The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Martin Schram is an OpEd columnist for Tribune News Service.
We stared for hours at our news screens Wednesday afternoon, unable to look away, but unwilling to actually believe what we were seeing.
Yet, in one sense, it was a sight we’d been seeing for ages — wild insurgents, some with guns, running over a weak excuse for police. But it was always happening in faraway third world countries. And we knew it couldn’t be happening here. Could it?
But there it was, all over our news screens — happening this time beneath that iconic white dome that Abraham Lincoln had made sure would be constructed and completed despite the Civil War. Because Americans needed to be able to proudly see it as a gleaming symbol of their enduring democracy.
On Wednesday, Congress had gathered for what was traditionally just a pro forma act required by our Constitution: To vote to certify the Electoral College vote totals that would certify Democrat Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
What we didn’t see or hear much of was what inspired some 20,000 rabid Trump rebels to come to Washington on Wednesday and got them so fired up they made the long walk to the Capitol — where they actually captured control of our mind-bogglingly unprotected Congress! As a stunned world watched.
Trump and his schemers had arranged a “Save America” rally behind the White House for earlier that day. “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump had tweeted way back on Dec. 19. “Be there, will be wild!” Wild was an understatement. Trump’s most violent supporters, the Proud Boys and other right-wing activists, planned a boffo second act.
But they needed to convince their crowd to walk 16 blocks to the Capitol. So, at the rally behind the White House, Rudy Giuliani performed his warm up act: “Let’s have trial by combat!” Then Donald Jr. made sure everyone got into the hardcore fun spirit: “If you’re going to be the zero and not the hero, we’re coming for you. And we’re going to have a good time doing it!”
Finally, Trump tromped out. But once the lying started, TV networks bailed out. And you didn’t hear his hour and 13 minutes of incoherent pinballing between falsehoods and fake facts — insisting he won reelection by a landslide. But it was rigged by Democrats and disloyal Republicans.
But Trump knew his main job was to truly move his massive audience — to the Capitol. Why? Well, he never actually told them.
Early in his rant, Trump declared: “After this, we’re going to walk down — and I’ll be there with you (no, readers, he wasn’t) …. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. …You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Almost an hour later, he repeated his most moving message: “So we’re going to …walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol … We’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones… the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. …God bless you and God bless America.”
By 3 p.m. Wednesday, Americans looking at their news screens began to grasp the mind-numbing realization that Jan. 6, 2021, was at that moment becoming America’s third day that will live in infamy. This time it wouldn’t be because of an enemy bombing attack on U.S. troops half a world away. This time, America’s government was being attacked by homegrown insurgents who were storming way-too-easily past overwhelmed police. Swarming insurgents were smashing through windows and doors. Our elected senators and representatives were fleeing or crouching in fear beneath their desks.
Hours later, police and National Guard reinforcements arrived. Law and order was reestablished. Well after 3 a.m. Thursday, Congress had shown the world that the planet’s most famous democracy still works, after all.
A day later, news reports citing anonymous sources reported White House officials feared Trump was raging out of control and untethered to reality. Some were reportedly discussing whether the 25th Amendment to the Constitution should be used by which the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet could declare the president must be removed from office — with just 13 days to go in his term. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally demanded that the 25th Amendment be invoked — because he incited insurrection and is unfit to fulfill his duties. Or else, Pelosi said, she’d move to impeach Trump — just days before his term ends.
Why? So he cannot run again!
An early Trump exit seems most unlikely. But it may well be Donald Trump’s one and only chance of finally achieving a place in history he can truthfully call his own.