2021 is already shaping up to be a strange year.
Yesterday a mob, incited by the outgoing President, assaulted the US Capitol to disrupt the transfer of power to a duly elected Democratic president. The events leading up to the assault were a faint background noise in my mind, but early news sources are saying that the seditious plan wasn’t exactly a secret, leading everyone to scratch their head over the apparent poor preparedness of law enforcement.
At no point in the insurrection did I think I was watching our democracy fall. We have an imperfect democracy, being one that does not work hard enough to overcome (or in some cases even creates) obstacles to voting for Native and African Americans as well as poor people of all races and the disabled. But I was reminded that we do, at least today, have a strong enough democracy to easily deflate a violent coup. For that I am grateful.
What I mostly felt yesterday was embarrassment. The American people should never have elected as their president the kind of man who refused to leave office after a clear defeat, to the point of directing his minions and supporters to subvert the democratic process. I found myself partially agreeing with the statements of the Iranian foreign minister on the subject, and wholeheartedly agreeing with the comments of Congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of the evil Dick. I even thought Mitt Romney gave an exemplary speech on the insurrection. Wasn’t expecting that.
Adding to my embarrassment yesterday was the fact that I live in Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s district. Yes, that one. The Republican who actually objected to counting election results after the attempted coup. While most Republican members of Congress abandoned their shameful plan to challenge the will of the American people to Donald Trump’s advantage, Stefanik formally challenged the results when Congress reconvened late yesterday. She did denounce the violence of the attacks, but her continued objection to accepting the results of a lawful election, in the face of all that had happened, was a clear affirmation of Trump’s violent conspiracy campaign.
Stefanik is not a steadfast soldier to the nutwing cause. She occasionally breaks ranks and votes with Democrats, reflecting the mixed political leanings of her district, which is increasingly leaning Democratic. This is the district that sent Kirsten Gillibrand to Congress. Stefanik needs a lot of support from outside this district to maintain her seat, and Trump threatened to wreak his revenge on Republicans who did not raise a formal objection in Congress to Joe Biden’s victory. Following the violent insurrection, most Republicans decided to abandon their symbolic objections designed to curry favor with an outgoing president, who will still have political influence when he leaves office. They said the President went too far. Stefanik, feeling weak, followed through with her objections. She certainly demonstrated the failings of her moral character, but I think she made a political miscalculation as well. Time will tell.
What Wednesday’s insurrection demonstrates most clearly is that people in a democracy don’t resort to violence when they are strong. Violence is the path of weakness. Trump is weak. He may even be removed from office with less than two weeks left in his presidency. It’s seriously being discussed. Stefanik is weak. The rebels who stormed the Capitol, even the bare-chested Heathen with the ripped bod, are weak. Our democracy, though certainly troubled, is strong.