On the second day of the senate trial for Trump’s second impeachment, Democratic impeachment managers showed chilling video of the marauding mob rushing through the Capitol building, looking for various politicians. At one point, Senator Mitt Romney rushes out of his office and starts running down a hall, only to be met by a cop running the other way. The cop gets Romney to turn around and flee in another direction. Just seconds later, the mob appears at the end of the hall. In other instances, politicians are herded to safety while the House impeachment manager explains that the mob is just less than 100 feet away, down some stairs.
Given the erection of a gallows outside (surely built and disassembled before hand and then reassembled on the spot, meaning planned well in advance), and given that some of the mob were carrying zip tie cuffs, these politicians very likely barely escaped with their own lives. Even Mike Pence barely escaped. (The mob was chanting “hang Mike Pence”.)
Trump Set Up Protest Date
The impeachment managers also made it incontestable that Trump was central to the planning of this all along. Shortly after the “Million MAGA March” of December 12, one of the organizers of that march called for protests on January 21 and 22 (that is, after Biden was to have been inaugurated). Shortly after that, Trump tweeted a call for a protest on January 6 (the day the electoral college vote would be made official), and it was only then that plans formally got under way for that date.
Trump stoked flames
The House managers showed again and again the calls and plans for violence that were appearing on 4chan and 8chan. It was clear that Team Trump was aware of these plans. His response was to continue to stoke the fire with one demagogic tweet or speech after another claiming the election had been stolen.
He continued to play that role for hours after the mob had invaded the Capitol.
In other words, Trump systematically and consciously stirred up a mob bent on lynching a whole series of politicians (including Trump’s own vice president) and overthrowing the election. While far more widespread bloodshed was only avoided partly by luck, there never was a chance that this mob of an estimated 800 thugs would be able to actually overturn the election results. Cause chaos and even possibly postpone the ultimate certification of the electoral college vote? Yes. But not overturn it entirely.
In reality, 0.2% difference
But the videos of this coup/lynching attempt and what lead up to it should give us pause. We should remember that it was only Trump’s final attempt at overturning the election. And he was a lot closer to success than one might think. In the first place, he came a lot closer to outright winning than the overall vote count shows. If Georgia, Michigan and Arizona had gone for Trump, he would be the president today. And the difference was just 0.2% in Georgia and Michigan and 0.3% in Arizona.
If Georgia or Michigan had made difference
Or supposing just one state, say Michigan or Georgia, had meant the difference, what then? If Raffensberger in Georgia had known he’d have president Trump to protect him for the next four years, can anybody really guarantee he wouldn’t have changed the vote count? After all, he is closely associated with the voter suppression there and he now is supporting prohibiting mail-in voting unless a voter will be out of town at the time of elections.
Or how about Michigan? Remember when Trump called that state’s election officials Lee Chatfield and Mike Shirkey back to DC to try to convince them to fraud the Michigan vote count? They were met at the airports both on their departure from Michigan and on their arrival in DC by liberal pressure groups. Evidently that had an effect this time. But consider Shirkey: He is an associate of the same crowd that had planned to kidnap and execute that state’s Democratic governor. Can anybody be confident that he would not have frauded the vote count in that state had he known that doing so would result in Trump returning to office?
White supremacist lynch mob
This is not a matter of seeing Biden and the Democrats as the saviors of the working class. Nor is it a matter of having great sympathy for the likes of Romney or Pence. It’s a matter of understanding what that lynch mob was after. After all, does anybody think that if a working class socialist had been caught by that mob she or he would not have been torn limb from limb? One black Capitol cop reported having been called a “n” dozens of times by that mob on January 6. That is not even the tip of the iceberg. Stoked by Trump, they and millions of others were and remain enraged that black and Latino voters denied them their presidency. That is what the whole “stop the steal” is all about. “We white people had our right to choose the president taken away from us.” And when the mob interspersed “Stop the steal” with “Fight for Trump” they were saying that any election result other than a Trump victory was unacceptable, no matter how much he lost by.
Republicans and Democrats
It is also untrue that there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. Saying that is like saying that there is no difference between a crocodile and a lion because they both eat zebras. Known in the past as the party whose entire membership could fit inside one country club, the Republicans used to be the preferred party of the capitalist class. They were the party better suited to the more overt attacks on the working class as well as also more overtly stirring up bigotry of all sorts. While the Democrats also participated in this, their most important role was to divert any movement of workers or specially oppressed groups away from working class independence, meaning away from building a mass working class party. In order to accomplish this, they had to have their liberal wing which pushed for concessions to workers. That wing also pushed for reforms to limit discrimination of all sorts. The existence of that wing has made it difficult, although not impossible, for the Democrats to take the lead in attacking and also dividing the working class.
However, the Democrats also are dependent on this system of alternating power between the two parties. As a result of this, they depend on the continued existence to the Republican Party, as it used to be – the party controlled by the likes of Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney. They have a vested interest in the apparently lost cause of trying to help that wing regain power over that party. That is why the entire focus of attack in this trial is on Trump as an individual, rather than on the party that has enabled and encouraged him all along. By doing so, they weaken their own argument about the clear and present danger of what Trump & Co. have stirred up. We will see what happens, but it’s nearly certain that the Republicans will ensure that Trump gets off the hook. So the Democrats will have ended up with the worst of both worlds: A Trump who is free to continue is bigoted demagoguery and a Republican Party that can maintain its base.
The capitalist class ruled by shifting back and forth between these two parties. It was able to do so only because the two parties worked together, which was made possible because, in truth, while there were some differences in their approach and their program, the differences weren’t that great. An essential element for both the parties was to keep bigotry of all sorts simmering on the back burner but not stoke the flames to the extent that it would boil over. Were that to happen, stable “democratic” rule would be impossible.
Election “stolen” (from white voters)
Yet that is exactly what is happening now. Consider, for example, the main areas where the “stolen election” myth is aimed: One is in mainly Latino areas of Arizona. Another is areas in and around Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and Detroit (Michigan). Finally, there is the state of Georgia, whose black voters mobilized twice to defeat Republicans. (Black people compose 32% of Georgia’s population as opposed to about 13% nationally.)
Stolen election indeed. More like “stolen” from white bigots and Christian fanatics. That is the significance of a recent poll (https://www.americansurveycenter.org/research/after-the-ballots-are-counted-conspiracies-political-violence-and-american-exceptionalism/) which showed that 36% of Americans and 55% of Republicans agree that violence may be necessary to preserve “the American way of life.” (We all know what“American way of life” means: standard, middle class, Hollywood-scripted, white culture.)
The US capitalist class has ruled for over 150 years by keeping these forces alive but under control, at least nationally. (They were given free reign in a minority of the country – the Southern states – for decades.) They see no reason to abandon this means of rule at this time. The fact that Trump came so close to getting reelected shows the degree to which their control has eroded over the last ten years or so.
If January 6 was what Trump stoked while he was on his way out the door, imagine what he would have done had he had another four years.
Next four years
Over the next two years, there will be an all-out push to get Republican state election officials who are more reliable than the likes of Raffensberger and Shirkey – officials who are willing to openly steal elections, especially away from black voters. The way to combat them will not be lobbying or telephone blitzes. It will be through an independent mobilization and organization of the working class. If there is one thing all wings of the Democratic Party fear more than a racist overthrow of US capitalist democracy, it is exactly such a mobilization. All the more reason to break from their thrall.