Nightmare at noon in America

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Olatunji Dare

In America, they are still reeling from the terror unleashed last week by President Donald Trump’s goons on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington DC, where members of the House of Representatives and the Senate were staging the final act of last November’s Presidential election: the certification of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the duly elected President and Vice President, respectively, of the United States, preparatory to their taking office on January 20.

Trump would have none of it.

He had disputed the outcome even before the election, declaring that he would not accept it unless he won.  A Biden win could occur only through rigging, and he was not going to accept it.  He maintained this claim in the face of documented efforts by his fellow Republicans to rig the ballot through a sustained campaign of voter suppression, voter intimidation, and disinformation.

They left nothing to chance.  At a time when the postal service should be at its most efficient, they set out to undermine its capacity to deliver, scrapping tens of thousands of postal outlets across the country; they took out and cannibalised thousands of functioning automated sorting machines and cut the work drastically.

If the post office could not deliver before deadline the hundreds of thousands of mailed-in ballots, a recourse favoured disproportionately by Democrats, would not count.  Advantage Republicans.

The right to vote is perhaps the hardest-won right in America’s civil and political life.  Millions of citizens marched and picketed for it; thousands were beaten, brutalised and jailed for demanding it; hundreds were killed in the process, many of them dispatched with a savagery that calls the humanity of their assailants into question.

Trump and his henchmen and women placed in strategic offices in the States sought to turn voting into an obstacle course and confidently expected their hand-picked judges at every level of the judiciary to  seal the steal, a strategy he had perfected in a life time of skullduggery.

He lost the election unequivocally.

The master of the art of the steal bellowed at every forum, his face turning crimson, that the election had been stolen.  He pivoted on six states which the GOP had traditionally won, and challenged the election outcome there.  In every one of them, the courts dismissed his petition for lack of merit, while taking judicial notice of its shoddiness.  In one court, the judge was so scandalised by the quality of the petition submitted by Trump’s attorney that he considered a verbal rebuke too mild; he was going to report the shyster to higher officials of the judiciary and the professional Bar.

And the matter went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where three of the justices appointed by           Trump, two of them for the express purpose of giving the Conservative justices a permanent 6-3 majority, voted to deliver a unanimous 9-0 decision against Trump, affirming the verdict of the lower courts that his petition was meritless.

Georgia, long a reliable Blue (i.e. Republican) state, was his last stand.  Even if he was awarded its six electoral votes, that would still not have translated into a Trump presidency.  They recounted the ballots by hand, and still he lost. His Georgia petition was denied, like all his previous petitions.

Fast running out of options, Trump confected yet another scheme: implore, threaten, cajole, or otherwise suborn Georgia’s Secretary of State to “find” him 12,000 votes that would flip the result of the presidential election in the state.  The official, a fellow Republican who knows more about honour and fidelity to oath of office than Trump can ever pretend to know, refused.

Not daunted, Trump saw a silver lining in the darkening cloud.  The Republicans would win the two outstanding Senate races in Georgia, leaving the Republican Party in control of that powerful chamber to protect his baleful legacy and frustrate Biden’s agenda.

Another will o’ the wisp.

Scheme after desperate scheme fizzled, leaving the Congressional certification of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris as president-elect and vice-president elect respectively as his last chance to flip, beg your pardon, steal the election. He was counting on Mike Pence, the vice president and his Man Friday, to execute the steal by a parliamentary subterfuge.  Pence, the designated presiding officer, said he had no such powers.

The U. S. Congress was going through the solemn formality of certifying the winners of the 2020 Presidential election when Trump loosed his febrile followers who had massed in their thousands on the precincts of Capitol grounds from all over the country brandishing  their handcuffs, guns, lead pipes, pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and all manner of cudgels.

Their mission, as defined by Trump in an exhortation perfused by violent imagery: To prevent their victory at the last election from being stolen.  Republicans want to be nice, respectful of everyone, including “bad” people. Not anymore.

“We are going to walk down to the Capitol. . . You’ll never take back our country with weakness, so you have to be strong . . . You’ll have an illegitimate president.  That’s what you’ll have, and we can’t allow that to happen. . . We will never give up.  We will never concede . . . You don’t concede when there is theft involved, and that is what this theft is all about. . . We will stop the steal.”

They had come fully prepared.  Hadn’t Trump warned them that it was going to be rough?

It was more than rough.  It was mob action at its most barbarous.  They raced up the steps of the Capitol their weapons, screaming and cursing, pushing and shoving the few police officers standing guard, using the pipes and crutches and their fists and their legs as battering rams in a futile bid to break the door leading to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suite.

Others clawed or bludgeoned their way into the Capitol and trashed it with a malevolence that you thought only the bitterest enemies fighting a war of attrition could carry out.  Americans and the whole world watched in horror and in disbelief.

By the time the Capitol police was reinforced four hours later by the National Guard, two police officers and three members of the invading force lay dead.  If the lawmakers had not been spirited away to safer spaces, or taken cover wherever they could find a shield, however flimsy, there would have been bloodshed on a much larger scale.

House Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Pence were marked for the cruelest treatment.

From the White House, Trump who had said he would march with his supporters to the Capitol, watched the mayhem with bemused satisfaction on live television, surrounded by his family.

He stopped just short of congratulating the insurrectionists on their heroism.  They were patriots, who did what they had to do, he told them in a video address. Mission accomplished, it was time to disperse and go home. “We love you,” he told them as he signed off.

When the smoke had cleared and the hoodlums had departed, the Congress resumed its deliberations and certified the election outcome Trump had fought with might and main to block.   He cannot now claim, as he would have done if his goons had succeeded, that the election was inconclusive at best.

Even as he fiercely disputed the election results, Trump and his lawyers and his proxies provided not a scintilla of credible evidence to back his claim that the whole thing was rigged. Their case was based almost entirely on conspiracy theories, the most ludicrous of which was that his bête noire, Hugo Chavez, the former president of Venezuela who had died some six years ago, had been seen orchestrating the fraudulent transfer   of Trump’s ballots to Biden.

They forgot to add Fidel Castro. And Muammar Gadaffi. And Robert Mugabe.  And John Lewis.

It has been asked insistently in America and abroad:  If the crowd that was just one step away from riotous action had comprised Blacks or Latinos, of Muslims, would the law-enforcement officials have related to them with such indifference we witnessed, to say nothing of the friendliness they showed the insurrectionists, exchanging banter and taking selfies with them?

The inescapable truth about America lies in the answer.

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