Every day I see a political ad from my senior senator, Patty Murray, Democrat, who is running for reelection. She recalls in an earnest and sad voice how she and others hid in small rooms in the Capitol while the MAGA rioters on January 6, 2021, banged on the doors. Her message is that this November, “Democracy is on the ballot.” This implies that a vote for the Republicans is a vote for a fascist America. President Biden has now accused MAGA Republicans of being fascists.
Of course, the January 6 rioters thought they were defending democracy from evil politicians who had corrupted a national election. They were wrong about that; they had believed the president of the United States, and Donald Trump is a fabulous liar. That makes the rioters fools. Their actions make some of them eligible for prison time. But it doesn’t make them lineal descendants of Mussolini.
On January 7, 2021, a day after the swarming of the national Capitol, I wrote a post for Liberty in which I labeled the event a riot, arguing that it didn’t rise to the level of an insurrection or attempted coup. The rioters did attack the Capitol when the members of Congress were in session. They ran through the halls, trashed offices, and banged on doors. They entered the House chamber, which had been evacuated, and one man insolently sat in the Speaker’s chair. They entered the Senate chamber and strutted around. Two of them wore funny costumes: one as a caveman, the other as a gladiator. Some of them yelled, “Hang Mike Pence,” a statement not covered by the First Amendment.
The January 6 rioters thought they were defending democracy from evil politicians who had corrupted a national election. They were wrong about that.
One rioter was shot dead by a guard while she was attempting to climb through a shattered window of a barricaded door. One was crushed in a stampede, one died of a heart attack, and another of a stroke. Four rioters. On the other side, a policeman died the next day of stroke. Two others killed themselves. Seven dead, only one because of hostile intent.
If this were a serious attempt to take over the government, the scene would have been much bloodier. The George Floyd riots of the year before caused more deaths than that, and much more property damage.
Cable News Network is endlessly fascinated by the January 6th “insurrection.” Twenty months later, they talk about it every day, almost every hour. They will talk about it at least until the first Tuesday after the firsts Monday in November, and probably until the election of 2024. CNN’s commentators go on and on about how American democracy is fragile, under attack, might be lost, etc.
All Democrat propaganda. Democracy is not fragile — not in the United States. We’ve had it for two and one-third centuries. No coups. That Biden cited January 6, 2021, as “the worst attack on democracy since the Civil War” shows how solid democracy is, not how weak it is. In 1864, during the Civil War (and one year after 120 people died in the New York City draft riots) the United States had a national election.
Their actions make some of them eligible for prison time. But it doesn’t make them lineal descendants of Mussolini.
I was spurred to think about all this by a recent column in the Washington Post, “Why I’ve Stopped Fearing America is Headed for Civil War” by Thomas E. Ricks, who has written several good books about the Iraq War, which was a real war with thousands left dead. Ricks is a progressive, which I am not. But I appreciated some of the things he had to say.
After January 6, Ricks had gone overboard, like much of the left. He feared that America’s political institutions were breaking down, that there would be political assassinations, red-state constitutional conventions to limit the right to vote, and “nullification juries” to let off “right-wingers committing mayhem.”
But looking back, he writes, “Nothing much happened . . . Again and again, both federal and state courts rejected claims of election fraud . . . Hundreds of people who invaded the Capitol, attacked police and threatened lawmakers were tracked down and charged with crimes. It was as if the American system had been subjected to a stress test, and, albeit a bit wobbly, passed.”
Ricks has just written a history of the civil rights movement. That was an historic struggle. Compared with the civil-rights protesters, Ricks says, the January 6 protesters were puny. Weak. “Unlike the civil rights activists of the 1960s, they did not proudly march into jails, certain of the rightness of their cause, eager to use the moment to explain what they had done and why,” he wrote. “They lacked the essentials that gave the civil rights movement and others sustainability: training, discipline and a strategy for the long term.”
Would they have actually seized the Vice President of the United States and hanged him? The MAGA boys didn’t have it in them.
The stories that have come out in the past 20 months reveal that some of the leaders of the so-called “insurrection” thought they could change the outcome of the election by intimidating Congress. And that shows how unrealistic they were. Congress can meet anywhere. It can meet in a hotel. And by January 6, the Electoral College election had already been held. Biden’s victory was a done deal. As I wrote on January 7, 2021: “Overthrowing the government would require purpose and organization, including support of the military and much of the intelligentsia and the news media. The demonstrators had none of that.”
As for the rioters’ threat to hang Mike Pence: Imagine if Pence had stood his ground, standing there in his blue suit, an armed guard on either side. Would they have actually seized the Vice President of the United States and hanged him? Blackshirts and Brownshirts would have. Bolsheviks would have. The MAGA boys didn’t have it in them. They were rioters, not revolutionaries.