Partha Chakraborty is an Indian-born immigrant; a naturalized US Citizen since 2018. Educated in India and at Cornell University, Partha is currently an entrepreneur in water technologies, Blockchain and wealth management in the US and in India. The views expressed are his own.
Many images define January 6, 2021, the day of infamy for our Republic – shirtless man on Pence’s chair with face paint and Viking headgear, man lounging with feet on the table inside Speaker’s office, men with zip-ties, cooing couple on the Senate pulpit taking selfies of each other, broken windows and doors, the lectern thief, rampaging mobs in corridors… A few are somber. The long chair inside Speaker’s Office where a dozen junior employees and interns hid in darkness for two and half hours, door barricaded with chairs, waiting for the mob barge in from the next room. The Capitol Police officer screaming in sheer pain as he is being crushed between doors. The Senate Chamber with officers ducked and guns at the ready. Empty leather folders whose contents, affidavits from States, were whisked away by the Parliamentarian who, correctly, guessed these would be a target. Throngs going from room to room looking for the Speaker, the Parliamentarian and the VP chanting “Hang Pence” barely 100 feet away from the 1st in the Order of Succession, and, the 2nd not far away. Somebody erected wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool; “execute the Traitors” they shouted, “I wanna see executions”.
From across the Mall, the President was sending them missives of love and support, if not direct instructions, his groupies were having gala time watching the melee unfold, and, the First Lady was busy with a photo shoot featuring White House rugs.
Let’s set a few narratives straight. First, this truly was an assault on America’s democratic core. “Stop the Steal” was itself a flagrant, and repugnant, attempt to overturn people’s wills when there is no credible evidence, whatsoever, of voter fraud of scale. Attempts failed at all levels of state legislatures, courts, taken all the way the Supremes by a legal team with no sense of propriety, egged on by the President and his canards, inflamed by lackeys in the Congress, amplified within echo-chambers of a servile media then dumped on gullible millions. In the end it came down to a pathetic attempt to influence the VP from his ceremonial task of certification of the electoral college votes; and failing which, stealing of actual paper certificates so as to usher in chaos. By all means necessary, was the direction. “If Patriots seize floor of the Congress an argument can be made that they have the right to assemble their own Congress” ran one set of arguments, “President Trump can invoke the Insurrection Act and govern by martial law while Patriots are in the Capitol and send the military to dismiss the Capitol Police”. If the Supremes are not going to do this, we must, went another ‘logic’. “Hang all the Congressmen”, “give them the rope”; and if VP Pence got cold feet in overturning will of the People, hang him too, they said.
Second, preparations for the storming have been going on for months. It was not just about premonitions of a “wild” day at Ellipsis, detailed maps of Capitol were circulating on social media platforms, along with instructions of which implements to bring for a break-in. Only now we know that intelligence agencies were aware of an undefined “big plan”, they just did not act properly in response. It begs a question as to why Capitol Police declined help from National Guard ahead of the insurrection, or why some appeared to open gates, even take selfies with the mob. Introspection can wait till we mourn death of Officer Brian Sicknick who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Third, the chain of incitement went all the way to the top, President Trump and his aides. The Wall Street Journal reported that from the “Election Day through Wednesday, the president’s family members, lawyers and a group of allies had posted more than 200 times about election fraud on Twitter”, those were “retweeted nearly 3.5 million times and liked more than 9 million times”. He started telling us what would come way back in July, telling “The 2020 Election will be totally rigged if Mail-In Voting is allowed to take place, & everyone knows it.”. His lead was followed by his aides, and lawyers, who kept throwing allusions to rebellion, a civil war with “Freedom Loving Americans are on side of truth” and “Socialists/Communists/Globalists are on side of lies.” Martial law became a rallying cry, forget the irony of freedom-loving Americans. Taking their message to all “Republicans who have not been willing to actually fight”, they called for a “trial by combat”. Really??
Where does that leave us? First the good news. Democracy and the Rule of Law survived even if assaulted by the Potentate and his plebes. The election was duly certified as soon as the Capitol was rid of the insurgents, mostly without bloodshed. Lifeblood of narcissistic nihilism (nee, social media) was cut off from the egregious, but that is only the first step.
Condemnation poured in from all corners of the world, but, we will live the ignominy for years, generations even. We have all grown too cozy in viewing ourselves as the beacon of transparency, democracy and rule of law, even when flawed by original sins, as generations of women and men sought refuge by the thousands, yours truly included. We were right to preach lofty ideas and higher standards to the rest. I wonder if we still have a bully pulpit. Cautionary tales about democracy will include a chapter on Jan 6 events, no matter who the author is – China, Russia or North Korea. When world talks about hubris of the United States, they will allude to a neo-Dictator who almost ravaged the fabric of our existence. When our Diplomats talk about sanctioning a country for failing on democratic principles, these countries will want to send observers to our election process.
No matter how much they try to deny it, the Republican Party must accept responsibility for letting it happen. Even after the incident, over a hundred Republican Congressmen, Senators included, rose up and argued for overturning a Federal election on the basis of “allegations”, not evidences. Republicans abetted this President and his cronies umpteenth times by looking aside, or worse, providing support that no elected official should have been accorded in the face of corruption, self-dealing and anti-democratic behavior. A day of reckoning must happen, now. It sure looks bleak for them. Republicans made a deal with the devil long back, leaving them with no fall back option as Trumpism defined their core. The Party can ill-afford to throw Trump aside; days after Capitol Insurrection at a Republican Retreat scores of sycophants sang praises to Trump with no objection.
That Trump must face the music is an easier said than done. Impeachment with conviction is an obvious choice, but it makes a martyr out of him, politically, in my opinion, not ideal near term. Fallouts of Impeachment will define Biden administration long before they have time to work on priorities. A better choice is to treat Capitol Insurgency as a criminal matter and leave it to the DoJ and FBI. This will take time, a Special Prosecutor proceeding can keep it within limelight in a contained fashion. Let the Legislative Branch can take up Impeachment after a full-court is given in time for Trump’s possible 2024 run. If a criminal conviction comes before, even better.
It took five days for me to get off a state of shock. In between, I was at a place far beyond pinching myself and wondering if I moved through a warp to a parallel universe. Denial soon gave way to extreme fear of apocalypse to follow – if this could happen, and happen here, today, who’s to say that the other could not? Can Trump invoke Insurrection Act, throw scores into jail and shut down the Internet, and declare martial law? Can they upstage the inauguration? Can they swarm on the streets and cause bloodshed? Frankly, I do not know now. I could never, not once, have guessed what rained on us with his active patronage on Jan 6th, so count me among the naïve and the wary.
“The Mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol, they shattered the ideas we took for granted”, said Arnold Schwarzenegger, a fellow immigrant. I could not agree more. I wonder if the prodigious concoction of democracy, market economics and freedom appears too easy to those who never felt an absence. Maybe that is why they wish martial law upon themselves so easily. Maybe that is why they can storm and ransack the House of the Legislature without concerns of a repercussion. Maybe that is why they continue to worship the False Prophecy of a Demagogue.
I do not have that luxury. I came by choice, primarily in search of higher ideals fulfilled. I did recognize Trump as evil, had to and even he helped me. It saddens me that he still is a potent force, c’est la vie! That is the course of law and democracy, until he is proven guilty.
We do not know how strong our foundation is until tested, and we were. Somebody shook us up good but we are still standing, tall and proud, democratic and free, shining city on the hill with flaws, just as ever. Amen!