Our Radicalized Republic

“This is not the first time that a group of Americans decided that winning an election was more important than maintaining a democracy. In fact, it’s because of those other examples that we know which sociopolitical trends to beware of.

On Nov. 10, 1898, following a municipal election that had installed an integrated city council, white elites from the city of Wilmington, North Carolina mobilized a mob that burned down the town’s Black newspaper, killed hundreds of Black residents and forced the newly elected council members to resign at gunpoint. It was a riot, organized and planned in advance, and aided by people in charge of the government so they could stay in power — pesky electoral outcomes be damned.”

Behind the Strategic Failure of the Capitol Police

“It wasn’t just the building that had them horrified. In the past two decades, the Capitol Police has grown into one of the largest, best-funded and most single-focus police departments in the country, with a budget of more than $460 million and around 2,000 sworn officers to guard just 2 square miles of the capital. (By comparison, that’s half the size of the entire police force for Washington, D.C.)”

“Appalled experts, watching the crisis unfold, asked themselves: Where was the protective intelligence? Where was the quick reaction force? Where were the long guns? Where were the helmets and batons? Where were the tall, secure fences that normally ring the Capitol during high-profile protests? And perhaps most important: Where was the strategy? Word on Thursday evening that the Capitol Police evidently twice turned down offers of reinforcements only deepened the sense of disbelief.”

“Minute by minute, individual officers sometimes acted bravely, but hour by hour, Wednesday’s events demonstrated a top-to-bottom failure by a key federal law-enforcement agency. The crisis can’t even be called a failure of imagination, as 9/11 is sometimes seen, because in many ways the idea that the pro-Trump mob might march on the Capitol to disrupt the proceedings inside seemed all but obvious. Nor was this an incident that just slipped under the radar. The joint session inside was the single biggest news event in the United States that day, and the rioters had been planning disruptive protest for weeks, in the open.”

“The Capitol Police, which until the 1990s had perennially struggled for resources—more a team of security guards than an elite force—has undergone a sea change since four Capitol-altering events: The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a 1998 attempt by a gunman to storm the House whip’s office, the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent spate of anthrax-laced letters targeting Capitol Hill leaders. Until those events, most members of Congress saw little value in its police force beyond, as one police leader told me, “Where’s my parking space, and can I get a better one?”
The Capitol Police, as much as any federal law enforcement agency, has been the huge beneficiary of the boom in government security spending, nearly tripling in size in the past quarter century—in no small part because it’s the agency in charge of protecting those who appropriate the money in the first place. It has also consolidated its control of Capitol Hill, merging in 2009 with the previously separate Library of Congress police.

Today, the Capitol Police boasts advanced resources equal to the largest and best police departments in the country, including a bomb squad, intelligence unit, hazmat units and specialized dignitary protection agents, as well as crowd control and riot gear and access to an arsenal of weapons that would impress many small armies. Its officers are well-wired with other local and regional police departments and participate in FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Plus it has the entire federal government and numerous local and regional D.C. police departments to call upon for help when needed.

And, at its core, its whole job is to protect about 270 acres, a land mass less than a third the size of New York’s Central Park—including, and especially, the 58-acre Capitol and grounds itself. That unusual balance—immense resources and an extremely specific zone to protect—makes its colossal failure Wednesday so much more stunning to law enforcement experts.”

“The Capitol Police should, in theory, have had the crowd-control skills to meet the moment. It’s an agency uniquely experienced in handling First Amendment protests and protesters—on issues as varied as abortion rights, health care or anti-war activists. After run-of-the-mill traffic offenses, protest-related arrests account for the majority of the department’s total arrests; it probably arrests and confronts more protesters than any other police department in the country. Nor are the Capitol Police a stranger to securing high-profile events, from presidential State of the Union addresses to the inauguration set for later this month on the very scaffolding and stands that the Trump mob rampaged over Wednesday.”

“The failure to plan meant that the die was cast as soon as the Trump mob began walking to the Capitol. In the military, the saying goes “prior planning prevents piss-poor performance,” and the Capitol Police lost the battle for Congress on Wednesday hundreds of yards away from its famous steps—as soon as the mob pushed over and past the first low metal fence far down on the west grounds of the approach to the building.
But from there, the department continued to fail, collapsing in a way familiar to any 19th-century general watching an army in retreat. At every turn, officers seemed at a loss to respond, indicating both training lapses and catastrophic leadership failures. There were failures at the start: A video, with unclear context, circulated on social media of Capitol Police even opening and removing barricades to allow the rioters close to the Capitol. There were failures as it unfolded: Other videos showed officers posing for selfies with rioters inside occupied Capitol office buildings. And there were failures as the crisis wound down: An officer even held a woman’s hand as she was escorted out of the building and down the steps. By late afternoon, police had made fewer arrests (13) in the storming of the U.S. Capitol than are typically made at the New York Giants stadium during a home game (21).

It took more than five hours for control to be reestablished, and only after thousands more law enforcement and military resources were rushed to the Capitol from across the city and neighboring states—resources desperately requested from the Pentagon and the FBI, among others, that Capitol Police leaders had turned down in the days and hours ahead of the mob’s arrival.”

The catastrophic police failure at the US Capitol, explained

“Far from a surprise, the insurrection on Wednesday had been in the works for a long time, with support from the president himself. On December 19, he tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” His supporters took the name Wild Protest, as ProPublica reports, and began publicly planning an occupation. “We came up with the idea to occupy just outside the CAPITOL on Jan 6th,” movement leaders wrote on December 23.

Meanwhile, DC officials had begun tracking incoming bus reservations in the days leading up to Wednesday and realized “this could be a stadium-sized crowd,” one official told the Washington Post. On Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser began warning DC residents to stay away from downtown, the Post reported.

But despite clear warning signs from Trump and his supporters — and the fact that city officials were on high alert — Capitol Police did not prepare for the size or violence of the crowd. Relaying conversations he’d had with police officials, Rep. Ryan told reporters the threat assessment done by law enforcement seriously underestimated the potential threat.”

“Police set up only low barriers around the perimeter of the building and were wearing ordinary uniforms instead of riot gear, the Post noted. As many pointed out, this was in stark contrast to the law enforcement response to Black Lives Matter protests this summer, when members of the National Guard formed an intimidating phalanx outside the Lincoln Memorial, clad in military-style gear.

“Being candid, I think if there were Black people out there, I think there would’ve been a different response in what they did,” Ryan told reporters Thursday.”

“police were unable to prevent rioters from entering the building — or, in some cases, did not even try. One officer appeared to take a selfie with a Trump supporter as the mob roamed the building.”

“even after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, making abundantly clear the seriousness of the moment, police appeared to let many of them simply leave of their own accord rather than making arrests. That’s in part because there simply weren’t enough personnel on hand to both ensure the safety of members of Congress and make arrests, officials told the Post. Around 52 people had been arrested as of Thursday morning, out of a crowd of thousands that gathered around the Capitol. (The exact number of rioters who entered the Capitol is unclear.)

By contrast, more than 150 people were arrested by Capitol Police after demonstrations against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October 2018. And last summer, more than 400 people were arrested over the course of a few days in connection with protests against police violence.

In all, officials described an unprecedented failure to plan for and respond to what should have been an entirely predictable event: angry Trump supporters, stoked by the president’s tweets and his speech on Wednesday urging them to “walk down to the Capitol,” descending on the seat of Congress to incite mayhem.”

“It’s not clear why Capitol Police were so unprepared for Wednesday’s obvious threat. The department has not responded to requests for comment from Vox or the Washington Post. In his statement on Thursday, Sund said that the department “had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities. But make no mistake — these mass riots were not First Amendment activities.””

“some speculate that despite repeated public warnings, law enforcement just couldn’t believe Trump supporters would really storm the Capitol. “Would you imagine people were going to break into the Capitol and go into the chambers?” David Carter, director of the Intelligence Program at Michigan State University, remarked to ProPublica. “That failure of imagination sometimes makes us drop the ball.”

Others say that law enforcement might have been trying to use a lighter touch after criticisms of the way the summer’s protests were handled. “I’m pretty sure the Capitol Police were trying to do something a little softer, as we try to welcome protesters up there, but it got out of hand,” Terrance Gainer, former chief of the Capitol Police, said on CNN Thursday.

And while there were a few National Guard troops posted around the city, DC officials had reportedly asked them to maintain a limited presence, not wanting a repeat of the events of the summer, like the gassing of protesters in Lafayette Square, according to the Post.”

“some suggest that perhaps Capitol Police also had little interest in stopping the rioters, some of whom carried pro-police “thin blue line” flags. “The police might have been complicit because many sympathize with President Trump’s cause, or because many of the insurrectionists are the same people that support the ‘blue lives matter’ counter-movement,” Sabrina Karim, a professor of government at Cornell who studies security, said in a statement to media on Wednesday’s events. “They have been supportive of the police, and thus arresting ‘allies’ may not be in the larger interests of the police.”

And while police might have been trying a “softer” approach, it’s impossible to ignore the differences in law enforcement response with protests earlier this year.

On Wednesday, a group of mostly white Trump supporters were allowed to take selfies and roam freely in the Capitol because they falsely believed the election was rigged. This summer, a diverse group of protesters were subject to military-style control when they gathered to demonstrate against police brutality. Especially glaring is the contrast between the intentions of the two groups.

“There was zero intelligence that the Black Lives Matter protesters were going to ‘storm the capitol,’” Washington Attorney General Karl Racine said on CNN Wednesday. “Juxtapose that with what we saw today, with hate groups, militia and other groups that have no respect for the rule of law go into the capitol. … That dichotomy is shocking.”

And as lawmakers investigate what went wrong on Wednesday — and why — the events of the day raise serious questions about the security of the Capitol not just now but in the future, and about what happens the next time Trump decides to whip supporters into a frenzy. With President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration coming up on January 20, those concerns couldn’t be more urgent.”

How a “March for Trump” rally led to clashes at the Capitol

“Speakers, including the president himself and his adult sons, called on Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to “stop the steal” — the certification of Biden’s Electoral College win.

“We will never give up! We will never concede!” Trump said during his Wednesday speech, before demanding Pence (unlawfully) reject the Electoral College results. “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify — and we become president.”

The president calling for an authoritarian putsch in front of throngs of fervid supporters, including QAnon conspiracy theorists and members of the Proud Boys militia, seems bad enough. But as the day went on, it got even worse. In the afternoon, attendees stormed the Capitol, clashing with the police protecting it and eventually breaking into the building.

Before the event, websites and social media platforms popular with MAGA types lit up with posters’ threats to start killing people after the rally if Congress refuses to make Trump president. On Monday, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested while carrying a high-capacity magazine for his guns. The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, reporting on the ground on Wednesday, said that every single attendee he spoke with raised the prospect of violence if they don’t get what they want.

“They better start worrying about the 80 million people who voted for Trump and are armed,” rally participant Carmelo Prochilo told Sommer. “This will be a second American revolution.”

This is not, in short, an ordinary political rally. It’s not even an ordinary Trump rally.

The breach of the Capitol is an expression of what Trumpism has become, and maybe what it always was: an anti-democratic cancer on the American body politic that threatens to plunge an already-rickety democracy into even deeper chaos.”

“Wednesday’s March for Trump was the third such pro-Trump rally organized in DC to protest the election result. It was originally planned in late December by a group called Women for America First, chaired by former Tea Party activist Amy Kremer.

But in the month since Kremer’s outfit filed its permit, Trump’s campaign to undermine the 2020 election escalated. His near-total focus in the past month has been delegitimizing the results, working overtime to convince Republicans that Democrats somehow stole the election from him — a campaign that polls suggest has been largely successful.

As options for staving off a Biden inauguration dwindled, Trump has focused on January 6 as the decisive day. He successfully convinced a majority of House Republicans, and some 2024 presidential hopefuls in the Senate, like Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX), to support a challenge to the legitimacy of the election. He has privately and publicly pressured Pence to unilaterally invalidate the results, something Pence is not legally capable of doing.

The effort is flagrantly undemocratic, a kind of legal coup, but it doesn’t bother Trump’s hardcore supporters one bit. Because they have swallowed Trump’s line that this election is stolen, they are convinced that overturning an election is actually saving the Constitution — hence the slogan “stop the steal.” This long-scheduled rally has thus evolved into an event aimed at convincing Pence and Republicans in Congress to go along with Trump’s anti-democratic and illegal demands.”

“The “stop the steal” slogan that dominates the protests itself implies that such a thing is possible, that their efforts may actually reverse the election. These are people who watch the fervently pro-Trump news networks One America News (OAN) and Newsmax; many are believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump is secretly working to defeat a cabal of pedophiles who run the Democratic Party and the world.

These hardcore MAGA supporters exist in a kind of symbiotic relationship with Trump and his sycophantic media — the beating heart of the movement we call Trumpism.

“We’ve seen OAN and Newsmax basically regurgitate baseless conspiracy theories from QAnon world,” Travis View, the host of a leading podcast on QAnon, told the New York Times’s Farhad Manjoo. Such theories “get into Trump’s brain, and then he regurgitates them back, and of course because he’s regurgitating the conspiracy theories he heard on the internet, all the internet conspiracy theorists believe that their conspiracy theory is validated, because Trump repeated it.”

This rally, then, has long since transcended its origins. It has become a vehicle for a pure personality cult, expressing the belief that Donald Trump cannot fail — he can only be failed. In such a worldview, whatever lengths Trump goes to in order to seize power is justified, because Trump tells his supporters that Democrats have so thoroughly corrupted the system that nothing can be trusted, and they believe what Trump tells them.

Such unquestioning loyalty, when wielded by a man with demonstrable authoritarian instincts, is toxic to democracy. And on Wednesday, we saw just how bad this can get.”

“At one of the prior DC MAGA rallies in December, four people were stabbed outside a bar popular with the Proud Boys — a pro-Trump street brawling group that the president specifically told to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate. The Proud Boys are a very strange group; in an explainer for Vox, Jane Coaston describes them as an “amalgamation of a men’s rights organization, a fight club, and what some may see as a hate group.”

The most characteristic Proud Boys activity is street brawling, particularly with antifa counterprotesters. To climb the ranks in the organization, a member is required to get in at least one physical fight with its ideological opponents.

The heavy Proud Boys presence in DC right now underscores the threat that lurks behind the protests: If you don’t give us what we want, we’ll try to take it by force.

Almost from the get-go, the events were marked by violence: On Tuesday night, pro-Trump demonstrators engaged in violent clashes with DC police.”

“Again, some kind of violence was predictable before the event. The posts on pro-Trump social media prior to the rally were chilling: One Reddit user told others on the r/The_Donald subreddit to “travel in packs and do not let them disarm someone without stacking bodies.”

Trump himself has hardly calmed the situation. His heated rhetoric, particularly on Twitter, can easily be read as a call to arms by rallygoers”

“But nobody anticipated just how bad things would get during the day on Wednesday. Shortly after the president himself spoke at a rally, demanding action, its attendees staged an attack on America’s legislature — literally disrupting the proceedings of Congress that would confirm Biden’s presidency.

That gives reason to think the Trump movement is not merely anti-democratic, but increasingly willing to use extrajudicial force to accomplish its authoritarian political ends.

And that is an alarming prospect.”

Every person who forced their way into the Capitol should be arrested

“If America wants to prevent another event like Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol in Washington, DC, officials should make all efforts possible to arrest and prosecute every single person involved in the violent protests — events that some branded as an attempted coup by President Donald Trump and his supporters.

This is not simply a matter of vengeance. It’s a real-world example of a common concept in criminological theory focusing on the best way to use punishment to deter future crimes.

In criminology, there are three levers for fighting crime, as the late Mark Kleiman previously explained: swiftness (how quickly someone is punished), certainty (the likelihood someone is punished), and severity (how harsh a person’s punishment is) — established way back in the 1700s by an Italian criminologist called Cesare Beccaria.

Much of the attention in US debates about criminal justice policy goes to severity of punishment — essentially, debates over how harsh or long a prison sentence should be. This has been the lever that public policy has largely relied on over the past few decades, contributing to the buildup of mass incarceration.

But severity is, based on the available evidence, actually the weakest of these levers. So simply making punishments very harsh doesn’t seem effective for deterring crime. What criminologists have found is that the certainty of punishment is far more important.”

“If Wednesday’s rioters get away with violently shutting down the workings of the federal government, it will send a message to them — as well as to other people interested in carrying out political violence — that this behavior is, if not okay, at least something they can get away with. That would invite copycats.

The good news is, much of the day’s events were recorded and photographed, with some demonstrators gleefully streaming their actions and posing for photos as they trespassed and looted the Capitol and congressional offices. If they’re serious about punishing these wrongdoers, police could use this evidence, as well as typical investigative tactics, to track down the hundreds of people involved (beyond the 13 already reportedly arrested by the police).

But that’s the rub: Officials have to be serious about punishing these wrongdoers. Otherwise, they’ll send a signal that what transpired on Wednesday was actually fine, making it more likely to happen again.”

147 Republican lawmakers still objected to the election results after the Capitol attack

“Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), Steve Daines (R-MT), and James Lankford (R-OK) are among the Republicans no longer objecting to the results of the presidential election following a day of violence and destruction by President Donald Trump’s supporters at the Capitol — but not everyone has changed their minds.

In a vote Wednesday evening, six Republican senators and 121 House Republicans still backed objections to certifying the electoral outcome in Arizona, a surprising result in the wake of the violence that occurred earlier in the day.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Roger Marshall (R-KS), maintained their objections — even though they’re unfounded, won’t be going anywhere, and further amplify lies about a rigged election. (The objection did not obtain a majority of votes in either chamber, and failed.)

“This is the appropriate place for these concerns to be raised,” Hawley said in a floor speech, highlighting questions he still had about Pennsylvania election laws.

Their decisions to uphold these objections suggests that some are still shockingly comfortable undermining the democratic process even after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol to contest the validity of the election results.

It’s an attack that Republican lawmakers’ actions helped stoke, given their willingness to support Trump’s repeated, unproven claims about a fraudulent election.”

A majority of House Republicans voted to reject results from Arizona and Pennsylvania

“The majority of House Republicans still chose to reject electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, hours after a pro-Trump mob fueled by conspiracy theories stormed the Capitol Wednesday, leaving one woman dead and a nation rattled.

These votes had no material effect on the transition of power. After the Capitol had been cleared, Congress met in a joint session to fulfill its legal obligation to count the Electoral College’s votes, but given that Democrats hold a majority in the House and most Senate Republicans were unwilling to object, there was no path forward, and the votes failed. A majority of both chambers have to reject a state’s votes for an objection to stick.

However, after a day of violent insurrection, it has become too clear just how dangerous it can be to feed into anti-democratic delusions.”

Trump supporters storm the US Capitol

“Thousands of Trump supporters gathered in Washington, DC, for what Trump dubbed a “Save America Rally,” a two-day protest meant to demonstrate support for the disproven conspiracy theory that widespread fraud marred the 2020 presidential election — and that Trump, rather than Biden, is the rightful winner of that contest.

Trump himself addressed a crowd of several thousand rally attendees near the White House on Wednesday, and encouraged them to take their protest to the Capitol following his remarks.

However, several hundred supporters did not wait that long, and began to march to the Capitol area before the conclusion of the president’s speech.

The Washington Post’s Rebecca Tan reported that the Trump supporters were met with barricades, which they destroyed. They proceeded to fight with police, according to HuffPost’s Philip Lewis, who shared video of police working to reestablish control as Trump supporters shouted at them, with several appearing to tell various officers they were “fucking traitor[s].”

Prior to the congressional evacuation, several nearby federal buildings, including the Library of Congress, were reportedly evacuated.

Eventually, the police couldn’t contain the protesters, who broke into the Capitol itself — and things got scarier.”

YOU caused the Capitol Building to fall.

“the sitting president rallied supporters in an effort to change the legitimate outcome of an election, claiming the election was fraudulent and that the “rightful” winner, himself, was being robbed. This means he asserted that U.S. democracy was being overturned.

In the traditions of this country…if democracy is under threat by foreign or domestic forces, violence is justified. Thus, the sitting president justified violence against Congress, then told his strongly believing supporters to go to Congress, directly inciting their violent, illegal, and undemocratic actions.

I don’t know if the president intended this, or if he’s just guilty of negligence. Either way, a sitting president falsely claiming that he won an election and causing a mob of people to overrun Congress while they are confirming that that president lost the election, is an attack on the prestige and stability of the nation, as well as democracy.”