You don’t get historic events along very often, and even more rarely do you get to watch them roll out in realtime on the television while being able to discuss them with just about anyone else on the planet.
Not being American I don’t take too much notice of US politics, but nonetheless I was aware that President Trump had called on his supporters to turn out for a big demonstration on the sixth of January. I didn’t pay it a lot of attention. Demonstrations in Washington are not all that rare, and it seemed to be simply a last opportunity for the man to use his position to boost his ego.
But due to the lockdown I was at home with the television on when the demostrators started to break into the Capitol Building. It was then that I discovered that the chosen date for the demo was not random, but had been chosen to coincide with the official confirmation of President Biden’s appointment.
This began to feel a bit sinister as events proceeded. Was this an actual intervention to overcome the result of the election? If so was there some plan playing out in front of our eyes?
It was compelling stuff and I found myself neglecting my work to keep track of the state of American democracy. The thought that was running through my mind was that the plan was to create a crisis that would require a state of emergency to be declared giving the current president powers to do, well, more or less anything. This would follow the broad pattern of military coups in other times and other countries. The unique feature would have been that in addition to the normal round ups of political opponents and strict controls on the media, we’d have had a load of photo opportunities and sound bites from the orange triple flusher. He’d have probably coined a nickname for the coup too.
Fortunately the crowd dispersed relatively quickly and by the next morning (by UK time) it looked to be over and there were no tanks rolling through Washington.
It was quite a fright though, and in the days afterwards the the magnitude of what nearly happened is growing in my mind rather than diminishing. It looks very much like it was a genuine attempt by the president to create the circumstances under which he could keep his job. Footage shows him and his closest team gleefully watching the events on television, much like I and I imagine a great many other people around the world were. His orders were for the National Guard to hold back.
It looked a lot like an attempt to create a Yeltsin on the tank moment, or even a Reichstag fire event. Will we shortly learn that there was a plan drawn up to take control of the media, put troops on the streets and cancel the normal democratic processes? We don’t know yet, but there are a lot of players in this drama who will no doubt be telling their stories in the next few months and years. This might well go down in history as the day there was nearly a fascist coup in the United States.