Capitol attack not a finale, but an opening act

After impeachment, Democrats must quickly look to the future. Because the Capitol mob is coming back.

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In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington.

Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Associated Press

Next week, when most Senate Republicans refuse to convict Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, as they surely will, there can be only one reason.

They think the tide of chaos will break their way.

Not in the past, not the wave of anger and insurrection that washed over Washington a little more than a month ago. That’s over done with, and receding; it sometimes feels as if the jarring events are already staring from a history book, where no doubt they will be prominently displayed as our union’s lowest point since the Civil War.

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Unless there are lower points to come.

Because the struggle happening right now is not about the past, a month ago and fading no matter how sharply the Democratic impeachment managers set out their case.

It is about the future.

Are we to continue as a representative democracy?

Or not?

Simple question, really. Do American voters cast their ballots and select those who will run the country? Or do demagogues determine what has happened and will happen, while we all must obey? Is democracy discarded when you don’t like the result, as Trump tried to do? Is it to be dismissed as “rank democracy?” A term Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, used in October.

Or do voters — whatever their color — still get to choose our future?

That battle is not behind us. That battle is in front of us. State after Republican-led state will wage their own legal riot against the ability of American citizens to cast a vote. They will call these measures efforts to stem voter fraud, which the election of 2020 proved is nearly nonexistent. Their real motive — cling to power even if a majority of Americans don’t want them — will never be spoken out loud. It doesn’t have to be.

“Stop the steal” is a great rallying cry. Who cares whether there really is a steal to stop? Not Republicans. The slogan brought the mob to Washington, and will justify suppression of Democratic voters. Just watch: more long lines, as mail-in voting is scrapped and polling places removed. Higher hurdles raised to casting a ballot. It worked in Mississippi in the 19th century. It almost worked in 2020. They’ll try again.

Most Americans don’t want this. Don’t want to be muzzled. Don’t want the chaos and violence, the ignoring of national problems, the substitution of rhetoric for constructive change. When you can lie away any problem — Trump responded swiftly and decisively to the Chinese virus, defeating the Democratic hoax that isn’t here and doesn’t require anyone to wear a mask — there is no need to bother with the tedious machinery of running a functioning government. Lies are the spackle that can smooth over any cracked philosophy.

Justice demands this second impeachment attempt. We need, if only for appearance’s sake, to apply consequences to Trump’s effort to return himself to a second term as president despite losing the election. And since things get murky, let me explain: by “losing the election,” I mean, “getting fewer votes than Joe Biden, who decisively won.”

Notice I said, “fewer votes” and not “less votes.” Standards are still important.

Even were Trump convicted, which he won’t be, that would not be the end. The Trumpican Party will retreat, regroup, and try again in 2022. And 2024.

Until then, Democrats must make government work. Must make the electoral process even sounder. Rebuild the kneecapped U.S. Postal Service. Defeat COVID, get the economy humming. Though if you think that might win over the GOP, ask yourself how well the triumph of Obamacare worked. It didn’t. No fact will move someone who doesn’t recognize facts.

Many Democrats are mystified as to why, liberated from a Trump presidency, more Republicans don’t stray. Why so many remain loyal to that orange monstrosity and his brand of random incompetent disorder. The short answer is, because it worked, and is working. Constant crisis raises gobs of money. Corporations may cringe away, but regular folks dig deep. Continual outrage energizes the base. And in whatever slice of America they want to nourish — Texas, Newsmax, Georgia’s 14th Congressional District — folks there lap up this slop.

None of this is going away. Jan. 6 was not a finale, but an opening act. You think the howling, red-faced, bearded, helmeted mob in the videos played in Congress this week is scary? Wait. The next mob will be even scarier.

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