Sedition Day: Overthrowing Democracy is Not the Same Thing as Protesting Police Violence
As Biden told us, we stand at an inflection point of history. The fate of democracy here and around the world is actually hanging in the balance. Hopefully our Attorney General was listening...
Today’s the anniversary of hundreds of Capitol police, House and Senate staffers, Members of Congress and others who work in the seat of our nation’s government successfully fighting back the first violent assault on a congressional session in the history of our republic.
Trump’s followers and fellow-travelers — including 139 Republicans in the House and 8 in the Senate — tried their best to end our way of government. They incited, participated in, and now are justifying the first violent attack on Congress since the Constitution was signed 235 years ago.
They failed. Congress resumed their session deep into the night of January 6th to complete the transition of presidential power, a process that had always in the past been peaceful.
The 147 members of the “Sedition Caucus” — Republicans all — who endorsed and tried to complete the murderous work of Trump’s mob will be remembered by history along with America’s greatest cowards and traitors. Their names will go down as peers of Benedict Arnold and Robert E. Lee.
The rest of Congress — Republicans and Democrats — who stayed and completed the job of certifying President Biden’s election are heroes.
As are the staffers and police who helped hold the building and protect the ballots while preventing the planned assassination of the Vice President and Speaker of the House.
Therefore, I believe, future January 6ths should be days of celebration for democracy’s victory late that night one year ago today.
England has a similar moment in its history, when Robert Catesby, Guy Fawkes and their fellow seditionists tried to blow up Westminster in 1605 “during the state opening of Parliament, while James I and his chief ministers met within…”
“In the aftermath,” the Encyclopedia Britannica notes, “Parliament declared November 5th a national day of thanksgiving, and the first celebration of it took place in 1606.”
Today it’s celebrated with fireworks and revelry: the traitors were defeated and the nation still stands. We may want to consider something similar here.
We should celebrate our victories.
But our “Guy Fawkes Day” situation isn’t yet resolved.
On the eve of the anniversary of America’s Sedition Day, our Attorney General, Merrick Garland, spoke to the staff of the Department of Justice and the nation.
One high note was when Garland explicitly noted that (conservatives on) the Supreme Court gutted voting rights in the Shelby County case, and therefore Congress needs to act now to return to the DOJ the power to defend voting rights against state governments hell-bent on racialized voter suppression.
He discussed the horrors of Sedition Day in admirable length, concluding: “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
One would expect, of course, nothing less. He left far more ambiguous, however, the question about what will be done with people in Congress who conspired to overthrow our government.
Garland then noted that “violence” is happening across America:
“We have all seen that Americans who serve and interact with the public at every level — many of whom make our democracy work every day — have been unlawfully targeted with threats of violence and actual violence.”
He mentioned that “election officials and election workers; airline flight crews; school personnel; journalists; local elected officials; U.S. Senators and Representatives; and judges, prosecutors, and police officers have been threatened and/or attacked,” and that it was the work of the DOJ to hold the perpetrators to account.
Virtually all of the acts of violence directed at ending our form of government were perpetrated by followers of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
Garland, however, chose not to mention that, or even to imply that Trump and the Republican Party following him have been at the core of most of this political violence, to the point that many of them are raising money over it.
The two non-partisan exceptions to Republican-led violence were a man with no discernible political motivation who attacked a federal judge who’d ruled against him, and a handful of anti-fascist protesters (who also distrust Democrats) in Portland and a few other cities who damaged property and engaged police in riots.
None of these represented efforts to overturn a presidential election and end democracy in America.
But instead of calling out the political violence being incited and promoted daily on rightwing media and exclusively by Republican politicians, Garland’s sole reference to “white supremacy” was in the context of the era in the 1870s when Reconstruction collapsed.
In this speech he had the opportunity to differentiate between the politically motivated violence that happened on Sedition Day and the more random violence of a lone pissed-off criminal or people protesting killings by police. He could have made that clear.
“[I]n 2020, a federal judge in New Jersey was targeted by someone who had appeared before her in court. That person compiled information about where the judge and her family lived and went to church. That person found the judge’s home, shot and killed her son, and injured her husband.”
This man’s crime was completely unrelated to January 6th, unrelated to the politically motivated violence we’re seeing on airplanes, and unrelated to the armed white supremacist militias who tried to end our form of government while waving their Trump flags.
So why would Garland conflate that one man’s crime with those of 10,000 Trump followers on January 6th in Washington DC and thousands of acts and threats of violence by militia groups around the country since in his very next sentence:
“These acts and threats of violence are not associated with any one set of partisan or ideological views.”
Seriously: Say what?!?
It’s totally understandable that the Attorney General and the Department of Justice want to appear even-handed in their administration of the law, particularly after Bill Barr lied about and then redacted the Mueller Report and used the DOJ to punish Michael Cohen when he “ratted out” Trump, among other things.
And Garland presides over a DOJ that probably has as many Republicans as Democrats working for it, including a significant number of Trump administration holdouts.
But to suggest that political violence and an effort to end our form of government — the topic of his speech given in the runup to Sedition Day — was “not associated with any one set of partisan or ideological views” is the most tragic form of both-siderism.
Perhaps it’s because what Betsy Woodruff Swan is reporting for Politico is right: that nobody in the Justice Department is seriously looking at Trump and his inner circle.
I had hoped that Garland would have the courage to call out the rightwing white supremacist violence specifically associated with Donald Trump and his followers in the Republican Party, and condemn it. His own FBI, after all, has already identified it as America’s number one terrorist threat.
I tweeted about this yesterday:
The avalanche of trolls who attacked me were almost uniformly trying to conflate the January 6 attack on our democracy with the “BLM/Antifa” outliers who engaged in local vandalism to protest police violence.
The two are completely different issues, but clearly this is now the Trump faction of the Republican Party’s strategy.
Whenever patriotic Americans mention the Sedition Day effort to end our form of government, Trump apologists will shout about protests against police killing unarmed Black men as if the two were identical or even similar.
They are not.
Garland has a tough job. Our nation is under attack not just by neofascists within but by several foreign governments giving them encouragement and online support through armies of trolls on the outside. They’re working together to bring down democratic governments across the world, and aren’t shy about it.
But if you don’t face reality and take it on, it has a way of biting you in the ass further down the road.
One wishes our Attorney General had the courage and honesty to bluntly lay out for the American people and the world the genuine threat our form of government faces because one of our political parties has been captured by neofascists, instead of implying that there are “bad people on both sides.”
Today’s speech by President Biden, however, specifically and clearly pointed out the dangers we face because the Republican Party has embraced a wannabe fascist dictator who openly disdains democracy.
It was brilliant.
As he said, we stand at an inflection point of history. The fate of democracy here and around the world is actually hanging in the balance.
Hopefully our Attorney General was listening.