by Edwin Quinabo
Jan. 6, 2021, will go down as one of the darkest days in US history as Trump supporters stormed and breached the US Capitol to protest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
It’s being called a coup, an insurrection that resulted in five deaths, and could have potentially ended in a massacre of the nation’s top leaders from both chambers of Congress, including the top three presidential line of succession: Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate President pro tempore Chuck Grassley.
The insurrection was a catastrophic failure in security as lawmakers were forced to hide in undisclosed underground locations; while above them, intruders ran amok through the sacred halls of the People’s House, ransacked offices and destroyed property.
The fiasco was a cautionary tale of unpreparedness on the security side; but also of what dangerous rhetoric can lead to.
Mobs threw journalists to the ground, stole and destroyed their equipment, battled Capitol security forces with metal pipes, flag poles and forcefully snaked their way up as barriers one by one were run over. Insurrectionists with more villainous intentions had heavy duty zip ties intended for hostage-taking. Two pipe bombs were found nearby.
“Hang Mike Pence,” the rioters roared. Obscenities reverberated at Speaker Pelosi — the ugliness of the audio caught on camera, almost matched the ugliness captured on film.
In the front of the Capitol, insurrectionists constructed makeshift gallows with a hanging noose. The gallows, clearly references the French Revolution when leaders were beheaded; the hanging noose, is a grotesque symbol of the hanging of American slaves.
Post-Insurrection and Groups Responsible
Since the insurrection, 25,000 National guard troops, fully armed have been patrolling the Capitol grounds and perimeter in preparation for the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden. Extra fencing have been erected and razor wires placed atop them in key high-security areas. Parked military trucks act as barricades to block off cars have been placed all along seven blocks near the Capitol.
Over a hundred arrests have been made; and the FBI has issued dire warnings of possible violence at Capitols throughout all 50 states.Gov. David Ige said state sheriffs are working with the Honolulu Police Department to protect Hawaii and the State Capitol if necessary.
Who are the main groups that stormed the Capitol? According to the FBI, among the rioters were right-wing elements, white supremacists, QAnon, Proud Boys, militia and other fringe groups.
Besides the radicals present were Trump’s most trustworthy base, White, male, Republican and Christian supporters.
Hawaii resident Nicholas Ochs who founded Proud Boys Hawaii also took part in the Capitol siege. He was arrested on touch down at the Inouye International Airport in Honolulu and charged with trespassing at the US Capitol.
Ochs ran for state House of Representatives as a Republican in last year’s election.
His opponent who beat Ochs, state Rep. Adrian Tam, said, “It does not surprise me. This is a person who has made offensive remarks about the Jewish community, women, the LGBT community, immigrants, Muslims, you name it, he’s made fun of it.”
Is Trump To Blame?
The US Attorney Michael Sherwin investigating the Capitol siege said Trump may be a part of his investigation. A possible criminal case could be launched against the president if evidence requires it.
Prior to the Capitol riot, Trump led a “Save America” event near the National Mall, spurring supporters to go to the Capitol. In a 70-minute address, he exhorted them to march on Congress.
Trump said, “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. We will stop the steal. We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore. We are going to the Capitol.”Critics of the president said that rally whipped the mob into a frenzy.
Political analysts, historians and media pundits said Jan. 6 could be seen as a buildup of tension and division over years.
Timothy Snyder, a historian, professor of history at Yale University, fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, says the riot at the U.S. Capitol was “completely and utterly predictable” given President Trump’s record of stoking extremism and undermining democratic institutions.
“The American republic is hanging by a thread because the president of the United States has sought to use violence to stay in power and essentially to overthrow our constitutional system,” says Snyder.
Patricio Abinales, professor at the University of Hawaii, said “Trump should be made to answer for this act of terrorism. Not only did he encourage them [rioters] in that speech [on Jan. 6], he also had been repeatedly protesting in Twitter that the election was stolen. His statements were chiliastic and reminded me of how the Ayatollahs of Iran ‘inspired’ their supporters to sacrifice themselves in the Iran-Iraq War. In a country where 8 out of 10 Americans believe angels exist, and 22% believe that American politics is all conspiracies, Trump had no problem getting a fired-up following. The terrorist attack on the US Capitol will go down as the biggest and most successful con job of a celebrated bunko.”
“The article of impeachment approved by the House of Representatives today lays out what we have all witnessed over the last few months – President Trump lied repeatedly about the results of a free and fair election, attempted to cheat by pressuring election officials, and incited an insurrection that resulted in a violent attack on the US Capitol and the deaths of five Americans.“— U.S. Senator Brian Schatz
If the Capitol siege was a reckoning of vitriol and lies, so was Trump’s second impeachment, a reckoning of justice and truth.
House Democrats and 10 Republicans moved to impeach Trump less than a week from the Capitol attack. In a vote of 232-197, the House voted to charge Trump with “inciting violence against the government of the United States” for his role in encouraging the insurrections who stormed the US Capitol.
Trump is the only president ever in the US to be impeached twice. The impeachment moves to the US Senate for a trial that could, if Trump is convicted, bar him from ever holding political office.
Both Hawaii Congressmen Ed Case and Kai Kahele voted to impeach Trump.
In freshman Congressman Kahele’s first floor speech at the Hill, he said Trump violated his oath of office by inciting a “deadly insurrection. Our sacred oaths are hollow without accountability.”
Case said the president “gravely endangered the security of the United States and the institutions of government.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono on her Twitter account said prior to impeachment, “I join Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in calling for Donald Trump’s immediate removal from office. If the House votes to impeach him, I’d welcome the chance to vote for his conviction a second time.”
Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement, “The article of impeachment approved by the House of Representatives lays out what we have all witnessed over the last few months – President Trump lied repeatedly about the results of a free and fair election, attempted to cheat by pressuring election officials, and incited an insurrection that resulted in a violent attack on the US Capitol and the deaths of five Americans.”
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, formerly a Hawaii resident and a leading Asian American Pacific Island (AAPI) lawmaker also called for Trump’s removal.
California Congressman Ted Liu, also an AAPI lawmaker, was one of three congressmen who drafted the second Articles of Impeachment. He said of impeachment, “This is not partisan, it’s about America.”
New York Congresswoman Grace Meng and AAPI lawmaker blamed Trump for inciting chaos, violence, and the destruction at the US Capitol.
Professor Abinales agrees with impeachment. “The American system is a system of laws. Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection, and to counter this illegal and undemocratic act, the government should use all available legal weapons in its possession,” he said.
Pearl City resident Kelly Pascual says she’s not a very political person but was angry over the attack at the Capitol. “What Trump did by his words and false claims that he lost the election is lead his supporters to attack another branch of our government.
“He had his own vice president there. But I don’t think it mattered to Trump. He only cares about himself. I’m glad he was impeached. He should also be criminally charged. And the family of the officer who died in the riot deserves justice, too. They should sue Trump in civil court,” said Pascual.
She adds, “Trump didn’t do all the inciting alone. These lawmakers who contested the certification of the election are in part to blame. If lawmakers didn’t agree to contest the results then there would have been no protest to begin with.”
After the insurrection, lawmakers reconvened to vote on the certification where they left off. Led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Montana’s Josh Hawley, a total of seven senators voted against certification. One hundred twenty-one Republicans rejected the Arizona certification and 138 Republicans rejected the Pennsylvania certification.
The Senate and House majorities are mulling over possible censure of the lawmakers who voted against certification.
Some Democrat lawmakers accused Trump of giving oxygen to radicals and say Republicans who stood by him were enablers. They say calling for unity or to tone down the rhetoric now without accepting responsibility or accountability is hypocritical. Where were these same Republicans the past four years when Trump was dividing the country? – is a common question, Democrats are asking.
Pascual said if Republicans are now saying they want unity and to move forward, then “make the right bipartisan move to convict in the Senate. This is a first step to bringing the country together.”
Lynn, who chooses to remain anonymous, is a Republican and frequent church-goer. She says she doesn’t condone the violence that happened, but still thinks Trump was “good for our country.”
“Many of us who support Trump think he wasn’t treated fairly since he got elected. I still think he won in some of those close races,” said Lynn. Evangelical Christians have been Trump’s most ardent supporters. Eight in 10 Evangelicals voted for Trump in 2020; they comprised 23% of the entire electorate in 2020.
Survey On Capitol Siege
Lynn is not alone for her continued support of Trump even after the insurrection.
A new survey by YouGov found that 45% of Republican voters backed the attack on the Capitol, while 43% said they “strongly or somewhat” opposed the protestors’ behavior.
An overwhelming 96% of Democrats said they strongly opposed the actions of pro-Trump supporters; and 67% of independents said they opposed it.
Republicans Going Forward
Prior to the Capitol siege, many Conservative Republicans had already left the GOP. Prominent conservatives like George Will and the Lincoln Project group. NYT Tom Friedman suggested that anti-Trump Conservatives would do better to form a new third party that would, in essence, render impotent the current dominance of Trump radicals in the GOP. This new party would only need a few members. For example, in the Senate, just a handful of them could caucus with Democrats on few issues and stifle any Trump camp initiative.
While Liz Cheney, third-Tanking House Republican, is not at this point willing to abandon the GOP. She, along with nine other House Republicans voted to impeach Trump, signaling growing discontent with the party under Trump’s leadership.
“A violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President,” said Cheney.
Right-Wing Media, Corporate Responsibility
Nothing happens in a vacuum and it’s becoming clearer how the 30-some years of right-wing media (primarily Fox News) has helped to build up radicalism in the US with half-truths and outright lies. This hasn’t been more revealing in the past five years in their defense of Trump, media analysts say.I
t has been described that the recent insurrection is like the pain the nation has been feeling in their chest, but ignored that warning year after year. Then suddenly a heart attack happens (the violent coup at the Capitol) and now is the time to act.
Recognizing the powerful influence of right wing media and social media can have, Amazon, Apple and Google removed the new ultra-conservative app Parler from its cloud hosting and web service. Parler has become the alternative social media platform for Trump supporters and right-wing elements. It has been said Parler is the social media haven where lies and disinformation have been spreading like the non-evidenced based lie that the 2020 presidential election was wrought with fraud. This is why corporate Tech giants pulled the plug on Parler, as a preventative measure against future right-wing violence.
JP Morgan and Citibank, long-identified as the power centers and trendsetters of Wall Street, have decided to stop PAC donations to those who voted to overturn the election. Following their lead, the finance firm Stripe announced they will no longer process payments for Trump campaign website.
Marriott says it will ban all donations to the 147 Republicans led by Cruz, Hawley and Kevin McCarthy who voted against the certification of the Electoral College. Morgan Stanley and Dow will do the same.
Ford, CVS, Target and Exxon Mobil are said to be reviewing all their future donations to the Trump Republicans caucus.
Microsoft, Facebook, BP, Deloitte, VISA, Coca-Cola are pulling the plug on all political contributions temporarily.
Corporate newspaper giant Houston Chronicle has called on Sen. Cruz to resign.
Former Honolulu resident now Marketing graduate student in New York, Meghan Arreola says she’s pleased with the moves corporate America is taking.
“It’s important that corporate America sends the message that they will not tolerate insurrection and the breaking down of the rule of law.
“If we are to have a country based on democratic principles and our current free market system, corporations need to do their part to preserve our way of life. The assault on the Capitol and the dangerous radicalism we see growing are too much for corporations to sit down and idly watch,” said Arreola.
She adds, “Our country needs to come together. But first, those who have done damage should be held accountable. It’s not a two-sided situation. Those who’ve helped to incite insurrection should never receive a dime of PAC money from corporations ever, and not just for a few months.”
Right-Wing Violence In The Future
Since Trump took office, right-wing violence against people of color and religious minorities have escalated in the US. While Trump is leaving office, the siege of the Capitol leaves people uneasy that right-wing violence could persist.
“I worry that if my Filipina daughter ends up going to college in a part of the mainland where right-wing and fascist groups exist, she could easily be targeted for her skin color. But I am not just worried about the US. Right-wing violence has become pervasive even in Asia, including the Philippines where a President [Rodrigo Duterte] thinks that he is the law and can do anything to anyone who is not rich, including ordering their execution, and get away with it.”
On Trump’s Departure
Pascual said she is relieved that the Trump era is over. “I just hope the Senate moves to convict on impeachment so he can never hold office again.”
Lynn wants more of Trump. “He’s been a leader for Christians. Many of us want to see him running in 2024.”
Arreola said “With Trump gone, I hope racial tensions will get better. As a minority student even at a university where the general population tends to be more enlightened and educated, the atmosphere Trump created in this country sometimes can get to your head. At times you think, ‘I wonder if he or she supports Trump, and what impressions that student might have of me.’ We shouldn’t have to be worrying about these kinds of things [racism] in the 21st century. We’re better than this. But with Trump being rejected for a second term, I think we are all feeling more at ease.”
Abinales said “It’s about time [his presidency is over]. The fellow is an ignoramus (knows nothing about global politics.) He’s a couch potato rather than an administrator. He spent more time watching cable television and posting on Twitter than governing; refusing even to read the daily intelligence briefing. He’s a misogynist, or what we Filipinos call manyakis, and a racist. I cannot think of any other American president – including even the promoter of native American massacres, Andrew Jackson – comparable to Trump.
“And as someone concerned that over 200 career diplomats who were experts on Asia had left the State Department since 2016, thereby allowing rival powers like China to take the lead in promoting regional cooperation,’ I am hoping that his departure will afford the US a chance to recover its place in Asian regional politics. That said, I am not optimistic that it will be able to do this within one presidential term.”