Friday, January 8, 2021

Actually, It IS Who You Are

On January 6th there was a coup attempt in the United States.

Technically it was the culmination of a “slow burn” coup that had been going for two months, one that started the night the sitting President of the United States declared victory before all the legitimately cast votes had been counted. 

The coup was doomed to fail. It was carried off in a disorganized, half-ass way like everything else this administration has touched, whether it be building a wall or a vaccine roll out. It was primarily executed by an online mob of leaderless Nazis, neonazis, and white supremacists whose sheer sense of white, male entitlement led them to do things like take selfies at Nancy Pelosi’s desk and steal her mail instead of confront the true gravitas of what they were perpetrating. And they were incited by Trump who promised to lead them down Pennsylvania Ave., but instead cowardly ducked away into his bunker and let stochastic agents he had whipped up behave like a leaderless mob. And so, it might be possible to dismiss the day’s events as some sort of mob psychology gone horribly wrong––a lot of angry people who got carried away.

But in the final analysis, what really happened was that an armed insurrection, with malice aforethought, having discussed their violence previously online in forums like Parler, showed up to the seat of government intent on subverting the results of an election* and were allowed in by the police (who thought they were on the same side) in a national security catastrophe. [ETA: That we now know happened because Trump deliberately held back the national guard.]

That’s a coup.

Just because it went off like keystone capers doesn't make it NOT a coup. 

The rest of this is smoke-filled, coffee-house crap, and after-the-fact armchair quarterbacking. The results of the day may have been anarchy, but these terrorists were anything but anarchists. In fact, they had extremely explicit designs about who would govern and how––and in most cases, extremely outspoken ideologies about what sorts of "slow genocide" policies the government would use its power to execute. That's not anarchy.

That the “revolution,” with its decentralized authority, was as incompetent as the very President it sought to entitle, and unfolded in the same epic fail manner as everything else Trump touches, was a stroke of undeserved luck. Had an organized cell with an agenda and a competent leader entered the building in tandem with (and under cover of) the more chaotic insurrectionists, the story could have easily been about Democrats (and Mike Pence) being pulled out of their offices and executed one by one. And in fact, we saw some people clearly had that very intention if they had gotten their hands on anyone they didn't like.

(*I can’t in good conscience say that it was a free and fair election, but the right isn’t interested in the actual problems––like voter ID laws, voter scrubbing, gerrymandering, and the electoral college itself––that make the U.S. a “flawed” democracy in the eyes of the world. Mostly because those things have all been instituted by the right and help them maintain power.)

And now Lindsey Graham, who has never found a Trumpian cause unworthy of providing a few more stock “angry white guy” photo ops, has said “enough is enough,” resignations are happening left and right (including cabinet members), and even Republicans are talking about the 25th amendment.

But of course, what I heard over and over from Republican lips was this phrase that reached near “thoughts and prayers” in its meaninglessness: “This is not who we are.”

"This is not who we are."

It was like a broken record. “This is not who we are.” “This is not who we are.” “This is not who we are.” Some Democrats also said this, and those Democrats may need to confront their willingness to be civil over all other values and/or ruminate on what they allowed, by inaction, to happen and what they're willing to forgive without accountability, but today I speak to and about the Republicans––at least the 90% of them who consistently supported Trump, those in the leadership who enabled him, and those who could muster little more than a piecemeal "deep concern" for his behavior each time he did something breathtakingly horrific, but generally told us we were being "hysterical" and were simply experiencing nothing but the same sort of "hate" for Trump that they'd had for Obama.

To all of you, I want to make this crystal clear. I want to make it unswervingly direct. I want no room for ambiguity. I don’t want to be misconstrued in any possible way. 

This IS who you are.

Let me say that again: this IS who you are.

Maybe you’re looking at yourself in the mirror or at the consequences writ large of the actions an egomaniac who would rather invoke stochastic terrorism than admit defeat in a democratic election, and the fact that yoking the fascists to win some SCOTUS seats is looking a little too Faustian for your tastes when the bill comes due….  

And maybe you’ve decided that it isn’t who you WANT to be, but it IS who you are. 

This IS who you are.

  • It is who you were when, out of a field of 17, you chose the guy who took out full-page ads calling for the death penalty on innocent black men, had a jacket of racist complaints going back decades, and spearheaded the claim that Obama was not a U.S. citizen. 
  • It was who you were when you picked the guy who bragged about the size of his dick and called people names in a national debate, requiring the birth of a new vocabulary word that means “anti-presidential.”
  • It was who you were when he told you exactly who he was and you didn't recoil in horror.
  • It was who you were when he bragged about tax fraud and stiffing contractors and you didn’t consider that maybe he was going to be a grifter and a fraud. 
  • It is who you were when his blatantly bigoted statements earned your admiration for speaking his mind.
  • It was who you were when his documented history of racism didn’t give you pause and maybe, in places you don’t talk about in mixed company, you kind of liked it.
  • It was who you were when he began to mantra, “We’re going to build a wall. (He didn’t) And we’re going to make Mexico pay for it. (Also no.)” and your cheers only became louder. 
  • It was who you were when he promised he could get soldiers to violate the Geneva Conventions, and that didn’t give you pause.
  • It was who you were when you elected a bully––not sitting out the election in a sort of dull horror, but showing up for him in droves.
  • It was who you were when we told you that someone endorsed by Nazis, neonazis, and white supremacists would embolden those ideologies and you told us we were snowflakes who needed to get over it.
  • It was who you were when you wanted him to hurt the right people.
  • It was who you were when actual email security breaches garnered your limp shrugs after an entire election cycle of “but her emails.”
  • It was who you were while you ignored a candidate who was chummy with a known child sex trafficker, who bragged about sexual assault, who had dozens of credible assault allegations, while the idea that Clinton was running a sex-trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor basement sounded plausible enough to demand answers.
  • It was who you were when you valued a reality show star, who bankrupted everything he touched and with zero political acumen, over anyone who had the slightest expertise in the art of the D.C. compromise because he assured you he was a billionaire and did well in “deals” (usually the kind of deals where he’s the boss and has all the leverage).
  • It was who you were when you spent six years with a pull string on your back that said. “Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi. We need another investigation. I just want the TRUTH.” And it was who you were when you mocked and belittled the Russia probe after it (relatively quickly) found actual credible overwhelming evidence of election interference, some level collusion (and probably more), and led to dozens of convictions.
  • It was who you were when you ignored the evidence that actual statesmen (statespeople?) would have the diplomatic savvy to run rings around him and he kind of bent to whoever was the last person in the room with him.
  • It was who you were when you shrugged at how chummy he was with dictators and how he just couldn’t get along with allies. It was who you were when you giggled along instead of giving him that "" look every time he made his haha jokes about authoritarian regimes really knowing how to do things, even when he was standing in places known for genociding their marginalized communities. 
  • It was who you were when he insisted he had, in fact, won the popular vote against Clinton and that––despite ALL evidence to the contrary––all four million votes he lost by were fraudulent. And that didn’t raise alarm bells in your mind that he wasn’t going to be able to handle losing.
  • It was who you were when you blew off his comments about extra terms or about liking the convenience of being a leader under authoritarianism.
  • It was who you were when he couldn’t handle his anything being smaller than Obama’s, literally looked at a picture of a fractionally-sized inauguration attendance, and lied his ass off that it was bigger. And instead of becoming concerned that apparently the President of the United States was apparently SO self-absorbed and delicate that he couldn't handle the truth, you laughed and went along with the "joke" and didn't notice that you were arguing that 2+2=5 on day one. 
  • It was who you were when high-ranking members of his administration proffered the idea of "alternative facts" and you laughed because that "triggered the libs."
  • It was who you were when he reversed every campaign promise he made to disclose his financials, his health, his sexual misconduct allegations, and you shrugged.
  • It was who you were when you dismissed our concerns about his disrespect for precedent, and the fact that every week was a new constitutional crisis because, if he knew the constitutional limits of his power (doubtful), he didn’t CARE. And it was who you were when the ardent warnings of historians, people from authoritarian countries, even the fricken ADL (and you know it’s not just Godwin’s law when the ADL is jumping up and down and screaming) made you roll your eyes even harder and double down on the cult mentality of we vs. they thinking.
  • It was who you were when one by one, every member of his inner circle got caught in a bald-face lie about their involvement with Russia and you blamed liberals and Democrats for having the audacity to bring it up.
  • It was who you were when you pretended you couldn’t even wrap your brains around what Trump might have POSSIBLY done that wasn’t above reproach when the full Muller report came out. You who spent entire news cycles apoplectic about hot sauce and tan suits and half-hearted salutes.
  • It was who you were when you told us to fuck our feelings. It was who you were when you called us snowflakes for providing so much as a speed bump in the road to hurting “the right people." It was who you were when you told us we’d lost and to get over it. It was who you were when you didn't bat an eyelash as the GOP abandoned all pretense at governing a pluralistic society.
  • It was who you were when you didn’t stop obscene power grabs at the state level (like in Michigan), and instead practically dared Democrats to stop you.
  • It was who you were when one by one, you kissed the ring and the party became Donald Trump and Donald Trump became the party.
  • It was who you were when you let him peel off conscientious objectors (who had an iota of integrity) one by one and send his followers like jackals to rip them apart.
  • It was who you were when he retweeted white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and open bigots with no consequence.
  • It was who you were when you allowed him to attack the media unrelentingly if they said anything he didn’t like. It was who you were when you allowed him to attack the courts unrelentingly if they made a ruling he didn’t like. It was who you were when you allowed him to attack the legislature when they did anything he didn't like. It was who you were when you shrugged as he battered away at the very pillars of democracy.
  • It was who you were when Trump cheered the police violence (and ordered more) during demonstrations of groups that had the temerity to say, “Please stop killing us.”
  • It was who you were when he called white nationalists, whose ideology had led someone to commit vehicular manslaughter, “very fine people” and you voiced nothing but “troubling concern” in concert with some deeply furrowed brows.
  • It was who you were when he wouldn’t denounce white supremacy and instead told the Proud Boys to “stand by” and that got swept under the rug as a misspeak. 
  • It was who you were when he wouldn’t denounce white supremacy the time before that and you didn’t care.
  • And the time before that.
  • It was who you were when he didn't soundly condemn a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, and you weren't horrified at such partisan behavior.
  • It was who you were when Trump was impeached for subverting U.S. democracy and literally the only defense the best legal minds in the fucking world could come up with was, “Yes, he clearly lied and subverted the investigation and did all the high crimes and misdemeanors of which he stands accused, but it’s late in his term, so let’s just wait for the election, kay?”
  • It was who you were when you wouldn't allow witnesses at said impeachment trial. 
  • It was who you were when he said “animals,” “shithole countries” “China virus" (and JFC “Kung flu”) and you fell over yourselves to excuse, rationalize, and justify his crystal clear meaning with misplaced modifiers and grammar sleights of hand.
  • It was who you were when you looked the other way at kids in cages.
  • It was who you were when travel bans earned your praise.
  • It was who you were when you ignored how Trump started repeating QAnon––how you giggled and exchanged knowing glances when he said "The valiant truth-seeker, fighting-the-good-fight-against-child-trafficking patriots who like me very much? Never heard of him."
  • It was who you were when Trump ignored and criminally mismanaged a global pandemic for months, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands who did not have to die, and you took up the rallying cry of “economy” and threw the most vulnerable into the meat grinder of our immediate financial recovery (which didn’t even work).
  • It was who you were when you poo-pooed the danger of the virus to such a degree that you followed him in aggressively refusing to take even the simplest precautions to protect others, like wearing a mask or not throwing parties.
  • It was who you were when you cheered Mitch McConnell for not even bringing bills (with the support to pass) to the floor of the Senate, enacting his personal, one-man veto on anything he didn’t like and then, standing in front of stack of legislation taller than him that he refused to vote on, accusing the House, with a straight face, of not getting anything done.
  • It was who you were when voice after voice after voice warned you that Trump was the kind of dangerous authoritarian who could end a democracy––that there wasn’t going to be an adult in the room; that the constitution would not come to life and form a giant Mecha with energy cannons if it was ever violated TOO much––but instead of listening, you tossed them into an ever-growing conspiracy of “haters.”
  • It was who you were when you enjoyed the delicious bounty of your “Faustian deal,” as you rushed through a tax code “reform” in the dead of night without debate (that ended up being worse for everyone but the super rich when it was finally unpacked) and when you rammed through one SCOTUS nominee (while silencing the investigation into his credible sexual assault threat that even the FBI said they didn’t have enough time to finish), and when you blasted another through with weeks to go before an election (in breathtaking, spectacular hypocrisy of your “totally not partisan” position four years prior). It was who you were, by the way, when this rushed confirmation left stimulus by the wayside while millions of Americans fell into poverty from your continued inaction.
  • It was who you were when Trump started to contest the election results as fraudulent and you found that was really good for fundraising, so you didn’t shut him down.
  • It was who you were when literally you could tell which GOP members were making a bid for 2024 by who was still saying the election was rigged.
  • It was who you were when his calls for stochastic terrorism grew louder and you watched (or joined) as he fed his people a diet of distrust for any court, journalism medium, expert, or scientist who disagreed with him, so that the whole lot believed with growing fervor in debunked and outrageous conspiracy theories.
  • It was who you were when your response to a president refusing to peacefully transfer power was to form a caucus with "sedition" in the name.
  • It was who you were when you all but ignored an exodus from Facebook (which is not like…..super mean to right-wing groups) so the alt-right could say what they REALLY wanted on Parler, and what they wanted to say turned out to be explicit calls for violence and increasing organization. 

And it was still who you were when the violent consequences of your decisions manifested in the form of a group of domestic terrorists and in a way you seem to think wasn’t telegraphed for years. You can’t retroactively uncouple yourself from the ramifications of your long history of behavior in the last few seconds before the culmination like a professional criminal who really only laments the mistake they made that got them caught.

You cannot be complicit in every step leading up to a (predictable) result and then magically exculpate yourself from the consequences.

It is who you are when your colleagues STILL get up, even the next day, and repeat the most outrageous claims (“it was all ANTIFA!”) with little or no consequences. When they have supported a slow coup and ducked any real or serious consequence by saying "That's not who we are" when the direct consequence of their behavior was violence. It is still who you are when you deliver slaps on the wrist instead of offering serious consequences and removing from power all those who have technically committed treason. It is who you are when nearly half of Republicans still support the storming of the capitol. 

So when you say “this is not who we are” you are in error. At least in the moment you spoke it. This is the just the inevitable conclusion to who you have been for years––for what you have been courting for political gain. This result stood atop the scaffolding you’ve been methodically assembling most of your lives and/or political careers. This is the repercussion that we have been trying to tell you has been inexorably approaching for decades––because, really, Trump was no more than the avatar of all the things festering within the GOP and exploited for political expediency. 

This IS who you are!

But it doesn’t have to be.

Now you have to decide, having looked at the naked, inevitable conclusion of what you have wrought, if this is who you want to continue to be. You cannot be John Hammond standing amongst those killed by the dinosaurs and give a glib, "This is not who we are." You chose all the steps that led to this moment. You encouraged it, organized it, and facilitated it. You can't clutch your pearls that some took the next step. And you can't act as if not repudiating these steps won't continue to lead to escalation. If this isn’t who you want to be, then everything leading up to it has to go as well.

If it doesn’t…this IS who you are.


  1. It was a lot of work but you sure got it all down on paper, or digital paper. Thank you

  2. It was a lot of work but you sure got it all down on paper, or digital paper. Thank you

  3. This wasn't a coup. There was never an expectation or intention to take over government function. This was about expressing anger and frustration. No one of these people expected to be able to stay there for any meaningful amount of time. I'm not here to defend their actions, but calling it a coup is a desperate and clumsy attempt to make it more than it is in order to build political ammunition.

    1. You're right. It wasn't a coup. It was an ATTEMPTED coup, and I was very clear as to why. Definitionally that's what it was.

      Going back after the fact and judging it by its lack of success to downplay the intended, exact, precisely, explicitly stated goals is not only dangerous, but incredibly facile. While I'm (well) aware of the academic debate now raging over whether it was a coup or "just" an insurrection, that is what I refer to as the smoke-filled, coffee-house crap. If it had gone off the way all parties had intended, we would not be sitting around arguing semantics.

  4. Lest we not forget: