Coup. Insurrection. Words we reserve for other countries. For places around the globe that haven’t advanced to our enlightened way of governance.
Violence breaking out because of election results? Insurgents storming the center of government, disrupting processes held sacred? Bombs found, law enforcement ignored, people calling for the death of a high-ranking official? That could only happen in some developing country in South America or Africa, or a country with a long history of unrest in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, right?
I would never have believed it could happen here. Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol, by American citizens, has to be among the lowest points in our nation’s history. It was stunning to watch play out on television, with the president who has sowed division for four years, who whipped his supporters into a frenzy with baseless election claims, watching along with the rest of America, seemingly reveling in the discord.
And when he finally released a video calling for rioters to back off, he continued to claim the election was stolen, he sneered at his opponents and he called those who broke into the Capitol, who assaulted police officers, who defecated in the halls, “special people.”
I’ve never been a true believer in political figures. Never had much faith in either side. Always bought into the notion that the president gets too much credit when things are going well, too much criticism when things aren’t.
But I’ve always believed in us. I’ve always believed in this country, the principles it was founded on, its people. I largely ignored the clamor after the election, chalking up fears that democracy itself was at stake to sensationalism.
Not here. This is America. When it comes to it, we will do what we always do. Peaceful transition. The old president making way for the new one. As Washington and Jefferson did. As Polk and Pierce, Hayes and Harrison did. More recently, as Bush and Obama did.
Even after close defeats. Even after bitter words. Our system, the model all others aspire to, always worked. At least it always did.
Some will say this shouldn’t have been a surprise given what has been building for years, ramping up recently thanks to a president fanning the flames of discord with vague assertions of a rigged election that defy common sense and gained zero traction in courts presided over by judges he appointed.
Still, I sat stunned, staring at a TV screen showing invaders bashing in windows, knocking over cops, taking over the chambers of our government. As surprised as I was by that screen, I was far more surprised by another screen.
I picked up my phone and went to Facebook expecting consensus, certain everyone would feel the outrage and sadness I felt. After all, these are “friends” — not in agreement on all issues but like-minded about our beloved country and principles, right?
A disturbing number of posts cheered on these flag-waving, horn-wearing idiots, intent on disrupting our system while chanting that Vice President Pence should be hanged, assaulting police officers, looting not some small business in a troubled American city, but the Capitol.
Lots of folks were loving it. Calling for more. Literally advocating for civil war. People who’ve professed how much they care about the Constitution, the rule of law and patriotism were amped about overthrowing the government, unconcerned about collateral damage.
Then there were those cloaked in conspiracy, convinced the rioters were not actual supporters but, instead, Antifa, flown in by the liberals to make conservatives look bad and fuel the Democrats’ causes. Even though those interviewed sure sounded sincere. And the president didn’t dispute who they were.
A few major political figures belatedly turned on the president. Sen. Lindsey Graham admitted what they all know but refuse to say, that Joe Biden won the election and will be president. Sen. Mitch McConnell cited the “failed insurrection” and said overriding the voters’ will could lead the country into a “death spiral.”
Their words might’ve mattered a few weeks ago, not now. Certainly not to the ardent followers who’ve chosen one person over country and taken to Parler to plan their next move, seeking some way to keep their leader in power.
Willing to ignore the words of the founders. Willing to trample over the bodies of those blue lives that mattered so much when the other side was doing the assaulting or threatening to defund. Willing to smear feces in hallowed halls. Willing to turn us into some banana republic.
Not in an effort to keep Lincoln or Kennedy or Reagan in the White House. All in the name of Donald J. Trump.
I’m still stunned. I guess I shouldn’t be.
Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at email@example.com.