Perhaps you, like me, were interested in seeing the president’s Wednesday rally in DC. Though I had warned about the potential for violence previously in this column, like any sane person I hoped it didn’t happen.
I missed the opening acts, but was told they were highly volatile. Well okay, I thought, that was Team Trump’s shtick, bellicose aggression and smarmy purring. Politically normal and sometimes entertaining. The president then appeared on the podium and went through the usual lines on the election, yawn. Then he came to the money shots. He less than subtly threatened Vice President Mike Pence with political retribution if Trump’s instructions weren’t followed on congressional certification. Pence had been loyal and was a straight shooter. That was a low thing to do to him. But it was part of Trump’s tough guy routine, so it was expected.
Then he did something that surprised me. He took a drooling mob, one that he had in the palm of his hand, and he told them to walk down to Capitol Hill and confront Congress. He knew they were livid because of his election. He knew they were angry with the world over Trump losing Georgia for the GOP. He knew they were in a mean and twitchy state. But he said it anyway and sent them on their stroll to disgrace.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 7, 2021
Two others had tried that about a century ago. One successful, one not. In October 1922 an Italian demagogue marched on Rome and overthrew the government. Benito Mussolini’s black shirts took the city and brought in the world’s first fascist regime. Responding to that, in November of the next year, another demagogue took a stroll with his followers from a Munich beer hall to try and overthrow the Bavarian government. They were shot down like the dogs they were. But Adolf Hitler escaped injury and his Nazi Party controlled Germany in a decade.
Is Trump Hitler or Mussolini? Of course not. But did his mob violence gambit have similarities, in that he tried to politically intimidate a legitimate government body into submission by setting a vicious mob on them? Yes. That is who he is.
Conservatives and Republicans, me included, championed him because he gave us policy and political victories we longed for. Thus we ignored the boorish and childish parts of his personality. I rationalized it as a focus on results, not persona. I was wrong. Because Donald Trump’s personality, his petulant, self-absorbed, loutish, and manipulative personality sent that pitchfork brigade to the capitol and one of the most shameful acts in American history took place.
The mob that stormed the capitol was sent there, their violence instigated, by Donald Trump. Listening to his words at the rally that is the only honest conclusion. Nevertheless, many will still cling to their unnatural attachment to demagoguery, instead of putting American democracy first. But then, what else would you expect from a baying mob drunk with emotion? Though, you would expect something better from the president of the United States.