I was very excited about the email I’d planned to send yesterday celebrating the triumph of organizing (and some signs of rejection of Trumpism) in Georgia on Tuesday, what the wins might portend for governing this year and elections next cycle, and the very real evidence that the deep south isn’t made up of red states but of voter suppression states. There’s a pretty cool Everything is Politics conversation to have coming out of Georgia — one that links to lots of things that aren’t obviously politics, like higher education, corporate engagement, and an ecosystem of startups and investors led by Black Georgians.
But that email is going to wait because, as I’m sure you were also watching in horror, years of incitement to violence, winks and nods to neonazis and white separatists, normalization of extreme right-wing ideology, normalization of despotic and patently false speech coming from the highest levels of government, a complete breakdown of anything resembling a shared reality across our populace, and constant attacks on the value of government and the fundamentals of our democracy blew up in an armed insurrection on our Capital yesterday.
I’ve been telling you confidently since Trump’s attempted coup began in the hours after the election on November 3rd that it would fail. And it will — even this horrific act of treason, incited, encouraged, and rewarded by the President and his willing enablers in the Republican party in Congress and state GOP apparatus’ all across this country will fail.
President Biden and Vice President Harris will be inaugurated on January 20th, and they’ll have functional Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. They’ll work to rebuild the institutions of government decimated by the last four years of craven corruption. Things will get a tad better — we’ll have a national plan to distribute the vaccine. The bureaucracy will once again be peopled by professionals who believe in the basic tenets of the job they will swear an oath to do. The White House will no longer be run exclusively for the financial benefit of the President and his family with heavy doses of racism-fueled cruelty that benefit no one. The federal government will be run by people who are committed to American democracy — a significant and important change.
But for our democracy, moving forward from yesterday (and the last four years) will not be smooth, it will not be easy, and it is far from inevitable.
Yesterday demonstrated to the extremist traitorous terrorists — including the President — that attempting armed insurrection comes with very few meaningful consequences. They’ll be emboldened to try again — in DC and in statehouses across the country. Some of the attempts will be less chaotic, better organized, and harder to defend against. Some of them will be led by better spoken, more innocuous-seeming, smarter, and more strategic would-be despots than Donald Trump. The response from Democrats, from patriotic Republicans, from the media, from law enforcement, from corporate leaders, from all of the non-right-wing extremist political and policy organizations, and from social media platforms — it’ll all need to be better, faster, and more unambiguous if we hope to continue to win the day for democracy.
Yesterday demonstrated that our nation’s proud tradition of peaceful transfer of power is brittle at best. How do we move forward with election cycles in the knowledge that if the results don’t go a specific way the response will be domestic terrorism from the losing side?
Yesterday demonstrated that one of our two major parties has been thoroughly radicalized in extraordinarily dangerous ways. Republicans can rail against “antifa” til they’re blue in the face but it wasn’t the extreme left that staged a violent coup attempt yesterday, and it wasn’t extreme left elected officials that sowed rejection of our fundamental systems of democracy, empowering yesterday’s events. It wasn’t extreme left elected officials flashing salutes at an armed mob just before they stormed the building. And it wasn’t 100+ extreme left elected officials who rewarded insurrectionists by voting for their deranged version of (un)reality — Republicans own that distinction entirely. Do the terrorists represent all Republicans? Of course not. But it’s clear that the Republican party’s moral center has moved in their direction, and it’s not clear that there is leadership (or widespread interest) in the GOP to wrestle it back.
Yesterday demonstrated (again) the dangerous implication of militarized police forces that, as the FBI has been warning since at least 2006, have been infiltrated by the extremist right wing — we saw a relatively mild police response to armed insurrection today, in stark contrast to the police response to Black Lives Matter protestors. It was possible for an armed mob to take over our capital building — with the Vice President and both houses of Congress inside — with relative ease. Ask yourself how that’s possible without help or at least acquiescence from those who are tasked specifically with preventing it. I’m reminded of the all too under-the-radar news from the Secret Service a few weeks ago that they switched up Biden’s detail out of concerns about the loyalties of some of the officers and whether they would appropriately protect him. If the Secret Service is of concern for sedition, should we believe the Capital Police or any law enforcement isn’t?
There are videos posted by the terrorists taking selfies with Capitol Police inside the building, videos of Capital Police literally opening the gates for the insurrectionists to come inside, and the well documented complete absence of the walls of National Guard troops that were mobilized in preparation (not just in response) to previous protests. Yes, we’ve got very good cops everywhere that are dedicated to their jobs and public safety. But we’ve also clearly got a significant problem of bad cops — again per the FBI’s decade-plus of warnings. Neither “Defund the police” nor “reform the police” nor “support the good police” even begins to hint at what’s needed here.
All of that said, I do see signs of hope in the aftermath of yesterday’s events. All is not lost. The path forward is fraught but ripe with possibilities. The results in Georgia point to parts of a road map. Here are some of the other things I’m watching and thinking about (and will likely be typing about in this space in the coming weeks and months):
- CEOs are talking explicitly about putting their money where their mouths are, and one of the most powerful PACs in the country — the National Association of Manufacturers PAC, which historically has had an overwhelmingly GOP tilt, including in the 2020 cycle — has been aggressively calling out and demanding better from its erstwhile allies.
- Facebook and Twitter removed content from the Presidents’ accounts, and (temporarily) blocked him from using the platforms. Belatedly, slowly, maybe temporarily, the leaders of the platforms that have empowered so much of this nonsense finally (and only sort of) acknowledged the role the platforms play and applied the rules to the President. It’s a small but critical precedent.
- The “sedition caucus” — legislators throwing their power behind overturning a free a fair democratic election (though of course not their own election) — shrank a little bit. 147 Republican members of Congress stayed firm in their antidemocratic delusions, a shocking number but at least a tad fewer than had been expected.
- There’s nothing like personal experience to prompt action, and legislators’ personal experience with lockdown and terror looks like it might lead to an actual conversation about the role of the police.
And yes the Georgia results are cause for hope, for many reasons but most immediately because they’re evidence that when *all* Americans are allowed to vote, and motivated to make their voices heard, so many of them will do the right thing. There’s a Black preacher and a Jewish millenial headed to represent Georgia — GEORGIA! — in the U.S. Senate. And there’s nothing but hope in that.
I’m not going to end this with New Year wishes because I’m celebrating the new year on January 20th. As far as I’m concerned today is December 38, 2020, and we can put all of this into the dumpster fire that was 2020. Hang in there.
I write Everything is Politics, a weekly-ish newsletter. Sign up here: shaynabe.substack.com