Wednesday was shocking for anyone who watched the mob break into the Capitol Building on a live stream. But it was a good day for democracy. The Capitol Building was secured and the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was certified by Congress.
And the American public finally got to see the MAGA alt-right movement for what it is.
What happened on Wednesday didn’t surprise me, apart from the timing. I knew there would be significant trouble, but I had not predicted that the insurrection would happen so quickly after Trump’s speech, or that law enforcement would be so ill-prepared to handle the mob.
At earlier rallies, like the Black Lives Matter rally last summer, the troops were out in full force, waiting for the crowd. On Wednesday, when Trump set his troops loose, there was only a small crew of cops staged in front of the Capitol to handle an aggressive crowd of several thousand.
It took until nightfall for the building to be cleared and National Guard troops deployed through the streets.
It is hard to know how this happened. At best, it was a grave tactical error.
Part of it may be about the truly confusing array of chains of command in law enforcement in the nation’s capitol — Metro cops, FBI, ATF, Secret Service, etc. Perhaps it was simply a blunder.
A more compelling theory is that the law enforcement forces in the capital arm up for left-wing demonstrations and stand down for right-wing ones.
When Trump riled up his troops on Wednesday morning, maybe it just seemed that it would be a kind of peaceful protest. But anyone who knows about what has been happening in the alt-right over the past months and years knew that there would be violence.
I knew about the storm that was descending on DC. Everyone I talked to last week did. I assume law enforcement agencies did, too.
The only thing that surprised me on Wednesday was that the protection was so thin around the Capitol that a citadel of U.S. democracy was breached. It was just a bunch of angry white American men and women, not Al-Qaeda or ISIS — but that makes it worse.
On Wednesday, the American public got to see this truth: the forces of white terrorism hold the greatest threat to the U.S.
We saw them in action — the Patriot Front, The Proud Boys, the III-percenters, The National Socialist Order, and all their ilk within the white supremacist militias.
We certainly will see them again, and we need to be ready for them.
I was prepared for what happened on Wednesday, but most people in the United States were not. That included a lot of people in Congress, many of whom had supported Trump’s scorched earth tactics. Some of the film footage and still photographs inside the Capitol building showed people who were truly in fear.
Wednesday seemed a bit like 9/11 to me — a day I remember well. There is something of the same kind of shock, but of course not with the same scale of human tragedy.
The alt-right militias that exist across the United States and the sense of permission they have been granted by Trump and through the mechanisms of social media are a far greater threat to the fabric of the nation than any foreign enemy.
I think Wednesday was a great day for American democracy. The events were harrowing, and the repercussions may last for months. But Joe Biden is president now, and the Democrats took the Senate by winning two seats in Georgia.
The pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church, will be the first Black American senator from Georgia since reconstruction times.
And on Wednesday we saw the enemy. It is a real enemy. It is a cadre, not a force, but the forces that lie behind these armed white terrorists are real — racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and hatred of American institutions.
Now everyone can see who they are and what the forces are. We will have to face them now.
Trump has lost the presidency. The real work starts now.