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No Way to Run a Superpower

The January 6th Committee made hay out of the portrait of George Washington handing over control of the army back to congress after his final term. Nice, but it misses the mark. Washington didn’t want to run again. The man never lost an election, but chose to go back to private life because at the time the US government was so small that you couldn’t really make a killing being a politico. Washington wanted to go back to his plantation and speculate of land in Pennsylvania and make a private fortune on which, as Father of the Nation, he had no intention of paying taxes. Washington didn’t lose to John Adams, he was his hand-picked successor.

The crucial election in US history was the next one, where Thomas Jefferson won and the ruling party handed the reigns over to the opposition peacefully. That was the precedent that held until 2020. Much has been made of the mutual trust and respect of politicos in the olden days too – it’s hard to believe that they trusted each other, and if you read what was written at the time, there wasn’t much respect either. As grim as that sounds, it exposes the sloppy genius of the American system: Mutual trust and respect are nice, but not crucial for the system to work.

You don’t have to trust each other, just the system. And the system was brilliantly built on the assumption that people don’t trust each other and never will. With historical hindsight, we know that there was plenty of voter fraud pushing John F. Kennedy to the White House. It probably wasn’t enough to change the final result, but Richard Nixon certainly thought it was. Even that oily paranoid had the good grace not to carp on it after all was said and done. Al Gore did, but at least his carping was somewhat data driven and when the data said he was wrong, he let it drop. Hillary Clinton sniffed about winning an election she’d lost by being the only American less likable that Trump (...it hardly seems possible now). Georgia’s Stacy Abrams is still sniffing an election she claims was stolen through voter fraud.

Therein lies the difference. All of the above grumbled to themselves, complained to the courts or whined to the media, but that’s all they did. Donald Trump did a lot more.

Did he coordinate with the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers? In the bizzaro-world of US politics anything seems possible, but that doesn’t mean that anything is possible. Given Trump’s thinly veiled contempt for the common man and other ‘losers’, my guess is probably not, but that’s just a guess. The Proud Boys thinking that a tweet was a personal invitation from the president doesn’t make it so any more than a billboard for Ladies Night at McTweed’s is a personal invite from your local bartender. It only makes the Proud Boys delusional. Was Trump happy they were there, reveling in the chaos their violence created? It sure looks that way. Inspiration, though, isn’t coordination. To make this a coup, in the real sense of the word, it would have needed to be an inside job. Trump, or someone in government, would have needed to be in on the planning. Was there was actual coordination, enough to make a conspiracy or a coup? At this point it will be very hard to prove without documentation. Which the committee very well may have.

More obvious, with a trove of supporting data, is that former president used the power of his office to monkey with legitimate results of an election that he knew he’d lost. The texts and emails are there, the people he tried to bully to his will have largely testified and it all points to the same conclusion: Election fraud. That should be enough for the Department of Justice to act. It’s not as sexy, colorful or theatrical as misusing the word coup, but it has the advantage of being provable. Al Capone, it should be noted, went to jail for tax evasion, not for selling booze, drug, women or killing people in heaps.

As for the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, throw them under the jail too. Which is what should have happened to the Antifa crowd earlier that summer when their Democratic cheerleaders where the ones claiming that violence and chaos was legitimate protest.

Inspiration does not necessarily mean conspiracy for either camp. For the January 6th Committee, it is the weakest part of the narrative they are crafting. That's fine if this is all just one big political commercial ahead of the mid-terms. If the plan is to make a recommendation to the justice department, drawing the inspiration and conspiracy together is not the legal ditch they should be prepared to die in. In short, if this committee doesn’t want to look like it is grandstanding, it ought not act like it is grandstanding.