A republic, if we can keep it
We remember how democracy is supposed to work, right?
Good evening. Voting in the 2020 presidential election ended 64 days ago. The inauguration happens in 14 days.
Let’s talk about first principles.
Armed far-right extremists breached the United States Capitol today, and entered into a standoff with Capitol Police officers outside the chamber of the House of Representatives. One might call this series of events shocking — but on reviewing the sweep of American politics over the last 10 years, one could just as certainly call it inevitable.
Democracy is a means of settling disputes. In a teeming society, people — being idiosyncratic and free-minded — have disputes; it’s preferred, if one wishes to continue to have a society, to settle such disputes by means other than wooden clubs, brickbats, or fisticuffs.
And so we vote.
We vote, and we agree to abide by the results. We count the votes. We count those votes according to agreed-upon rules, drafted with public knowledge, and litigated beforehand if needed. The votes are counted in a public and transparent process and certified, after reviews and checks. The winners proceed while losing factions nurse their disappointments, and regroup to fight another day.
What we have seen over the last 10 years, however, has not been the nursing of disappointments — but instead a nursing of grievances. It has been a nursing of grievances by victors in our political process, who hold the presidency, have disproportionate influence in Congress, and hold the majority of governors’ offices and state legislatures. It has been a nursing of grievance that was led, in the last four years, by the president himself.
I mentioned the armed mob. A new member of Congress — Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), one of the first-term representatives who touts the Q-Anon mass delusion — released a video early this week that bragged of her intent to carry her firearm into the United States Capitol.
“Government does NOT get to tell me or my constituents how we are allowed to keep our families safe,” she says.
News flash: in a democracy, we — the people — are the government. Why should Boebert need to keep herself safe from … herself?
Is that what she truly wants?
I doubt it. As can be observed with the proliferation of ‘stand your ground’ and open-carry laws at the state level in recent years — as demonstrated by the decision of Texas lawmakers to force public universities to accept open-carry on their campuses — an inherent function of the open brandishing of weapons is to deter. To intimidate. Take it from those who have been made to feel intimidated:
Moves that encourage the retention of a private right to use force — by bragging of carrying one’s Glock into Congress, by lionizing an accused shooter of lawful demonstrators, by celebrating people whorun demonstrators over, or by making tacit reference to people arming themselves to nurse grievances as “American Patriots” — undermine liberal democracy, in the lower-case senses of both words. They encourage the idea that people can veto the democratic process with the threat of force.
As today shows, that idea is not — and never was — a mere threat.
That should not need to be said, one would think, in the greatest democracy in the world. No one should need reminding that mob intimidation and violence have no place in a democracy — and are its exact opposite.
If the greatest democracy in the world, I should say, is what these United States are.
Anyway, today members of Congress failed to certify the electoral college victory of President-elect Biden, having been forced to disperse by extremists marauding around the Capitol building. The Department of Defense mobilized the District of Columbia National Guard to secure the Capitol complex — after officials in Maryland and Virginia had rendered the Pentagon’s earlier refusal beside the point by mobilizing their own National Guards in neighboring states.
Also, Democrats won control of the Senate, sweeping the two runoff elections in Georgia — giving them control of the elected branches of the government of the republic, if they can keep it.
In the Conversation
I’ll forgo the usual links in this issue, as developments today moved too swiftly for writers to digest by the deadline.
Biden Hires and Appointments
On Tuesday, the Biden-Harris transition team announced multiple selections for the White House staff:
Reports indicate that an announcement of Merrick Garland — the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals — as President-elect Biden’s nominee for attorney general is imminent.
Your Moment of Doom
R.I.P., MF Doom (1971-2020).
American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the issues and ideas that will define the Presidential transition period from Nov. 3, 2020, through — are we there yet? — Jan. 21, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Have questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.
Did someone forward you this email? Don’t forget to subscribe: