“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them (Members of Congress) and the people in this room. Too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist or that hell actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”
— Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone
The House Select Committee to investigate the 6 January attack on the Capitol met for the first time yesterday. I was able to watch nearly all of the emotionally charged, vivid, heart-breaking and exasperating testimony on TV. Officer Fanone was one of two Metropolitan Police Officers (MPD) from Washington DC who joined two officers from the Capitol Police Department to relate what happened during the domestic terrorists’ attack to overturn the results of the most secure election in our history. In the quote, Officer Fanone reflected the disappointment and resentment he and his colleagues feel as the majority of elected Republicans in Congress profess that the attempted coup was no big deal.
The testimony was chilling and brought home once again how close we came to losing our Republic. Had those officers failed in their duty, the past six months would have a completely different narrative. People think it was “no big deal” because the officers won. Had the terrorists won, many law makers would have been kidnapped, injured, or killed. We would live in a different world. They saved our democracy. And yet, senior elected officials willingly and knowingly disgrace those officers’ personal sacrifices.
In fact, and to their everlasting disgrace, prior to the testimony Republican leaders from the House of Representatives held a press conference and tried to blame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the attack. Further debasing themselves and demonstrating the depth of their moral depravity, during the hearing six other elected Republican members of Congress tried to hold a sham press conference in front of the building housing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to demand justice for the terrorists that conducted the attack. As of yesterday, 591 people have been arrested for various crimes related to the attack. However, to many elected Republicans those people are, in the words of those in front of the DOJ, “political prisoners” that are subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment.” Despite the fact that the attack on the Capitol may be one of the most documented crimes of its size in history — people just can’t resist taking selfies and posting them on social media — their seditious supporters claim that evidence of their innocence is being withheld.
If it is possible, the most despicable actions took place on a main stream media platform known for its unrelenting support of the disgraced ex-president. A certain “personality” mocked the police officers by handing out acting awards for their “performance” in relating the horrific beatings and abuse that they suffered on 6 January. Other “news” organizations with no regard for the truth “revealed” that the officers were actually actors playing a role. Yet another literally laughed at Officer Fanone’s statement that he suffered psychological trauma from his experience.
This is what our country has become. All in the name of a cult of personality for one man.
Unfortunately, I think it is deeper than that. It is a sickness in our country and the cult leader was, and is, able to exploit it for his own purposes. Likewise, the bulk of elected Republican officials are going along with it not because of any policies or principles, but because it suits their purposes to gain and retain power. They are fine with autocracy.
The tool for their power grab is race.
Without sounding too superficial or simplistic, the evidence is there. Roughly 99% of the terrorists attacking the Capitol were white and most were men. The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters were all known to have a part in fomenting the insurrection, and all are white supremacist groups. The focus of the new “election security” laws, faux audits, and “stop the steal” efforts are places like, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, Houston and other large cities with large numbers of voters that are people of color. During the presidential debate the ex-president told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” School Boards across the country are fighting back against state legislatures that are limiting the elements of history that can be taught in schools. Using “Critical Race Theory” — a term they do not understand — as a code word for diversity, celebrating other cultures, appreciating the contributions of all Americans, teaching the ugly along with the beautiful, and as a catchall for any topic or fact about race relations in the United States that may make a white person feel “uncomfortable.” They would prefer that schools whitewash history. Literally.
Here is an example of the fact that many Republican law makers don’t even pretend to hide it anymore. Texas House Bill 241 calls for an audit of the November 2020 vote for all counties with a population over 415,000 people. There are 13 such counties, of which 10 voted for now President Biden. The bill’s sponsor says that his constituents are concerned about fraud in that election — even as earlier in the year Texas election officials fell all over themselves congratulating themselves on how smooth and secure the elections in Texas had been that fall.
Here is the punchline. When asked why not audit all of the counties in the state, the bill’s sponsor State Representative Steve Toth said, “What’s the point? I mean, all the small counties are red.”
The cult is destroying our country. It is a cancer. Cancer cannot be rooted out until it is identified, analyzed, and thoroughly destroyed and removed. The House Select Committee has important work to do and they must use due diligence to follow the facts wherever they lead. To the officers that testified yesterday, who stood on the front line and faced fascism in the flesh, they have no doubt that the facts will lead to positions of power. Power politicians may not have been on the front line abusing the police, but there were undoubtedly some or many behind the insurrection. As Officer Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police put it yesterday when asked what he wanted the committee to do, he used the analogy that when somebody hires a hitman to conduct a murder, the hitman goes to jail and so does the person that hired the hit. “There was a hit carried out on January 6, and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.”
We need to know who arranged, aided and abetted the hit, and hold them accountable, in order to bring our country back from the edge of darkness.
You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Trumpian Zone! — with apologies to Rod Serling
It seems as if we are in one of the spookiest and weirdest episodes of the Twilight Zone. It is almost as if we are experiencing an out-of-body experience as our democracy is under attack to a degree that we have not seen since the Civil War. We are in a place where facts don’t matter and the Constitution is ignored. Apparently, laws do not apply to those in pursuit of autocratic goals. We are in the zone where the federal and state governments exist only to serve one man — a zone most of us would never have imagined to be possible. Hyperbole? No. In fact, I think most Americans do not understand how precarious our democracy is and that it is under a full frontal assault. An ongoing coup attempt is underway, instigated by the then president about a year ago with claims that he could only lose if the election was rigged and that has grown and continued to the present day. Sadly, one of the two major political parties in our country is a full-on participant in the attempt to destroy our democracy — either acquiescing to the effort or actively enabling it.
These are the facts, not opinions. Over time, more and more revelations have uncovered the full extent of the ex-president’s efforts to overturn the election to remain as president illegally, or to be a dictator, depending on one’s view of an individual seizing power for his own purposes.
Here are some of the efforts that we know about so far:
- In December 2020 Michael Flynn, the disgraced one time National Security Adviser and a retired Lt. General in the United States Army, goes on the cable network Newsmax to argue that the president could deploy the military to confiscate voting machines and then rerun the election. The next day, the president invites him to the Oval Office to discuss Mr. Flynn’s plan and to review the possibility of deploying the military to impose martial law.
- The president pressured officials in key states to “find” more votes and encouraged lawmakers in state legislatures to overturn the election results in their states and replace the Electors voting for Mr. Biden with a slate that would vote for him instead.
- The president and his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pressured the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to give him the victory and hinted that Mr. Raffensperger could be criminally prosecuted if he did not — a phone call now under investigation for violating the law. Additionally, he forced the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta to resign because he was not working hard enough to uncover “fraud” and to negate the Georgia election results.
- The president directed his Chief of Staff and other aides to pressure the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate bogus and hare-brained ideas claiming election fraud including one that “proved” Italian military satellites sent signals to voting machines in the U.S. to change votes for Mr. Biden. (Remember, we are now in the Trumpian Zone.)
- The president planned on appointing a senior DOJ staffer, sympathetic to his efforts to overturn the election, as Acting Attorney General when the existing Acting would not do his bidding. (That plan died when the bulk of the senior professional staff at DOJ threatened to resign if it happened.)
- Emails released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform show that the president and other White House officials not only pushed DOJ to investigate bogus election fraud cases, they also sent the Acting Solicitor General a draft Supreme Court filing to dispute election results in six states. They pushed DOJ officials to seize voting machines in key states. (A different effort than the Flynn Plan to use the military.)
- The then president organized a “Save America March” in Washington D.C. on 6 January 2021 to protest the election results. The rally was purposely scheduled for the same day that Congress was to certify the Electoral College vote and timed to give the rally goers the opportunity to get to the Capital before the vote. He gave a roughly one hour speech where he exhorted the crowd to “fight like hell” to “take back our country” and repeating over and over that the election was stolen. He mentioned Vice President Mike Pence numerous times incorrectly claiming that the Vice President had the power to stop the Electoral College process. He then sent them on their way.
All of those efforts, and more, were thwarted by dedicated professionals in federal, state and local governments. The system worked! So, now, that means that the system must be changed so that next time, efforts by the ex-president, or someone like him, cannot be stopped. Since the beginning of the year, Republicans throughout all levels of government are hard at work to change the narrative (“nothing bad happened”) while insisting that the system still needs to be “fixed.” Many continue to openly push the Big Lie and to scheme to bring back the former guy.
It would seem that a 9/11 type commission should be empowered to investigate what happened leading up to the 6 January insurrection and to recommend ways to prevent it from happening again. Nothing could be more bipartisan — even non-partisan — than that.
Oh, I forgot.
175 House Republicans and thirty-five Republican Senators (aka the Sedition Caucus) voted against a commission to investigate the attack on 6 January. For that matter, twenty-one House Republicans voted against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the police officers that protected them from the insurgents. Some Congressional Republicans continue to push the absurd assertion that it was just a regular day at the Capital and that those rioting inside the building were just “normal” tourists. This comes on top of the 121 House Republicans and six Senate Republicans that voted to overturn the 2020 election by decertifying the results of the Electoral College.
The Big Lie continues to be pushed hard and the never ending explanations for the attack on the Capital now include the preposterous proposition that it was the FBI that instigated and directed the insurrection.
The Grand Old Party is not so grand anymore. Most of its members no longer care about supporting the Constitution or about looking out for the country’s interests. They only owe their allegiance to one man and appear to be signaling to him that it is okay for the ex-president to assault our democracy once again.
Republican legislatures are working over-time around the country to disenfranchise as many voters as possible. Worse than that, they are not just working to suppress the vote, but they have enacted measures to make sure that if their suppression efforts fail, they can ignore the will of the voters and choose winners and losers on their own.
The former guy still will not acknowledge that he lost and is enamored of the idea that he will be “reinstated” in August. The fake audit in Arizona is trying to prove that tens of thousands of ballots in Maricopa County (Phoenix) were shipped in from China by “analyzing” the ballots for bamboo shoots in the paper. (We’re still in the Zone.)
At the same time, it was just revealed that during the last administration DOJ subpoenaed the personal computer and phone records for reporters for CNN, The Washington Post, New York Times and for two members of the House Intelligence Committee. Representatives Adam Schiff (CA) and Eric Swalwell (CA) and their aides’ and families’ records were secretly obtained from Apple. DOJ put a gag order on all of those subpoenas. Those monitored did not find out about it until last month. At the same time that they were under the subpoenas, the then president was publicly calling for them to be arrested and put in jail.
In an attempt to right some of these ongoing wrongs, Democrats bought into Senator Joe Manchin’s (WV) effort to compromise on a bill to protect voting rights. His proposal includes many provisions desired by Republicans. None-the-less, before the proposal could even be analyzed, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared that no Republican would vote for it.
Which leads me to ask, given the concerted effort to overturn our democracy and an expressed Republican goal of opposing President Biden’s agenda “100 percent”, why do Democrats continue to try bipartisan solutions to our nation’s problems when the Republicans just shut them down at every turn? By the way, of all of the state legislature attacks on voting rights, none of the new laws are bipartisan.
I have opined in this space before, in conjunction with the horrible effort to combat the pandemic and his general incompetence in office, that the ex-president could only screw it up as badly as he did by trying to screw it up. Thus, perhaps, he was actually a Putin agent. As he coerces and pushes his supporters to continue to devoutly follow the Big Lie and to tear our country apart, I come back around to that idea. Mr. Putin must be thrilled with what he sees happening in the U.S. He said as much during the run up to his summit with President Biden, including calling the 6 January insurrectionists “patriots” that are being persecuted by the U.S. government.
How did I miss the exit sign that said we were on the road to Crazy Town?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or group sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception or judgement. Those conducting the gaslighting use denial, misdirection, contradiction and misinformation to delegitimize other’s beliefs. It is recognized in psychological analysis, especially in the definition of abusers. The term comes from a 1938 stage play called Gas Light which was turned into a 1940 movie and, most famously, a 1944 movie called Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer where a man tries to convince his wife that she is going insane so that he can have her committed and he can retain her murdered aunt’s wealth. The term relates to his turning down their home’s gas lights while insisting that they are fully bright, among other things to make her feel detached from reality.
The United States is being gaslighted by most of the Republican Party, especially those in Congress. They are trying to gaslight us about the Big Lie of the 2020 election, about the attempted coup on 6 January 2021, and are using these lies to propel Republican controlled state legislatures into passing laws limiting voting opportunities and engaging in voter suppression.
For one example, listen to Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI) question whether it was an “armed” insurrection which he did on a local radio station in Wisconsin. “That didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me. When you hear the word ‘armed’ don’t you think of firearms? How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired?” (Numerous firearms and explosives were known to law enforcement to have been at the capitol in the hands of the rioters, more were confiscated later, and detailed plans have been uncovered for the use of firearms by those storming the capitol.) Or perhaps this bit of misdirection by him on 7 February in a Fox News interview? “I have always believed the Russian hoax was a diversionary operation from the corruption occurring certainly within the FBI and potentially some of our intelligence agencies. You kind of have to ask the question, what is this impeachment all about? We know that 45 Republican senators believe its unconstitutional. Is this another diversionary operation? Is this meant to deflect away from potentially what the Speaker knew and when she knew it? I don’t know. But I’m suspicious.” (Senator Johnson is joined by the lead seditionists Senators Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) in trying to blame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for the attempted coup at the capitol.)
Since that was not enough, Senator Johnson went further during the Senate hearings on 23 February investigating the attack on the capitol. He claimed that the “great majority” of the rioters had a “jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor.” In his portrayal, the rioters were festive and the demonstration was “jovial.” The rightful focus of an investigation should be on those that perpetrated the violence. You know, the “plainclothes militants, agent provocateurs, fake Trump protesters, and disciplined uniformed column of attackers.” He later added, “Basically it was like a picnic here that day until they [meaning antifa] got involved.”
For the record, on Tuesday 2 March FBI Director Christopher Wray clearly stated in his testimony that the insurrectionists did not have any (any!) members that were “antifa,” or “anarchist violent extremists,” or any other left-wing participation. He did say that the primary instigators of the attack were white supremacists or members of right wing militias. Of the roughly 270 rioters arrested so far, 33 belonged to right wing militia groups, 82 were friends and associates of organized right wing groups and the rest did not belong to any organized group. Director Wray testified that this latter group was his biggest concern as they do not fit into any “chain-of-command” type organizations and are likely to be “lone wolfs” ready to conduct violent acts based on their having been influenced and radicalized by right wing extremism on the internet and through social media. The Director said that combatting domestic terrorism is currently the FBI’s number one priority and that they are investigating about 2,000 cases right now.
There is no “what aboutism” to this. There is no both sides. Those that try and and compare the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations to the attack on the Capitol are trying to change the subject. There is no comparison. The attack by right wing extremists on the Capitol was intended to overthrow the government and to undermine a free and fair election in order to hand the presidency to a wannabe autocrat. I will state unequivocally that any criminal behavior taking place during any protest, BLM or otherwise, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And it is. Actions by any BLM groups or others associated with the otherwise peaceful protests does not in any way justify what happened at the Capitol in January. And yet, Republican Senators are trying to say that it does.
At this week’s hearings Senator Cruz asserted that “in the past year we have seen massive rioting and violence as extremists, many of them leftists extremists, took to the streets across the country.” After clearly speaking about the BLM demonstrations, without using the name, he asked Director Wray what the FBI is doing “to counter this ongoing pattern of domestic terrorism.” Of course! According to Senator Cruz the real terrorists are not those attempting to over throw the government and kill the Vice President and Speaker of the House. It is those terrible black people and those that support them.
In spite of all the evidence, politicians, media personalities, activists, and others on the right are trying to rewrite history to turn the violent insurrection at the Capitol into “no big deal.” As chronicled in the Washington Post, it is a concerted effort to blame leftists and to absolve the ex-president (a.k.a the former guy) of any blame. In a tried and true tactic, many of them are actually blaming the Speaker for the attack. Representative Ken Buck (CO) said that Democrats are trying to create the impression that “there’s a bunch of people running around in the woods with Army fatigues on the weekends, and they’re going to take over this country, and that’s just nonsense.” Others criticize the fences and National Guard troops still at the Capitol as some kind of trick by Democrats to create the illusion of danger. They think it is part of a political effort to exaggerate the threat from right wing extremists dubbing the Capitol “Fort Pelosi.” Some even contend that the circumstances surrounding the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick are fishy and that it is being used by the Democrats to further their anti-Republican agenda.
Senator Cruz, of course, is one of the eight Republican Senators that joined 139 Republican Representatives to vote against certifying the results of the Electoral College, even after the Capitol had been sacked by supporters of the now ex-president. (You can find their names here.) This is the biggest gaslight of all. Most of those Republicans still refuse to recognize that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the duly elected 46th President of the United States. Those 147 Republicans, and the Gaslighter-in-Chief continue to perpetuate the Big Lie that the 2020 election was rigged, stolen, or otherwise fixed to put Mr. Biden in the White House. This has real consequences. Mr. Cruz, Mr. Hawley, and everyone else that keeps pushing this devastating lie is actively and willfully undermining our democracy. They are using a circular argument. They have actively pushed this lie, directly leading to the insurrection in January. They then turn around, after having convinced their constituents that their votes did not count, even in the face of all factual evidence to the contrary, and say, “gosh” my constituents want to know what is going on, therefore I must act to fix the problem.
Those fixes involve voter suppression and disenfranchisement for millions of Americans. Republicans cannot win at the polls based on their ideas and policies, so they are working as hard as they can in state legislatures to pass laws that will keep many people from voting — most of whom usually vote for Democrats. Want an example? In Arizona they are considering a law that designates the state legislature as the final authority on deciding who the state’s Electoral College electors will be. No matter the vote count. No matter if the Governor and Secretary of State certify the results. No matter if the loser fails to win a single case in the courts. A simple majority of the legislature can substitute their own slate of electors at any time up to the day of the inauguration of the president. Indeed, why should we even let people vote?
Gaslighting has real consequences.
There is a distinct moral void taking hold in our country. Don’t like the consequences? Pretend that nothing happened. Don’t like the facts? Create your own alternative facts. Can’t win elections? Change the rules so that only your folks can vote. There is no shame. There is no taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Do you worship a man rather than fulfill your oath to the Constitution? No problem. Just vilify everyone that doesn’t worship at the feet of the golden don. (If you missed it, here is a picture of the Republican Party version of the Biblical golden calf at CPAC in Florida.)
The danger to our Republic remains. As long as the majority of Republicans at all levels of government keep the Big Lie alive, we are under threat. Call out the gaslighters when you seem them. Keep the facts out there. Advertise what the FBI Director testified to concerning the threat. Remind people that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) puts out warnings about domestic terrorism from right wing white extremists. We are in a cold Civil War. We need to work to keep it from going hot.