I wasn’t going to comment on this subject until the weeklong media commemorative of the first anniversary of the U. S. Capitol riot droned on into a second week, highlighted by asinine comments by President Biden and Vice President Harris, and I couldn’t resist. Their characterizations that there is currently a “dagger at the throat of democracy” and that January 6, 2021 will join in history with December 7, 1941 and 9/11/2001 as dates that will live in infamy are so over the top as to actually insult the memory of the victims of the truly infamous dates in our history.
This is not to withhold condemnation of those who participated in the breaching of the Capitol, and I have already expressed my outrage at the disgraceful actions of the perpetrators of this riot and the failure of duty and character demonstrated by Donald Trump in his incitement of it and failure to stop it. And we certainly should expect that responsibility for it should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and this should include a thorough investigation of the actions, or absence thereof, by House of Representatives leadership and the Capitol Police in preparing for and responding to the event. What happened should never happen again.
But first let’s name it for what it was, which isn’t an insurrection by any legal or dictionary definition that I can find and, according to my sources, not one of the over 700 defendants under investigation has been charged with insurrection. And it wasn’t a coup. So far, there is no evidence beyond a few disorganized kooks that there was a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Later in the day, the House voted to certify the elector outcome. Our democracy and its institutions held up very well. Kathleen Parker notes that it turns out that the majority of those arrested and charged were what might be called regular folks, and she wonders what might have happened if the really bad guys had showed up. Good question, and as I have suggested before, when the insurrection really happens, we’ll know it, and it will make January 6 look like a walk in the park. One more question to ponder: Which is the more serious threat to our democracy and the rule of law, the January 6 Capitol riot or the summer 2020 riots and looting in major cities across the nation by Black Lives Matter and Antifa?
Finally, several commentators have noted that one significant impetus to the riot in the first place was the ambiguity and exploitation of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which can be read to allow a majority of Congress to disqualify a state’s electors after the Electoral College has voted. Attempts of abuse of this law have been used before, but not to this extent. It seems obvious that one big step toward a bipartisan effort to fix this problem would be for Congress to repeal it.