The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Storming of US Capitol: Timeline of key events in Washington, United States  News & Top Stories - The Straits Times
Storming the US Capitol

Today is Friday January 8th. Kia ora katoa! Kia kaha!

Here are some nice quotations from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. I managed to find a second hand copy, in good condition.

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

On my arrival in the United States I was surprised to find so much distinguished talent amongst the subjects, and so little among the heads of the government.

I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.

Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.

Well, what an eventful few days it has been! The infamous “shake down” phone call by Trump to Brad Raffensperger, Secretary of State of Georgia; the Georgia run-off election, where two Republican senators were up against two Democratic candidates: a black man, Raphael Warnock, and a Jewish man, Jon Ossoff, and both democratic candidates won; and then the alarming storming of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters; meanwhile, in spite of all the drama, Biden was decreed to be President-elect and Kamala Harris Vice President-elect.

This has all been shocking and ironic.  Everyone, i.e. most if not all commentators and comedians, were deeply shocked by Trump’s phone call to Raffensperger, which went on for almost an hour. Evidently Trump had tried to call him 18 times. All he wanted, really, was 11,000 Republican votes.  He just needed Raffensperger to “find” them for him. Shocking and alarming as this was, it served as a prelude of what was to come.

On January 5th there were the Georgia run-off elections, for two senators.  This was predicted to be a knife-edge election, with most expecting that the Republican candidates, Kelly Loefler (“I’m further to the right than Attila the Hun”) and David Purdue, would win. However Republican infighting, including some very mixed messaging about voting being a waste of time, meant we were in for a pleasant surprise. Watching the results come in on the evening here of January 6th, the republicans had an early lead, but before the evening was over Warnock was declared winner over Loefler, with the race between Ossoff and Purdue too close to call. The next day, Ossoff was declared the winner of his race, thus ensuring that Trump and the Republican Party had lost the presidency, and the Congress and the Senate, albeit by very close margins. Still, they’ll be able to do a great deal more than if they had been hampered by McConnell remaining leader of the Senate.  The result was an upset in many ways, McConnell’s loss of his role as Senate Majority leader being an important one. Linsey Graham loses his role as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also very significant.

The next day, January 6th (Thursday January 7th our time) “will go down in infamy” as the day Trump’s mob stormed the Capitol.

But before we get on to that, Biden has named Merrick Garland as his nominee for Attorney General, and Gina Raimondo, Governor of Rhode Island, for Secretary of Commerce. One of the hacks will be pleased, Mike Murphy advocated her for Vice President!

I also listened to Chuck Rosenberg of “the Oath” speaking to Mike Bush, former Police Commissioner of New Zealand, saying very nice things about New Zealand, and noting with some surprise that the police here are not routinely armed.  Mike Bush stressed that the police are here to serve the people. What a radical notion! I also saw a video of Jacinda Ardern answering questions at a forum at Harvard university. We are so proud of her, with good reason. Here, we trust the government to select an appropriate vaccine for the coronavirus, and to run a suitable program for delivering it. I’m sure I will get a text message, letting me know when I can book a time to receive it.

One podcast I listened to had a guest heading off to reread about the events surrounding the Reichstag fire. This was prescient, as it turned out, presaging the Next Big Thing: that on January 6th (Thursday here) the US Congress and Senate, in sessions chaired by Mike Pence, were to certify Joe Biden’s win. Meanwhile Trump, refusing to accept that he had lost the election, was encouraging his supporters who had arranged a demonstration in Washington. He had returned from Mar a Lago for this. He also asked Mike Pence not to let him down, to come through for him.

I had to go out on Thursday. I heard during the morning that a mob had stormed and taken control of the Capitol building, causing an uproar. There was great confusion. I listened to speeches by McConnell and Pence, which were all right, I suppose; then I heard they had been taken to safety; then I heard that both chambers, and journalists, were in lockdown; one video said there had been confusion, but everything was fine now; another said all was panic and confusion.  World leaders (not Russia) condemned this action, including the Foreign Minister of Turkey, hardly a bastion of democracy. It seemed that there was minimal security in the capitol, for this “invasion” to have taken place; much of it was captured on film, of course.

Initial reactions showed police being far gentler on the mob than they were on Black Lives Matter protesters. Biden eventually spoke, very well, I thought. Finally Trump sent a message recorded on video, saying the violence should stop, but failing to condemn the protesters: we love you, he said, and repeated the lie that he had won the election. It’s interesting that Trump has no empathy whatsoever for those who have suffered loss and made sacrifices: he’s shown that time after time. Instead, he empathises with people like his violent supporters. A curfew was called in Washington.

In the midst of all this excitement (many Republican congressmen and senators led by Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley were planning to object to Biden’s certification, an exercise which was doomed to fail, we were told), we had to  go out.

We had lunch at the Royal Wellington Golf Club, at Heretaunga. Lunch was fairly basic: you could select from a small range of sandwiches and cakes, or have something cooked, like fish and chips or toasted sandwiches. They did have a coffee machine. The dining room is as I remembered it; what a lovely setting it is; what a nice, peaceful venue.

Then we drove to Te Marua, where I went to a birthday party and played two games of Scrabble.  We discussed Trump, US politics, and vaccines; someone there said that the 25th amendment was being considered for Trump.

When I got home, I tried to catch up with the news. As I learnt more, I became more alarmed, and more devastated. Jacinda Ardern was shocked, as were we all.

Ultimately the violence was self-defeating: Biden’s election was confirmed, although there was some resistance to that.

There are huge consequences, as we learn more and more about these events, how they came about, some of what happened, and some surprising outcomes. One of the best is that Twitter has banned Donald Trump’s twitter handle; and Facebook has banned him permanently. More about the fallout next time.

The coronavirus marches on, despite these distractions, killing hundreds of people (365,000 in the US). Ngā mihi.

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