Lynching: An Alternate Interpretation of 1/6/2021

Professional historian of lynching and mob violence Guy Lancaster has an article up at HistoryNewsNetwork.org that interprets the mob violence of 1/6/2021 not through the lens of rebellion, insurrection, sedition, and treason, but through the lens of lynching. I think it’s a great read, although I would caution that I don’t think it’s appropriate to ignore the currently-dominant interpretive framework of 1/6/2021 as an insurrection. Lancaster’s work (at least according to me) should be additive rather than substitutive.

Why does Lancaster see lynching in the events of 1/6? Well, some aspects are easy: they were looking for people to publicly execute, AOC, Nancy Pelosi, and (not least!) Mike Pence to name just three. They had set up a makeshift gallows (which may not have been sturdy enough for actual executions, though the mob clearly had effective means for murdering others at their disposal). They were white as fuck. But there’s much more than that.

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Vice-Presidential Precedent

Mike Pence has ruled out invocation of the 25th Amendment. I could try to analyze his entire statement, and I’ll post it below, but right now I just want to focus on one sentence:

Invoking the 25th Amendment in such a manner would set a terrible precedent.

Let’s be clear here, Pence is claiming that it would be wrong to communicate to future presidents who aspire to tyranny and the violent overthrow of our constitutional order that such a betrayal of our nation and our constitution renders one, by definition, unfit to hold the power of the presidency.

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Trump: The Worse Fate

So I had thought a bit about self-pardons and Trump, as you might have read. I had also thought of civil cases being brought against Trump. But the last week has been so hectic I didn’t even stop to think about the tradeoffs between self-pardons and civil cases. (To be fair, the consequences for the country are more important to me than the consequences for Trump.)

But ABCNews has a piece up that directly addresses civil liability and briefly raises the fact that a pardon of any kind (issued by Trump to himself or issued by any subsequent president to Trump) is terrible for Trump’s ability to defend against a civil suit.

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Seth Abramson Makes the Case For Charging Trump With Sedition

Seth Abramson analyzes Trump’s January 6th rhetoric in a thread that deserves wider exposure. As does his subsequent thread analyzing the speeches at Trump’s rally that immediately preceded his. Here’s the link to his analysis of Trump’s own words:

 

And here’s the link to the analysis of the speakers before him and the context that they create for understanding Trump’s speech:

 

This next quote is a particularly telling bit, but all of it is worthwhile. (I just wish he’d written the thing outside of twitter & linked it.) Read this:

 

There’s lots more. I’m not sure that 100k people actually attended the rally (others put the number at 30k or thereabouts), but besides using the larger end of crowd estimates, what he’s saying makes a reasonable case that this was knowing, willful incitement on the part of multiple speakers, including both Trump and is son.

Takeover: Movement toward justice

Quite a number of years ago, I joined with some students who had taken over the administrative building of their college. I wasn’t at the takeover when it happened, but I was asked to come speak to the people who had. It was a very odd thing, from my point of view. I was new to the campus and honestly didn’t understand the specifics of the grievances that led to the takeover, but I had been invited as a guest lecturer specifically because the student body trusted me and wanted my opinions on various topics related to feminism, anti-racism, queer liberation, trans liberation, and disability. Several of those were implicated, most prominently feminism and racism, and I think it made sense to the students to have a competent facilitator for certain discussions related to them, but also to have a facilitator without baggage, without a history at the college. I had something of an educator’s patina, but no relationship to the administration or its past choices. Thus I was invited, and thus I went.

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The ONLY Radical Idea

Republicans are, predictably, screaming that impeaching Trump is a Bad Idea™ because excuses go here. Pence literally left Pelosi on hold for 25 minutes before having an aide say that he wouldn’t talk to her. He knew she wanted to talk about the 25th. Not only had he decided he did not want to invoke the 25th, but he didn’t want to talk to anyone about invoking the 25th. Commentators, of course, are complaining that the country doesn’t need the divisiveness of removing Trump from office before his term expires.

But here’s the thing: there’s nothing Trump (or any President that aspires to dictatorship) could do that would be worse, or more desperately requiring impeachment or punishment, that could ever result in impeachment or punishment.

Think it through: Trump has engaged in a failed, violent coup. The only thing “worse” is a successful, violent coup – and that’s not worse because of presidential behavior. It’s only worse in terms of its impact on us. But in a successful coup, impeachment or arrest would (by definition) be unavailable as remedies.

So this is it: Trump conspires with a mob to kill a cop and nullify democracy itself so that he can hold executive power for (at least) four more years. Why would the Republicans & commentators be against using impeachment or the 25th for literally the worst presidential conduct that could possibly be available as a basis for impeachment or removal?

It comes down to what I have said many times. I honestly can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that this isn’t a well known aphorism invented 200 years ago, but it seems to still be something that only I say. So at the risk of self-aggrandizement I’m gonna scream it out loud yet again:

The ONLY radical idea is accountability for people with power. All else is mere reform. 

Impunity is a core value of rulers and people who think of themselves as the ruling class. But we must reject this. If we must wait until a president launches a successful coup before impeachment becomes available as a remedy, then we have, with invisible but indelible ink, rewritten the constitution to erase all possibility of presidential  impeachment, now and in the future. If we do that, the doctrine of impunity has won. The details of dictatorship may change in the following years or decades, but having relinquished the possibility of accountability for those with power, we relegate all future efforts to nothing more than reform.

We must, in this moment, demand accountability, or we have lost ourselves and the republic of the United States of America.

25th THE FUCKER NOW. IMPEACH THE FUCKER MONDAY. JAIL THE FUCKER WITHOUT BAIL.

Must Read Piece from NBC News: Republicans Predicted This in 2016, Then Got On Board Anyway

Liberals & progressives & general lefties have been screaming for years that Trump is unfit for office and that he has openly said and done things for years that should have disqualified him from serious consideration in 2016, much less the presidency over the last 4 years. Sometimes we feel like Cassandras, doomed to be disbelieved even as we tell the truth about our country’s inevitable fate.

But Republicans, too, warned the country. Nearly unanimously when Trump first entered the race the people in power in the GOP denounced him. They even compared Trump and his base to the No-Nothings of the 1850s who rioted in the capital and destroyed marble meant to finish the Washington Monument. Lindsey Graham famously declared that the GOP “will be destroyed” if they nominated Trump. “And we will deserve it,” he concluded.

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