On January 6 a Trumpist mob violently invaded the U.S. Capitol, murdered a police officer and assaulted other officers, and attempted to overthrow the presidential election results. The Capitol invasion was part of an attempted coup orchestrated by the con man Donald Trump and actively encouraged by thousands of Trump’s cultish sycophants, including 147 Republican members of Congress who voted to overturn the election results just hours after the seditious assault.
I never thought that in my lifetime I would see America brought to the brink of a fascist dictatorship, much less by some of the same people who have long warned about the threat of authoritarianism. Yet that is where the Trump cult has brought us. Fascists wrapped in the American flag and spouting patriotic slogans are still fascists.
No, I don’t think the Trumpists will succeed in installing Trump as unelected ruler, try as they might. But I do think that their efforts to do so profoundly weaken the country and make a fascist regime far more likely in the future. If these people who long for an authoritarian leader will fall for a ridiculous pudgy narcissistic huckster such as Trump, imagine how they would line up behind an intelligent alpha-male fascist in the mold of Putin. (I’ve warned of this possibility, as has Zeynep Tufekci and others.)
I am not saying that Trump stealing a second term would have automatically reduced the United States to fascism. I used the term “brink.” And we’re talking about a continuum here; America’s total fall probably would take years. Even if Trump had succeeded, it’s possible that the Congress and the courts might have held up adequately to restore Constitutional order down the road. But I also think it’s possible, and indeed likely, that Trump would have moved to solidify his base within the armed forces, the police forces, and extra-legal armed forces to insulate himself. If Trump had succeeded in stealing a second term, I think it’s inevitable that he would have gone for a third term (health withstanding). He’s already planted the idea. Or perhaps, feeling his age, he would have sought to install one of his children as “president.” Given recent events, does anyone seriously believe that Trump is above putting pressure on the judiciary, in the form of implicit threats of extralegal violence, if he thought he could get away with it?
Nor am I saying that the 147 members of Congress who voted to overturn the election results actually wanted Trump to serve a second term, wanted Trump’s supporters to assault the Capitol, or wanted America to fall into fascism. Instead, as I’ve suggested, I think almost all of them were playing a cynical political game and fully expected their efforts to fail. I used the term “encouraged.” One can encourage some cultural movement without wanting that movement to reach its final goals, and that is what those cowards who pissed on the Party of Lincoln did. They may not have wanted Trumpists to murder a police officer and parade the Confederate Flag through the Capitol, but they encouraged that outcome nevertheless. If you throw a burning torch into a dry forest, don’t act surprised when the forest burns down.
Not all of Trump’s sycophants in Congress are playing the cynic’s game. Some, such as Lauren Boebert, are True Believers. I have no doubt that Boebert sincerely believes that the election was “stolen” from Trump. In her mind, the coup was perpetrated by the Democrats in the form of election fraud. The problem is that Boebert’s beliefs here bear no relationship to reality. Boebert is not a fascist. She is merely an idiot (and not an especially useful one). She is a conspiracy-mongering dupe who enthusiastically embraced Trump’s lies. She too “encouraged” the Capitol invasion in the sense discussed above. She may not have wanted that outcome, but any reasonable person would have feared a violent outcome. As Gabriel Sterling warned in early December, “Someone’s gonna get killed.” That Boebert is not reasonable is hardly a point in her favor.
Given that Boebert is now (just a few days into her term) the most well-known Republican in Colorado and the subject of a popular campaign to pressure her to resign her House seat, I want to focus the rest of this article on her.
Let me state, publicly, that Boebert should resign. She is an embarrassment to Colorado and to every decent Republican. But I know that she will not resign. Congress should seek to eject her, but I don’t think that will happen either. Congress at least should minimize her participation, as by denying her committee seats. Within the state, Colorado Republicans should commit to finding and supporting a decent Republican candidate to run against her in the next primary. If they fail, then the voters of Boebert’s district should replace her in the general election.
On the morning of the Capitol assault, Boebert Tweeted, “Today is 1776.” Wrong. If Boebert would bother to read the Declaration of Independence, she would find “that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”—such as a presidential tempter-tantrum—and that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that [people] should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Trump’s incompetent lawyers offered conspiracy mongering, not “causes,” and the courts quickly saw through the charade.
Boebert’s reference to 1776 did not come out of the blue. People promoting domestic terrorism used the “1776” hashtag the night before the assault, as NBC reports. Shortly after security took Vice President Mike Pence to safety, someone shouted, “Time to take back what’s ours! A new 1776 has just begun!” Another person near the Capitol said, “You’re seeing something in America you haven’t seen since 1776.”
These Trumpist references to 1776 are ignorant. The Trumpists who mobbed the Capitol, and those who make excuses for them, are the spiritual kin of the bloodthirsty French who executed the Reign of Terror, not of America’s Founders. Trumpists murdered a police officer and assaulted others. They assaulted and threatened to murder journalists. They called for the murder of Vice President Mike Pence. Right across the street from the U.S. Capitol, Trumpists posted the sign, “Off with their heads: Stop the steal.” They also set up a noose. Meanwhile, Trumpists in Arizona brought a guillotine to their state capitol.
These Trumpists are in fact the populist mob the Founders warned about. They embody the antithesis of the spirit of 1776. In Federalist 10, Madison warned about the “violence of faction” that threatens to “convulse the society.”
On the morning of the Capitol assault, Boebert took the floor to shout out fact-free accusations that the election had been stolen. She learned nothing from the violence that resulted from such irresponsible conspiracy mongering, for three days later she Tweeted, “Hillary must be pissed it took the DNC until 2020 to successfully rig an election.” Meanwhile, various other Trumpists, on the basis of such fraudulent claims of election rigging, agitated for more domestic terrorism.
Boebert is unworthy of the office she holds. Other Colorado Republicans who care about the future of their party will do what they can to make her tenure as brief as legally possible.
Boebert’s Chamber Tweets
I’ve made my main points. While I’m at it, I also want to address various other issues surrounding Boebert, starting with her Tweets from House chambers during the Capitol assault. As Chase Woodruff reviews, Boebert Tweeted in quick succession, “We were locked in the House Chambers,” and “The Speaker has been removed from the chambers.”
Some of Boebert’s critics make this out to be Boebert intentionally signalling to the seditionists the location of Nancy Pelosi. Of course she denied that. If she had done that, she would be a traitor. But I don’t think that’s what was going on. I think her Tweets were borne of foolishness rather than of treachery.
When I first saw the Tweets in question, I assumed that Boebert was merely playing amateur journalist and reporting the situation. And I still think that’s the best explanation for her actions. But her Tweets were extraordinarily foolish.
Here is Representative Eric Swalwell’s account: “[Boebert] was told by the Sergeant of Arms in the chamber to not make any social media posts. It was said repeatedly. She defied it because she is more closely aligned with the terrorists than the patriots.” Senator Brian Schatz wrote in response to Boebert’s second Tweet, “We were specifically instructed by those protecting us not to tell anyone, including our family, where exactly we were, for reasons that remain obvious.”
In a later call, “Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) got into a heated exchange with first-year Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), raising concerns that Boebert risked lawmakers’ safety by tweeting their location during the lockdown,” the Hill reports.
Boebert released a statement saying that the Democrats are hypocrites for trying to “punish Republicans for false accusations of inciting the type of violence they have so frequently and transparently supported in the past.”
There are two points to make here. First, there is a difference between directly inciting violence and actively encouraging it, as discussed above. Boebert did the latter but not the former. Second, she has a point about the very explicit sanction of leftist violence by various people on the left. But that’s just not the discussion at hand. Domestic terrorists stormed the United States Capitol looking to overturn the presidential election results. That is the issue. How about Republicans remove the log from their own eye first, and then we can get back to denouncing leftist violence.
Boebert also pretends that what is going on now is somehow comparable to previous legal election challenges. What we’re talking about is Trump making extra-legal election challenges and about a Trumpist mob assaulting the Capitol.
Boebert also suggests that Joe Biden did not denounce “antifa” violence; he did.
Boebert made her name on the gun issue by challenging Beto O’Rourke, who had said openly that he wanted government to (selectively) confiscate people’s guns. Recently she put out a video in which she appeared to carry a concealed handgun through the streets of Washington D.C. (she didn’t really) and in which she pledged, “I will carry my firearm in D.C. and in Congress.”
She’s not the only gunnie in Congress. Madison Cawthorn, who is also facing calls to resign, said he was armed during the Capitol assault.
Some people have made out Boebert’s gun video to be about encouraging the violent mob that later stormed the Capitol. But it wasn’t.
Indeed, on this issue, I actually agree with Boebert: Members of Congress who want to carry a concealed handgun should be allowed to do so. How much more evidence do we need that Congress is vulnerable to attack? We are extremely lucky that the Trumpist terrorists did not find and execute any members of Congress. Obviously members of Congress should have the means to defend themselves.
Colorado Representative Jason Crow was prepared to fight his way out of the Capitol with a pen, Kyle Clark reports. Listen to Crow’s harrowing account. To put the point bluntly: Anyone who thinks that Crow, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan, and his colleagues would have been worse off had Crow been armed during the assault is a moron. Indeed, Crow said, “I was looking for whatever weapons I could use. There was a moment where . . . I was going to ask one of the officers for his gun, because I didn’t know whether or not he was capable of using it. And I don’t mean in terms of training. Those of us who have been in combat know that some people, at that moment, just can’t do it. But I know that I can. And I wasn’t going to allow harm to come to my colleagues. I decided not to [ask for the gun].” I write this knowing full well that Crow is a Democrat who might not say he’s in favor of arming members of Congress.
What Congress should do is issue a sidearm to every member who requests one and pay for intensive training. Congress also should spend some funds to fortify the Capitol building to create more-defensible positions. Right now the United States Capitol looks vulnerable not only to every domestic terrorist in the country but to every miscreant in the world. Congress should do everything in its power to communicate that anyone who violently invades the Capitol will be met with overwhelming lethal force. It’s time to look tough and be tough. You don’t fuck with the United States Congress.
Jake Tapper Tweets, “That metal detectors were just put up outside the House Chambers comes after House Dems expressed concerns about GOP freshmen violating gun laws, and amidst fears about possible complicity with the Jan 6 terrorists by some House Republicans.”
Okay, if the concern is about such “possible complicity,” then obviously Congress should immediately investigate and eject members where appropriate. There could even be a rule disarming any member (within the Capitol) under such investigation. You don’t leave all the other members helpless against a bloodthirsty mob should it slip past, overwhelm, or incapacitate the capitol police.
Of course, nothing I’ve written here is an excuse for not complying with existing Capitol security rules.
Media and Commentary about Boebert
Here I’ll briefly review some of the other commentary about Boebert.
Colorado governor Jared Polis condemned the “failed insurrection.” He wrote, “There are credible allegations that some members of congress at the very least gave aid and comfort to the rioters, and therefore should not be able to hold office again without a two-thirds vote by each house pursuant to the 14th amendment.” He didn’t name names.
Former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler complained about a Denver Post article about Boebert. Gessler ridiculously asserts that Barry Goldwater “would look at Representative Boebert as a kindred spirit.” Gessler writes, “Conservatism is a rich and varied intellectual tradition that easily embraces Colorado’s newest Congresswoman.” This merely proves that “conservatism” is meaningless. If we think of conserving American Constitutional government, obviously Boebert has helped put that at profound risk, so by that standard she is an anti-conservative.
Quentin Young writes (among other things), “Those who helped spread election-fraud disinformation are unfit to hold public office. This includes the president, members of Congress, state lawmakers, city council members, town trustees and volunteers on the local school board. They should resign, face expulsion or otherwise be removed by legal means.” That’s too strong; the mere spreading of “disinformation” is not disqualifying. He adds that Boebert “has made false claims about the election being fraudulent, and she has dog-whistled a violent response.”
Denver Post reporter Alex Burness summarizes, “Boebert is a week into the job, and the [Kansas City Star] seems to think she’s already toxic enough that Pompeo should explain himself for simply appearing in a photo with her. It’s been fascinating to watch the world outside of Colorado get acquainted with her.”
The (leftward) Colorado Times Reporter published “A Brief History of Rep. Boebert’s Ties to Extremist & Conspiracy Groups.”
A while back I compiled a few other media links about Boebert.
Image: Tyler Merbler