The great revolt against the US election featured a man in animal skins howling like a lunatic while blokes with flags walked around in a state of bewilderment. A menacing sort broke into the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, spread his legs over her chair and sneered at the camera. There were no great speeches, no articles of faith. There was no grand vision for an alternative future. If this is politics as entertainment, bring back boring.
The Save America rally began with President Donald Trump delivering a speech outlining his belief that the election result was invalid because of fraudulent vote harvesting and counting. State legislatures have rejected the claims. Tens of thousands went to the rally, which spiralled out of control when protesters marched on Capitol Hill, stormed barricades, assaulted security staff, ransacked congressional offices and obstructed the joint session of congress convened to confirm Joe Biden as president-elect. It was an outrageous display of anti-democratic thuggery.
There is no excusing the violent debasement of democracy that took place on January 6.
In the wake of the riots, much media attention was given to the Democrats’ resolve to impeach Trump. Major liberal media outlets ran headlines accusing the President of incitement. The New York Times front page read: “Trump Incites Mob”. A week later, it read: “IMPEACHED Trump, After Inciting Rampage In Capitol, Is First President To Face 2nd Senate Trial”.
The Democrats’ last attempt to impeach Trump failed after the Senate acquitted him and legal experts have raised serious doubts about the current grounds for impeachment. The text of the article on incitement includes the following allegations: “President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted … He also wilfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore’.
Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd … unlawfully breached and vandalised the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced members of congress, the Vice-President, and congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.”
Trump played a significant role in leading his supporters to believe they were cheated on election day, but he neither mentioned violence in his speech nor directed his supporters to enact it on January 6. Rather, he urged them to march peacefully.
Those who engaged in violence should be prosecuted. The vast majority who remained peaceful should not be condemned. They did nothing more than put their faith in the only man on Capitol Hill who consistently defended the “deplorables”, a group the liberal elite routinely belittles as uneducated, white and working class. The fact that such a large section of the US feels so poorly represented by government reflects the state of American democracy.
Before the election, Democrats argued in favour of curbing the monopolistic power of Big Tech. The US House judiciary subcommittee on antitrust found Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google seriously wanting. Having won the election, some Democrat representatives and their allies have called on Big Tech companies to censor the President, his supporters, or people who questioned the election process. Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has enthused about figuring out how to “rein in” the press. She criticised “disinformation and misinformation” in the media before sharing some of her own fake news homebrew: “White supremacists (were) ordered by President Trump to attack the Capitol.” She tendered no evidence to support the claim the President “ordered” such an attack.
Former first lady Michelle Obama called on Big Tech to censor the US President: “Now is the time for Silicon Valley companies to … go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man.” Twitter announced it would, and justified the act of censoring the President by repeating the allegation of incitement: “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Yet Twitter has not permanently suspended the account of Democrat Maxine Walters, who incited supporters to act against members of congress in 2018, saying: “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and create a crowd and … push back on them.”
Pelosi believes Trump deserves to be impeached for inciting insurrection in his January 6 speech. However, Pelosi once described the President and congress as virtual enemies of the state, saying: “The domestic enemies to our voting system and … our constitution are right at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with their allies in the congress of the United States.”
There is more than a hint of hypocrisy in Democrats who condemn Trump for using strong language and equate it with incitement, despite having their own record of inflammatory rhetoric. Freedom of speech is indispensable to democracy, but equally destructive when it is used to either incite violence or censor dissent.
To watch America from afar is a dispiriting exercise. The free world depends on Americans defending democracy as a form of government and a living culture. Both are under attack. Joe Biden has a choice: lead his country towards a more enlightened future or drive it deeper into despair.