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Pro-Trump rioters entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstrations in the nation's capital during a joint session of Congress to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Pro-Trump rioters entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstrations in the nation's capital during a joint session of Congress to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

This Is an Insurrection Incited by Trump

This coup attempt was entirely predictable. In fact, it was predicted.

Jeffrey C. Isaac

Normal political order has broken down.

The prescribed Congressional proceeding to confirm the presidential election results has been disrupted.

The peaceful transfer of power has been subverted.

The Capitol building has been taken over by violent protesters.

Pence, Pelosi, and Grassley have been evacuated by Secret Service.

All others who work in the building are barricaded behind doors locked with chains.

This is an insurrection incited by Trump.

This was entirely predictable.

Every legal expert who said "Biden won, and of course he'll be confirmed on January 6" should be embarrassed.

Every media commentator who said "it's just a performance, just show" should be embarrassed, for it is some show—a demonstration that fascism lives in the "heart of democracy."

Every reputed academic expert who mocked "tyrannophobia" and bleated about "neoliberalism" should be embarrassed.

This is precisely the kind of "synergy" between "inside and outside" rejectionists that many feared. It is precisely the kind of chaos that Trump wanted. Almost every Republican has been playing with fire for years, months, and weeks, and those who orchestrated today's obstruction on the floor of the House were lighting new matches. At least some of them knew exactly what they were doing. All of them are responsible.

Homeland Security and the National Guard are yet nowhere to be seen—a most curious delay.

The President is nowhere to be seen—now that he has set this chaos in motion.

Commentators are asking why Trump is not restoring order. The reason is clear: he wants disorder, and he deliberately incited it.

Mitt Romney has declared it "an insurrection."  Will Trump invoke the Insurrection Act?

Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger has called this a "coup." Because it is a coup.

Will the violence spread in DC?  Will militia violence spread in other cities?

It is obvious that everything related to the confirmation and inauguration of Biden-Harris has been disrupted, obstructed, delayed.

It is obvious that the "rule of law" hangs by a thread, and even in one of the most "secure" locations in the world, it can be breached.

It is obvious that the law does not speak or act for itself.

Normal Constitutional due process can be relied upon only during normal conditions. These conditions have never been normal these past four years. And every single person who arrogantly stated with certainty that today, January 6, what was supposed to happen would happen, just because it was supposed to, has been shown up for their foolishness and credulity.

Constitutional democracy in the U.S. is now in mortal crisis, whatever happens in the next day or two.

There may be a transfer of power.

But there cannot be a peaceful transfer of power. Because the peace has already been disturbed, and the only way any transfer of power can now possibly take place will require massive police and National Guard presence and heightened security for all public officials except those who have aided and abetted the coup.

It is time for everyone to stop making believe that this is normal, that standard operating procedures can be taken for granted, and that everything will be ok. We can't know this.

It is time for everyone to stop describing what is going on as "banana republic." What is happening is happening here, and now, at the encouragement of the President and many of his most important allies. It is a sign of the sickness of U.S. democracy.

Political theorists and philosophers of social inquiry should be surprised by none of this.

Things spin out of control.

The reproduction of normal social life can be disrupted, for good and for ill.

Some forms of power are cruel, violent, and profoundly anti-democratic.

Elections can produce autocrats. And autocrats cannot be expected to act with respect for legality, democracy, or mere decency.

Coups can happen in different ways.

We are now in the middle of one.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Jeffrey C. Isaac

Jeffrey C. Isaac

Jeffrey C. Isaac is James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. His books include: "Democracy in Dark Times"(1998); "The Poverty of Progressivism: The Future of American Democracy in a Time of Liberal Decline" (2003), and "Arendt, Camus, and Modern Rebellion" (1994).

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