The storming of the Capitol in Washington DC is the darkest sign yet that democracy has died in America.
It was disgraceful and deadly and dangerous. It deserves no excuse, only condemnation.
But the worst part is that it wasn’t the beginning and may not be the end. Instead it was yet another hellish moment in the ever escalating cycle of chaos that has crippled what was once the world’s greatest republic. Radicalism has replaced reason. Violence has replaced language.
It is now clear that Donald Trump’s absurd and petulant claims about the presidency being stolen from him have had deeply damaging and fatal consequences. One of his most loyal supporters has now died for the sake of his pride.
These people call themselves patriots and yet would scale the walls of the Capitol Building in an effort to hoist a Trump flag in place of the Star-Spangled Banner.
These people call themselves conservatives and yet would do battle with officers sworn to uphold law and order.
And now among the zealots who still cling to an alternate reality in which Trump won the presidential election there are claims circulating online that in fact all the violence was perpetrated by Antifa activists who infiltrated the rally and ran riot in the Capitol.
It is hardly worth descending down this rabbit hole, but frankly I doubt Antifa has the intelligence, imagination or organisation to conceive of such a masterplan.
But the conspiracy theory carries weight because the rampage is almost indistinguishable from the mindless violence we have already seen carried out by Antifa over the course of 2020. Replace the red caps with red flags and you’d never know the difference.
The obscene scenes in Washington this week have only served to prove the ugly truth that all extremists are the same. They justify violence in the service of their own cause and condemn it in others. And when they see that violence they respond in kind. Extremism begets extremism.
Indeed, how can those on the hard left condemn an attack on a government building when they have partaken in, defended or turned a blind eye to the burning of churches and courthouses and businesses?
Throughout 2020 we have seen both partisan and supposedly impartial commentators describe protests as “mostly peaceful” even as flames danced in the background. One only needs to mouth the words “mostly peaceful” in describing the pro-Trump riots to see how ridiculous it sounds now and how ridiculous it was then.
The truth is the fight for America’s soul is not a battle between left and right, but between reason and madness.
Trump is now clearly a hopelessly crazed and isolated figure. His closest advisers have all strapped on their scuba gear and jumped from the boat. Even his Vice President Mike Pence has deserted his Quixotic crusade. His only allies are people he has never met, called to action by his sporadically suspended Twitter account.
But the reckoning must come for radicals on the other side, too. In a powerful speech attempting to calm the chaos, Joe Biden invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln. It was a noble effort but one replete with irony given that far-left activists have also turned their attacks to the great emancipator.
Protesters in ultra-woke Portland tore down the city’s Lincoln statue, his statue in front of San Francisco City Hall was defaced with red paint, a wall at the sacrosanct Lincoln Memorial in Washington was spray-painted with the words “Yall [sic] not tired yet?” and Boston’s Emancipation Memorial depicting Lincoln liberating a slave was dismantled by the council because protesters didn’t like the tone.
Combine that with the toppling of other monuments across the country and it’s little wonder conservative Americans are panicked that their national heritage is being stripped away piece by piece.
But the only way to resolve these issues is through public debate and at the ballot box. And it is telling that extremists on both sides always struggle with either.
A case in point is the double Senate run-off vote in the once Republican stronghold of Georgia. While one of the Republicans outpolled his Democratic rival in the initial election – which would have been enough to deny the Democrats a Senate majority – he was thwarted by an antiquated state law that requires a candidate to capture more than 50 per cent of the vote instead of just more than any of the others.
According to the New York Times, this was a segregation-era policy designed to stop a black candidate from becoming a senator by capturing all the black votes in a crowded field of whites. As a result of the second ballot, the numbers have swung to the Democrats and Georgia now has its first black senator. That’s karma for you.
And so the Democrats have won the Holy Trinity of the presidency, the House and the Senate. It looks like an incredible landslide but the truth is far more tenuous. Despite an opponent widely derided as the most deranged in American history, the Democrats lost seats in the House, would have failed to win a Senate majority but for an historical quirk, and came within the proverbial insect’s apparatus of losing the big one.
Biden won on record voter turnout but it was concentrated in the big east-west powerhouses of New York and California. Thus he got a massive 4.5 per cent margin in the popular vote but in the battleground states that actually decide elections it was a razor-thin 0.1 per cent.
American democracy still lives on a knife-edge. And it is a democracy where madness begets madness and extremism begets extremism. God save them.
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