Donald Trump is, in fact, the first president since Herbert Hoover to lead his party to losing the presidency, the House, and the Senate all in a single term.
– Kevin D. Williamson, The National Review
It wlll go down in history as a remarkable two-week period. It began on Wednesday, January 6th with an insurrectionary attack on the Capitol that provoked the House of Representatives on the following Wednesday to rush through impeachment articles against Donald Trump for the second time, culminating on Wednesday January 20th with the inauguration of Joe Biden. To many of us locked in our homes in front of our TV sets, it played out like a live 21st century remake of Seven Days In May.
[ “We’re comin’ for ya, Nancy!” ]
We watched as Washington DC was transformed into a fenced-in armed camp with thousands of national guard troops marching around and sleeping on the marble floor of the Capitol building. All the testosterone and adrenaline bluster that had arisen on January 6th ended up as nothing in the face of the militarized reaction. Likewise, none of the threats to state capitols across the nation materialized.
Once alerted on January 6th, police forces were assembled and inserted into the Capitol and, from the inside, the insurrectionists were easily pushed out of the building. There were no suicide-by-cop hold-outs. His Twitter account pulled, Trump saw the light and quickly abandoned the insurrectionary rabble he’d sent off to the Capitol, those he’d assured he would accompany. In the eyes of The Proud Boys, Trump went from “emperor” to being “extraordinarily weak.” He had refused online calls “to cross the Rubicon” and to declare martial law. Donald Trump had become a punk in the eyes of his own would-be palace guard. And Nancy Pelosi got her revenge.
The question that now hovers over it all is where all that in-your-face insurrectionary energy witnessed on the 6th will be channeled? And who will assume fascistic leadership of it?
Confronted with reality, will the January 6th insurrectionary movement turn to classic terrorist tactics like bombings and assassinations? Could there be positive outcomes from January 6th? For one, the left could never have done such a magnificent job of demonizing these homegrown, AR15-worshipping far-right lunatics. We have Donald Trump to thank for that. Being a crippled narcissist, he was unable to think strategically enough to realize his plan was as fatally flawed as a six-year-old’s notion that covering his eyes means, “You can’t see me!” Once the element of surprise was overcome (about three hours into the thing) it was all over.
At that point, the next step was inevitable: Overwhelm the capital city with cattle-chute fencing and enough troops to turn the city into a controlled, big-budget Hollywood film set for a pandemic-era, digital inauguration that was arguably the best propaganda show possible for the glories of democracy and the incoming Biden administration. Of course, the high-production-values, live variety show had to be MC-ed by Tom Hanks in front of a fabulously lit Lincoln Memorial and had to include video homages to a diverse collection of working Americans. If the history of the past 40 years had not taught me to be skeptical and cynical, I’d give the show a five-star, two-thumbs-up review.
I couldn’t avoid thinking how much government and life had changed after the events of September 11th, 2001, and how the events of January 6th were so serious they might have similar effects on our lives in the future. The focus of protecting the United States of America was now focused on a domestic threat; a civil war of sorts was breaking out between those who favored the liberalism of the US Constitution and those who favored the violence of Manifest Destiny and a return to the subjugation of African Americans and others unqualified to be patriots.
I had to wonder how much of the hyper security that overtook Washington DC would become a permanent legacy in our lives. And how much would the combined force of the pandemic and the new domestic security concerns drive us more permanently into the cyberwar-zone of the internet? The prolific leftist philosopher Slavoj Zizek has two new books out, one on the effects of the pandemic and one on the effects of the rise of technology and what it means for humanity itself. The Singularity is coming, and at what point do humans and their collective consciousnesses become digital cyborgs as humanity itself is irrevocably changed?
The TV Show titled The Inauguration ended with a very warm scene in the White House with Joe and Jill Biden surrounded by their children and grandchildren. The first couple was shown standing together watching a huge TV screen of the fireworks as a band played and Dr. Jill couldn’t restrain herself from dancing in place. Thanks to the pandemic and security panic, the first couple hadn’t been forced to drive around the city attending and to be seen actually dancing at 15 different inaugural parties. Old Sleepy Joe and his minder Dr. Jill could stay home like ordinary grandparents, like real people.
That last remark may be deemed sarcastic or snarky, but I’d suggest there’s a lot of truth in it. At 78, Joe Biden is the oldest US president faced with arguably one of the greatest challenges for an incoming president. I’m five years younger than President Biden and very aware of the aches and pains I’ve accumulated, the fatal crises I’ve avoided by operations on my vital organs and how much closer I am to the grave every day. Time becomes very important. You want to cut out as much bullshit as you can and you have no choice but to be less tolerant of fools. And in the case of a man like Joe Biden, a politician with lots of problematic baggage, you want to leave a legacy that matters.
As a veteran antiwar activist and writer, I see one of my tasks in the years to come as keeping Joe Biden focused on moving the nation’s political pendulum to the left, given that since the rightward ascendancy begun in the mid-1970s that pendulum has moved frighteningly way too far to the right. Donald Trump and the real fascist movement revealed on January 6th should make this very clear. Centrist, cross-the-aisle Joe must know this better than anyone. He has a track record of compromising with the right, but the compromise he needs to make now is with the left of his own party. And if he’s uncertain about that, it needs to be made clear to him. A good sign: On his first day in office we learned that he had a large painting of FDR placed prominently on the wall of his Oval Office.
In the 2020 book titled The New Class War, Michael Lind de-emphasizes the left-right political split and concentrates on a ruling class of professional and corporate actors entrenched in power through wealth, education and inheritance. Meanwhile, the new working class is defined by having less education, wealth and power and doomed to struggling with the exigencies of life in an ever-more-confusing, digital world. All of it playing out in a nation deluded by the cult of individualism and a dangerous myth of exceptionalism.
In this new class configuration, the left/right lines of politics are becoming blurred. The educated, wealthy liberal/conservative ruling class benefits from a divided working class fighting over race, immigration, and an assortment of culture war and identity issues. Lind’s thinking goes a long way toward explaining the strange popularity of a wealthy, elitist, pathologically dishonest narcissist like Donald Trump as a fervid anti-elitist with feet of clay in the working class.
Politicians ignore this new arrangement at their peril; addressing it may be the only way to avoid real 21st century civil war. For instance, some of the Trump fan-base’s grievances are legitimate; and the liberal/conservative ruling elite needs to give something up and share power with the working class.
January 6th was not the first insurrectionary act faced by a Democratic president assuming power at the displeasure of plutocrats and right-wingers. In November 1932, with a major depression looming, FDR beat Republican Herbert Hoover, who in his one term, like Trump, oversaw losing the White House and both houses of Congress to his Democratic rivals.
In July of that year, Hoover had overseen the violent routing of a Washington DC protest encampment made up of WWI veterans who had been promised, but not given, a bonus for their service. Generals George Patton and Douglas MacArthur led the violent operation against US veterans and their families.
Once FDR was in office, Wall Street plutocrats cooked up an insurrectionary plan to disempower FDR, a “traitor to his class.” The scheme was to establish a “man on a white horse” as a fascist leader of the 500,000 strong American Legion, which at the time was larger than the US military and was made up of many disgruntled WWI veterans. Legion veterans were to function as black- and brown-shirts did in Europe. Press coverage of FDR as a weakling and a cripple was to be planted in the media, at the same time an effort would be made to insinuate their chosen strongman into the FDR administration in a special cabinet position, eventually pushing FDR out of decision-making.
Like January 6th, the 1933 plot failed. But it revealed something important. First off, the Wall Street plotters picked the wrong man to be their fascist leader. Retired Marine Major General Smedley Butler was beloved by his soldiers, something seen as a positive by the plotters; but Butler, raised a Quaker, liked FDR and soon smelled a rat. He went along and gathered evidence of the plot that he turned over to the House Un-American Activities Committee, which revealed the plan in hearings. Armed with serious treason charges, FDR had the Wall Street plotters by the gonads — and they knew it. History suggests FDR was relentless and never let go. That spirit should now be guiding the new regime in Washington. Get the current insurrectionists by the gonads and don’t let go.
Today, the man to keep an eye on as the perfect fascist on a white horse is retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was first fired by President Obama from leadership of the Army’s intelligence operations; then, Donald Trump was reluctantly forced to fire him as National Security Adviser for unsavory deals with Turkey and lying. Flynn has no where to go in the legitimate military and security world, and he showed his colors when he went to the Oval Office and lobbied President Trump to declare martial law and oversee a new election.
[ Top, a good general: Smedley Butler on his testimony to the HUAC hearing in the 1933 Wall Street coup. Below, a bad general: Michael Flynn on TV selling his plan for President Trump to declare martial law. ]