January 16, 2021

Politics and Commentary News Aggregator

The Rioters in the Senate Chamber

4 min read

On a day of startling images—a senator arguing with bureaucratic blasé that the U.S. Congress should overturn the results of a months-old election, a feral mob of Trump supporters fighting hand-to-hand with the Capitol police, the Vice-President, then several other representatives, being escorted in a panicked rush away from the Senate floor—the one that first fully stopped me short was a photograph shared, on Twitter, by Igor Bobic, a reporter for HuffPost. A man wearing a black jacket, black gloves, a big, dark, draping scarf, and a black beanie vivisected by bright red stripes stands at the dais of the Senate chamber, behind the desk, raising his fist. Behind him are the familiar blue drapes, folded neatly. Above his head are the words “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” The seeming farce of protests gathered to stop the “steal” supposedly under way as Congress gathered to ratify November’s Presidential election had turned into a potential tragedy as the mob—no less farcical for the real and sudden fear at what they might do—broke into the Capitol and started to run amok. The Senate floor became a playground for men (and a few women) like this one appeared to be: childish, stupid, dangerous, and confirmed in their fear and anger by a President who exemplifies each of these traits in their worst and most absurd extremities. (As I write, it is being reported that at least one person has been shot, and that at least one injured Capitol police officer has been taken to the hospital.) The members of the mob have been photographed dangling from balconies, waving Confederate flags in the Senate halls, chanting in the quiet chamber of Statuary Hall.

I don’t know why that particular image, of the idiot infiltrator in the chamber where business of an often ceremonial kind is customarily done, strikes me so vividly. If I ever sensed something sacred about the goings on at the Capitol, that sense has been all but entirely snuffed out by the seditious cowardice on display there during the past four years. In a hastily arranged speech, President-elect Joe Biden called the Capitol a “citadel of liberty,” but these days I’m not so sure. In another mood, I’d call the picture darkly funny, a final Trumpian absurdity—someday maybe I’ll get there—but my response today isn’t comedic. It isn’t, either, that I’m surprised by white mobs ready for violence, assembled with tacit approval from the President. Heather Heyer’s blood, spilled in Charlottesville, still cries out from the ground.

Maybe it’s only that I used to live in Washington, and I remember how much the trappings of security—armed guards and steel gates—make up the visual language of that city. I used to go on long walks, and when I came near the White House or the Capitol, I’d always get the sense that a wrong move might get me struck by some unseen sniper. Getting into the Capitol building as a visitor was like trying to reach your gate at Dulles. Today, it’s obvious, if it wasn’t before, that that security was real, but maintained on behalf of a constituency I could not have imagined back then. Liberty, sure, but not the freedom to flourish in a kind society—just the grim opportunity for a guy like this, dressed for a post-apocalyptic canoeing trip, to thump his chest in the seat of government. There’s a farce on offer, but it’s been going on for longer than many of us have been able to see. The man at the desk looks angry, proud, and undeniably amused. If anything, he should be happier than he seems. He doesn’t know how free he is, or at whose expense, or how long the show will go on after today.

Read More About the Presidential Transition

  • Donald Trump has survived impeachment, twenty-six sexual-misconduct accusations, and thousands of lawsuits. His luck may well end now that Joe Biden is the next President.
  • With litigation unlikely to change the outcome of the election, Republicans are looking to strategies that might remain even after rebuffs both at the polls and in court.
  • With the Trump Presidency ending, we need to talk about how to prevent the moral injuries of the past four years from happening again.
  • If 2020 has demonstrated anything, it is the need to rebalance the economy to benefit the working class. There are many ways a Biden Administration can start.
  • Trump is being forced to give up his attempt to overturn the election. But his efforts to build an alternative reality around himself will continue.
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Vinson Cunningham

2021-01-06 18:19:56

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