Democracy Under Siege

Inauguration Day 2021: National Guard troops watch over Capitol | Daily  Mail Online
Preparations for Inauguration Day, January 20

It is now Thursday January 14th. Kia ora katoa.

Still shocking. We are still shocked.  I am anxious, although trying not to be. I am reading a good novel at present: “Olive, Again”, by Elizabeth Strout. I read an earlier book, Olive Kitteridge. Olive is quite quirky. I enjoy her.

In recent days there has been a lot more information about the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6th.  Jake Tapper talked about stochastic terrorism, and John Dickerson spoke about this violence being the physical manifestation of Trump’s remarks. The Democratically controlled House plans to impeach the President, again, quickly (done!).   Mitch McConnell says he cannot recall the Senate to hold a trial before Biden’s inauguration, but Neal Katyal pointed out that were a member of the Supreme Court to die, he’d have no trouble assembling them super quick. Republican representative Liz Cheney has said she will vote to impeach Trump (actually ten House Republicans voted to impeach him). He’s been impeached, a second time, “on incitement of insurrection”.

Mitch McConnell has indicated that impeachment would help “purge” the Republican Party of Donald Trump.  That is a very strong word to use.  Evidently he’s not taking Trump’s phone calls, and is furious that Trump has been a factor in his loss of his Senate majority, to say nothing of losing the presidency and a majority in Congress.

Republicans, it should be acknowledged, are divided on this, with some saying they would vote for impeachment; others seeing it as a divisive move, when Joe Biden is supposed to unite the country. The hypocrisy of this is simply astounding. So the invasion of the Capitol by an armed and violent mob wasn’t divisive? And, by the way, Biden did win the election! It wasn’t even close. Someone remarked that if a case for Trump’s winning the election had gone to the Supreme Court, then this mob may well have forced their way into the Supreme Court. Many republicans have received death threats and are jeered at, whatever side they’re on. Many have been derided for being in support of democracy.

A number of arrests have been made (70, as at today). This is all on film, so it shouldn’t be hard to identify people. Some, of course, were “ordinary people”, caught up in the movement. A Catholic priest berated his parishioners for voting for Biden, who is a practising Catholic!

There is evidence of further demonstrations; the FBI is trying to sort out real threats as opposed to “noise”. There is a lot of discussion on social media about intended displays of violence, although some of these platforms are being disabled. Security is being beefed up, not just in Washington, but at state capitols as well. The plot to kidnap and kill Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan, is now seen as a shocking forerunner of what happened on January 6th .

Some republicans, initially shocked by what happened, are now going back on their denunciations. Trump is blaming Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer for the violence. It’s evident that republicans don’t think much of Vice President, Mike Pence: I have not heard one of them decry the shouts of “Kill Mike Pence”, and the noose that was erected to hang him.  This shocking scene has been reported on by many journalists.

Despite widespread terror and threats of future terror, people still support Trump. Unbelievable. He’s quite unrepentant., after all, he emerged to say it was Nancy Pelosi’s and Chuck Schumer’s fault.

So far three Democratic representatives have been diagnosed with Covid 19.

Yesterday (Tuesday in the US)  there was finally a press conference. It was given by the Michael Sherwin, acting US Attorney, joined by a silent FBI officer, six days after January 6th’s deadly riot. Well, it was nice to hear from someone, I guess.

It has become evident that there were warnings to the FBI, that something big was going to happen; that warnings were ignored; that Trump reportedly was entranced by watching the scene unfold on television, blithe to the fact that people were getting hurt, and were in danger for several hours.  Over and over again he had piously warned against violence (“I am your president of law and order”): now he had the chance to stop it, he not only did nothing, he prevented authorising security forces and National Guard troops that would have made a difference! He showed that he has no respect for human life, the US Constitution, or elected representatives, or the outcome of elections, although he swore an oath to the US Constitution, (as did all republican lawmakers). I guess, in Trump’s case, promises are made to be broken.

To the rest of us, looking on with horror, democracy and democratic principles are very important. It’s important to have politicians speak the truth. And there are many important features we expect our government to deliver: reticulated water of high quality; good air quality; safe roads, pavements and bridges; appropriate food regulations, etc. In short, most people want to be safe. You are welcome to go “off the grid” if you wish, as long as you don’t endanger me or any of my loved ones.

It transpires that there’s been a lot of “noise”, about this insurrection, and future insurrections. It’s been a great move to disable some of these online platforms; it has slowed down the mob’s movements, to some extent, and left them searching for leadership.

Trump has given many warnings that he enjoys violence; some of these came well before his 2016 ascendancy to the presidency. One that stays most in my mind is a video of him hitting a golf ball at Secretary Hillary Clinton’s head. There have been many instances of his cruelty. How was this going to end?  Well, I think the world saw on January 6th, when a Trump-supporting mob invaded the seat of Parliament, shouting “Stop the Steal” (i.e. the election that he lost). He claimed it was rigged. Even when he won in 2016 he claimed it was rigged. Well, it probably was. Many of us believe that he had Russian help, in fact Vladimir Putin admitted as much. Mueller said it Russian interference was still going on. It would be naïve to think that this is over.

It transpires that there were some amazing acts of bravery; that some mobsters consider their move successful; that in addition to pipe bombs, a noose, broken windows, and zip ties for arrests, there were faeces and urine left behind; if it had gone further, one wonders just what may have happened.  Politicians and journalists are describing scenes of terror, that went on for hours. One policeman has died, after being hit on the head with a fire extinguisher; another committed suicide, and another is likely to lose an eye. Surely there have to be consequences for this.

Meanwhile, security is big in Washington D.C. We just hope Biden’s inauguration goes smoothly. It seems a shame for Biden not to get a “proper” inauguration, but at least it will be memorable, against the backdrop of the two biggest wars of our time – against Trump, and his supporters, and against the coronavirus.

The coronavirus continues to shatter records with the daily numbers of people infected, and deaths. Countries that had previously done quite well, such as Ireland, are now in dire straits. The death rate in the US is over 4,000 a day (4,300 on Tuesday); in the UK, deaths pass 100,00 after 1,564 reported in one day.

In New Zealand, I am concerned. We have been fortunate; I just wonder how long that will last.  The government now requires everyone coming to New Zealand to have a negative Covid 19 test before they come; that should screen out some cases. The valiant MIQ workers aren’t scheduled to receive a vaccine until the end of March.  I feel sorry for them. They are doing valiant work, and should be recognised as such.

Ngā mihi.

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