emergencies. But the National Guard that was on standby was being held at bay — because the mayor is not in charge of that decision, instead it lies with the president’s team. (This may change in the coming months, as the DC statehood odds have shot through the roof.)
The rioting terrorists raided the private office chambers of sitting members of congress, desecrated their desks and doorways, went through computers and emails, stole podiums and other items, took selfies with other complicit police, broke windows and doors and strewn about trash in their wake. It was the first time since 1814 the building had been sieged and ransacked, when it was the British in the War of 1812 that occupied the facility. Not even 50 years later, during the Civil War, did enemy combatants enter the building with their flags. On Wednesday, the American fascists waved enemy Confederate flags around the interior of the Capitol and tore down an American flag on the exterior (replacing with a Trump flag). There were even images of those in the crowd holding Nazi flags and wearing white supremacy garb.
It took several hours for the National Guard, finally brought in, to clear the crowds, which then allowed congress to get back to work during the wee-hours of the morning and inevitably certify Biden as the winner of the election and the next president of the United States.
The entire day played out live for the world on Twitter and social media, plus cable news and radio. The terrorists posted videos to TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Parler. As media personnel attempted to cover the siege, many had their equipment destroy or confiscated by the fascist terrorists.
For a few hours in the middle of the week in early January, our country was the laughing stock of the world. We appeared to be on the verge of becoming a banana republic.
In the later hours of the evening, talk was rising that Trump’s staff was debating invoking the 25th Amendment, which is the immediate removal of the president from his duties because he is unable to perform them. That would mean Pence would become president. Insiders of the White House said that Trump was “out of his mind” and furious that Pence decided to follow the law in the certification process and was barring Pence from entering the White House. Not for nothing, but during the same toddler tantrum, Pence unfollowed Trump on Twitter. Oh yeah, Twitter put Trump on a 12-hour ban with a final warning about posting videos or tweets that would incite violence. Facebook made it a 24-hour ban and then increased it until after inauguration day on Jan. 20.
Congress has the opportunity to immediately run up a second set of impeachment proceedings. Should those go through and Trump actually is removed from office this time (in Feb. 2020 he survived impeachment proceedings), then he would be ineligible from running for president again, which is a big deal considering insiders also said he had planned on running again in 2024.
The Republican Party is in turmoil. The Grand Old Party is not the same one that Lincoln was a part of during the Civil War, or the one that Ike led after World War II’ or Reagan’s party of the 1980s, or even the neoconservative era of the early 2000s during the Bush/Cheney years. This is now Trump’s party, and defection rates were slow at first, and picked up quickly overnight into Thursday. We’ll see if the GOP can survive its own death nell, unlike the Whigs, which gave way to the Republican Party and Lincoln more than 150 years ago.
Stories of this day (week, month, presidency, etc.) will eventually enter school history books and have entire chapters written about the lead up to the day, the events of the day, and, finally, the consequences.
The signing of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the moon landing, JFK’s assassination, 9/11 and now Y’all Qaeda’s U.S. Capitol siege. That’s the list of most important days and moments in America’s 245-year history as a country.
And we’ve had two of them in less than 20 years. Wild.
— Adam Krebs is the editor of the Times and his column appears periodically. He can be reached at 328-4202 ext. 18 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.