Monday, January 11, 2021

“Spontaneous combustion” at the Capitol Building on Jan 6

Sociologist Keiran Healy has a fascinating conjectural account of what happened at the Capitol Building on January 6, 2020:

From the moment he knew he’d lost the presidential election, Trump absolutely wanted to get the result overturned. Some large proportion of his own staff and Congressional Republicans thought there was no harm in humoring him. Many surely knew him well enough to realize he was quite serious about it. But most, falling into a way of thinking that Trump has repeatedly benefited from over his entire career, and especially during his Presidency, figured that he could not possibly overcome the weight of institutional and conventional pressure behind the transition of power. Still, by the first week of January he had not relented in his efforts to find some way to do it, whether through bullying local election officials, chasing wild geese through the courts, or directly intimidating state officials. That all failed, or looked like failing. The next thing on the horizon was Electoral College certification.

So, Team Trump organized a big day of protest to coincide with the certification. The MAGA hats and Q people got all excited. Initially, Pence was going to be the guy who’d sort things out by using his made-up authority to reject the votes. But then he said he wouldn’t do this, which complicated things considerably. By this stage they were running out of rope, but Trump’s whole m.o. is just to keep pushing and pushing until those charged with stopping him just get tired, give in, or give up.

The plan for Wednesday was to have Trump go down and rile up the MAGA crowd, have them march up to the Capitol steps, and look like a big mass of people demanding something be done.

And, to put a short gloss on the rest of the post, they pushed and they pushed until the whole thing blew up in their faces. They were hoping something would happen that would overturn the election, or at least throw another monkey wrench into the works, though they didn't have any clear idea of what that might be, but they had no intention that the Capitol Building would be entered and trashed. But things got out of control.

...the White House very quickly found itself in a supercharged version of the situation that Cruz and Hawley are also in. They presumed they could cynically ride this movement for their own ends. They gleefully lit match after match, and eventually to their horror they managed to set themselves on fire along with everyone else. They clearly incited these events. They saw them spin rapidly out of control. They ended Wednesday afternoon with five people dead, the Capitol defiled, and the country stunned. They definitely wanted to overturn the election, which by itself is a subversion of representative government. Their efforts produced a messy putsch into the bargain, and got people killed. They should be punished for it as severely as the law permits, and they should never be allowed to live down their responsibility for what happened.

H/t Tyler Cowen.


  1. And there is the disgusting act of Eric Trump and family watching the rioting action on monitors while partying to cheer on the destruction.

    1. Yes. The depravity of these people is extraordinary.

  2. I take comfort in the fact that in my local community other than that hushed sense and understanding of what we are living through, surrounded by decent everyday people, living life as best they can.

    Invisible presence. But you take comfort where you can.