January 6th: What Happens When Your Coup Fails (But Almost Succeeds)
Published January 6, 2022 / Updated January 10, 2022

January 6th: What Happens When Your Coup Fails (But Almost Succeeds)

A failed coup is still a coup.

by Susan E. Stutz

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Trump supporters scale the west wall of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Trump supporters scale the west wall of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. (AP)

What happened?

Suppose we somehow missed all of what occurred in our country between November 2016 and President Biden’s inauguration. In that case, we need only look at the events of January 6th, 2021, to understand how damaged our democracy is. Our politics have become so overrun with bitterness that getting anything meaningful done on the Hill is virtually impossible.

By its very definition, the events of January 6th can only be described as an insurrection. Driven by false claims of a stolen and invalid election, the rioters at the Capitol came armed with a plan and weapons. They intended to overturn the 2020 election results using whatever force, lethal or otherwise, needed to realize that goal. And, come they did from every corner of the United States by the hundreds. They descended on Washington armed with all manner of weapons such as baseball bats, hockey sticks, stun guns, zip ties, and mace, to name but a few. Donning military-style garb, the attendees stormed the Capitol intending to take control of Congress to keep the election results from being certified. And while the election was eventually certified (which event is generally nothing more than a formality), it was not for lack of trying on the part of the Stop the Steal faction. Rioters took over the Capitol Building, breaking down doors and windows to get to the members of Congress inside. The angry mob used flag poles like swords, shattering windows, and hung from the building’s facade and scaffolding outside while cheering those who got in. Many people inside vandalized Congressional offices and threatened and abused law enforcement officers who tried in vain to stem the tide of angry mobsters. According to video footage, nearly 140 officers suffered more than 1,000 assaults as they tried to keep the mob at bay.

Most of the American right have abandoned faith in government as such. Their politics is, increasingly, the politics of the gun. —Stephen March, The Guardian

That day’s events lead to the deaths of Capitol Officers Brian Sicknick, Howard Leibengood, and Jeffrey Smith. There were also deaths among the rioters: Ashli Babbitt, Kevin Greeson, Roseanne Boyland, and Benjamin Philips, all of whom had traveled to Washington to take part in the effort to stop Congress from doing its duty. Two additional Capitol Officers, Kyle DeFreytag and Gunther Hashida, who were present at the riot, committed suicide several months later. More than 700 people were arrested on charges ranging from entering a restricted area to assaulting law enforcement offices with a deadly or dangerous weapon. On average, 1 in 5 of those charged have pled guilty, and investigations continue more than a year later.

Now what?

You might think that the insurrection was a blip on the radar, an anomaly that was but one day in American history, that it could not mean that much. It would be lovely if that were true. Alas, it is not. No matter what they may believe deep in their souls, a large number of Republicans continue to promote the lie that Biden stole the 2020 election. How they reconcile a stolen Presidential election with down-ballot wins is beyond this writer’s understanding, but I digress. Whether they actually believe the lie is less important than how they are using it to create more barriers to the ballot. At present, 14 states are in the process of redrawing their electoral maps ahead of the midterms and 2024. Many states are embroiled in litigation over these new maps, which may result in the courts ultimately determining the makeup of Congressional districts. Coupled with the reality that the party holding the White House generally does not fare well in the midterms, the GOP are endeavoring to give themselves one hell of an advantage.

In the words of our friend Debra Cleaver, founder and CEO of VoteAmerica, “a failed coup is still a coup.” Given the fact that the last time our Capitol was attacked, a civil war ensued, an alarmist view towards last year’s events is not unreasonable. If the violent mob did nothing else, they showed us that if white America can not achieve its goals through traditional democratic avenues, then violence will be their means to an end. For those that worship at the altar of guns and ammo, violence is the answer to almost any problem. And, there is nothing good that can come from such a mindset.

And, lest we forget, the underlying theme to all of the right-wing violence we have seen over the last five years is white hegemony. White supremacy is completely entrenched in the lie—that it created in the first place to justify the oppression of women and people of color—that only white men have what it takes to be at the helm of power. But, the fact that our halls of power are increasingly reflecting the faces of the communities they are charged with representing threatens—and succeeds—in revealing the lie as just that—a false narrative created to keep everyone but them under an oppressive thumb.

“As immigration, aging, intermarriage and a decline in church-going have reduced the percentage of non-Hispanic white Christians in America, right-wing ideologues have inflamed fears that traditional U.S. culture is being erased and whites are being replaced. The second is pervasive elite selfishness: The wealthy and powerful in America are broadly unwilling to pay the taxes, invest in the public services, or create the avenues for vertical mobility that would lessen their country’s economic, educational, racial and geographic gaps. The more an under-resourced government can’t solve everyday problems, the more people give up on it, and the more they turn to their own resources and their narrow identity groups for safety.” –Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Globe and Mail.

It's been a very long five years; however, there is no more important action that we can take than continuing to show up and participate in our federal, state, and local politics. Biden’s election did not solve our problems, and it would be naive to think he could do so simply by winning an election. America may not be engulfed in a blazing dumpster fire every day, but her problems remain. It will take each of us to return democracy to its rightful place. And that starts with supporting and electing legislators who share our values. That only happens if we all exercise our most significant right—voting. And not just in the presidential elections. Midterms matter and many voters skip over them. When we do not vote, we lose. The stakes have never been higher, and the mantra that failure is not an option has never been more true. The coup failed, but it came dangerously close to succeeding and what would have come after is the stuff of nightmares.

November will be here in the blink of an eye. Use the checkCheck your voter registration & be alerted if it changes keyword to verify your voter registration as soon as possible. The bot will also alert you if your county purges you from the rolls. If you’re not 18 years old yet, use the eighteenGet a reminder on your 18th birthday to register to vote. keyword, and the bot will remind you to register!

And, tune in to Resistbot Live on Sunday, January 9th at 1:00 pm eastern as we talk more about what the insurrection means for our future.

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