As Our Leaders Dither, The Coup Continues

The most recent edition of the New Yorker has a story about the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, an assassination that was ordered by the country’s own Prime Minister. Ben Taub writes, “Giovanni Bonello, a former Maltese judge who served on the European Court of Human Rights, predicted Daphne’s death. Later, when Paul asked him how he had known, Bonello replied that a constitutional system is only as strong as the people who implement its checks and balances. ‘There have always been abuses-it’s not as if the previous governments were immaculate,’ he said. But now the weaknesses were being exploited ‘by people who don’t care about integrity.’ Once impunity becomes the standard, he said, ‘the lone voice crying in the wilderness is standing out for assassination.’”

The last few days have shown us all more clearly than we would ever want to know that “a constitutional system is only as strong as the people who implement its checks and balances”. Trump and Republican party have shown us all just how weaknesses get exploited by people without integrity who act with impunity and the result is innocent people being killed. The consequences of their lack of integrity is our President inciting a coup that was abetted by the majority of the congressional Republican caucus who attempted to overturn the results of a legal and fair election. And the result is one Capitol Police officer dead and the massacre of dozens of our elected officials only narrowly averted.

Republicans’ lack of integrity and brazen impunity continues, as they claim that holding them accountable for their seditious activity amounts to shaming their supporters [GOP Rep. Stefanik]; or that the left will “use this terrible national tragedy to try and crush conservatives or anyone not anti-Trump enough” [GOP Sen. Rubio]; or that “Impeaching the President with just 12 days left will only divide our country more” [House GOP leader McCarthy]; or, (my personal favorite), that “Those calling for impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment in response to President Trump’s rhetoric this week are themselves engaging in intemperate and inflammatory language and calling for action that is equally irresponsible and could well incite further violence” [House Rep. Brady]. As Tom Scocca writes, “Violent revanchism-whether in the post-Reconstruction South or 1930s Germany or in the Capitol halls on Wednesday-draws on the brutal mob justifying its brutality by claiming they’re the ones being victimized and dominated by an unaccountable elite”. These Republicans are just continuing the coup, laying the groundwork to excuse more right-wing violence that is assuredly to come.

Trump and the Republicans have shown themselves for the fascists they are, fomenting the Big Lie about election fraud and using that lie to incite insurrection. Yet, somehow, at least some in the Democratic leadership still refuse to see the danger we are in. Faced with an attempt by the President to essentially decapitate the legislative leadership as well as his own Vice President, the House adjourned for the weekend after certifying Biden’s election. Pelosi is once again slow-walking impeachment, delaying any vote until Wednesday or Thursday. Democratic Whip Clyburn proposed not even sending the articles of impeachment over to the Senate until after the first 100 days of the Biden administration. The Democrats have not demanded that the heads of the FBI, DOJ, and DHS come and testify about how and why the Capitol was so easily overrun. They have not subpoenaed the phone records of those in the White House who were apparently on the phone with coup supporters during the insurrection, as Republican Barbara Comstock has suggested. They have done nothing to censure the majority of Republicans who still continued with the coup attempt by trying to overturn the results of a free and fair election even after the violent insurrection failed.

Pelosi and others do not seem to understand the coup is continuing. It appears the executive branch has simply stopped functioning since the coup began. We have had no briefings from any of the federal law enforcement authorities. We’ve heard nothing from the FBI, DOJ, DHS, or even the Capitol Police. We do not know exactly whose orders and what orders the military will obey. One Democratic Representative is reporting that the Department of Defense “is aware of further possible threats posed by would-be terrorists in the days up to and including Inauguration Day”. The reason that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media have banished the President and many of his most virulent supporters is because they don’t want them to be able to use their platforms to organize the next round of violence, currently set for this coming weekend.

Impeaching Trump will not make a martyr of him. Instead, it will force the Senate Republicans to once again declare where they stand — with a fascist former President or with democracy. It will not interfere with Biden’s agenda. Democrats will still control the Senate and be able to confirm his cabinet nominees. Democrats will still be able to push through a reconciliation bill that includes $2,000 checks, extended unemployment benefits, aid for state and local governments, and money for mass vaccinations. Beyond that one reconciliation bill, they are unlikely to get anything else passed in the Senate unless they abolish the filibuster.

Democratic leadership needs to understand there is no appeasing the insurrectionists. Whether or not Trump is impeached, the violence will continue. Tim Alberta, who is as wired into the conservative culture as any reporter, writes, “The stuff I’ve heard in the last 72 hours-from members of Congress, law enforcement friends, gun shop owners, MAGA devotees-is absolutely chilling. We need to brace for a wave of violence in this country. Not just over the next couple of weeks, but over the next couple of years”. It will only take one successful act of violence against a Democratic Senator to shift the balance of power within that body back to Republicans. The ongoing threats of violence have already intimidated some of our leaders. A Republican legislator writes this about one of his GOP cohorts in the House, “My colleague told me that efforts to overturn the election were wrong, and that voting to certify was a constitutional duty. But my colleague feared for family members, and the danger the vote would put them in. Profoundly shaken, my colleague voted to overturn”. Delaying impeachment would just give the insurrectionists another victory.

Originally published at on January 11, 2021.

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