I had hoped “unprecedented” would go down as a 2020 term but it’s already shaping up to apply to events happening in 2021, too. When a place like Turkey takes the unprecedented step of issuing a travel advisory for a banana republic like the U.S., you know we’re living in unprecedented times. Maybe unprecedented is the new normal.
I spent the better part of the last three weeks answering a question I had been both compelled and reluctant to ask: what makes a huge crowd of formerly middle-of-the-road average-Joe conservatives join what turned out to be a great lurch rightward to join long-entrenched conspiracy enthusiasts behind what I’ve come to think of as The Great Right Wall? There had to be a reason — not some 4chan Qanon secret-agent Hilary-did-it claptrap but an actual motive intelligent, regular people could embrace. Tens of thousands of smart, engaged, not-given-to-nonsense conservatives had to feel their migration was justified.
This mighty rightward movement included a number of collective vows including a rejection of media as arbiters of truth. As has been my ongoing complaint, the right no longer has any fact-checking groups or organizations meeting their standards of accreditation. Further, this migration west effectively put the Qanon fan club and conspiracy preachers together with the reasonable midfolk. Predictably, the result was a cacophony of half-truths, exaggerations and outright falsehoods with a few tidbits of solid intel mixed in.
But as it turns out, they did have a reason. It wasn’t the cartoonish overarching conspiracy to steal an election that’s been described in the media. No, maybe it’s better described as half a dozen overlapping conspiracies but even that is oversimplified. When I presented my intentionally overstated “you’re asking me to believe in a level of corruption never before imagined in human history,” I was answered repeatedly with a resounding “yes!” That shocked me.
But they did and do have some compelling evidence that significant irregularities took place in the 2020 general election. Irregularities enough to tip the race? That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Much of it is buried in hours of legal testimony spread across many jurisdictions but it’s there. Matters of scale aside, the concerns presented should warrant audits of the election in at least several states. Anyone who loves the freedom of democracy should be concerned about election irregularities other than typical little bumps and hiccups — this shouldn’t be a partisan concern. But we have to accept courts’ or adjudicators’ decisions when rendered. If every institution including the judiciary is hopelessly corrupt, what’s the point of even pretending?
While part of me acknowledges legitimate, probably-provable concerns with the 2020 election, another part of me can’t forget the number of times I’ve been given demonstrably false information by Trump supporters — over and over again, I’ve heard it from people I thought knew better. It has been eye-opening and intensely disappointing to me.
Then today came the pièce de résistance of the Trump presidency. Thousands of rioters battered their way into the U.S. Capitol in scenes reminiscent of downtown Portland just a few weeks ago. I even heard one BBC interview with a Trumpist rioter who tried to explain why his violence was acceptable but BLM’s was not — it’s amazing what you can justify when you believe with all your heart that you’re right and everyone else is wrong.
I ordinarily look with amused disdain on the relentless hotheads who constantly try to force recall elections whenever officials do something with which they disagree — recalls should be rare, saved for egregious conduct alone. For a position as high as the office of president, we have the 25th Amendment for that sort of thing and I’m not smiling now. It’s time to use it.
If we don’t do something, my use of “pièce de résistance” will likely be premature. There are two weeks until Joe Biden’s inauguration — a lot of unprecedented events can happen in two weeks’ time.
God help us.
“…terribly distressing…” —Scott Morrison, Prime Minister
“…unacceptable assault on democracy…” —Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor
“…deeply disturbed and saddened…” —Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister
“…a grave attack against democracy…” —Jean-Yves Le Drian, Foreign Minister
“…the enemies of democracy will rejoice…” —Heiko Maas, Foreign Minister
“…disgraceful…” —Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
“…distressed… about rioting and violence…” —Narendra Modi, Prime Minister
“…great concern and dismay…” —Micheál Martin, Taoiseach (Prime Minister)
“…hurt the hearts of everyone who believes in democracy…” —Benny Gantz, Defense Minister
“…a real scar to democracy…” —Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister
“We take seriously and with concern the invasion into the U.S. Congress…” —Katsunobu Kato, Chief Cabinet Secretary
“…horrible…” —Mark Rutte, Prime Minister
“…democracy… should never be undone by a mob.” —Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister
“…utterly horrifying…” —Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister
“…following with concern…” —Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister
“…deeply worrying,… an assault on democracy…” —Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister
“This is not America.” — Josep Borrell, High Representative
“…shocking…” —Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General
Photograph courtesy of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)