Storming the Capitol

 Habib Fanny’s answer to What do you think about the fact that 45% of Republicans said they strongly or somewhat support the storming of the Capitol? correctly points out that the reported figure is nonsense. But the somewhat smaller numbers that may not support the storming but fail to consider it an attempted coup do not really disturb me.

I don’t actually think it was an attempted coup myself, in any but a few of the perpetrators’ and instigators’ minds. What I think most of them thought they were doing is attempting to shame, rather than coerce, the Republican senators into acknowledging the rampant fraud that they were convinced those senators really believed had happened.

And I actually feel some sympathy for the sense of profound disrespect and contempt that people like that correctly sense as coming from people like me.

Also (drifting even a bit more off-topic from the question here) I don’t really mind the doomed-to-fail legislators’ challenges and protests. Whichever way a US election goes there is often an objection at that stage from part of the losing side, and these do need to be heard and voted down.

In fact some of the objecting legislators’ speeches were not so much making claims of fraud as claims of non-transparency, and while I do favour mail-in or internet ballots, both in the current special circumstances and going forward, I think that it is not unreasonable for some to feel that the verification process needs to be reviewed and perhaps modified for future elections – both in the US and here in Canada. For example, when I submitted my mail-in ballot in our recent BC election, I was both annoyed by the silly extra “secrecy” envelope and troubled by the fact that with our current mail-in voting procedures we make a mockery of the idea of a secret ballot as there was nothing to prevent my wife from demanding to see my ballot and offering punishment or reward in order to control how I filled it in. (And I could well imagine churchfulls of fundamentalist bigots getting together for a communal voting event in which there would be a lot of social pressure to conform to the community leaders’ preferences.)

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1 Response to Storming the Capitol

  1. alan says:

    My friend John Butler sent a thoughtful reply by email. I have copied it below with some embedded responses.
    On 2021-01-12 12:59 p.m., wrote:
    Qpr Pasha,

    I sat down to compose some thoughts on your message about last week’s events in Washington, only to discover, to my embarrassment, that I had inadvertently deleted your message.
    Well your memory seems to be very accurate, but if you ever want to be re-exposed to any of my nonsense it’s all still up there on the vanity page.

    Ergo my thoughts are based merely on my memory of what you said.

    Your message concentrates on what doesn’t bother you about last week’s events. As a reader, I’m wondering if there is anything about those events that does bother you.
    Are you really?!

    As well you use imprecise words like “few” wanted a coup and “many” were simply protesting, as if “few” meant insignificant and as if “many” absolves the egregious behavior of the few. I disagree, with kindness. Even if only a hundred of the protestors were bent on subverting democracy, they are too many.
    Even one is too many. But I wouldn’t use the term “attempted coup” for the actions of a lone maniac, or six. So numbers do matter. There has to be at least some chance of success for me to think of something in those terms. And not calling a riot a coup is certainly not intended to “absolve” either its “few” aggressive participants or even the many who stood behind them and failed to hold them back.

    And even if every single protester believed they were acting in the best interest of democracy by trying to nullify what they considered a fraudulent vote, their behavior is still troubling because it is based, by almost all accounts, on false information about fraud in this election. I am also troubled that they were effectively egged on by a narcissistic loser with immense residual power.

    You also seem unbothered by those US politicians who opposed confirmation of the vote, implying it is normal for losers to protest, and they were, after all, only drawing attention to voting flaws. However, politicians in the past have been irked by election outcomes without trying to negate the results, and have drawn attention to the need for voting reform without withholding approval of an election’s overall outcome.
    According to a source I dare not reveal: “The last three times a Republican has been elected president — Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004 — Democrats in the House have brought objections to the electoral votes in states the GOP nominee won. In early 2005 specifically, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., along with Rep. Stephanie Tubbs, D-Ohio, objected to Bush’s 2004 electoral votes in Ohio” and the joint meeting had to split up for separate debates as happened last week.
    At that time Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. said “Some may criticize our colleague from California for bringing us here for this brief debate…I thank her for doing that because it gives members an opportunity once again on a bipartisan basis to look at a challenge that we face not just in the last election in one State but in many States.”
    and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said “I believe that Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) have performed a very valuable public service in bringing this debate before the Congress. As Americans, we should all be troubled by reports of voting problems in many parts of the country,”

    You do seem a bit bothered that people like you (and me) have ignored the grievances of people like last week’s protesters, making their anger more understandable.
    It’s not so much ignored grievances as utter contempt. If they knew the true extent of it they might be even more angry. But to some extent I sympathize, for if I sensed the same level of contempt from another I would probably be angry too.

    While I agree, I would add a nuance for which I do not have immediate statistical proof. I suspect that the heartland of grievance lies in states characterized by rural and small town cultures, where social and political conservatism predominates. These are the very states whose populations are given extra weight, disproportionate to their small populations, in the US Senate and the configuration of the Electoral College. As well, thanks to gerrymandering under Reagan, electoral district boundaries have been drawn to favor conservative voting blocs. So at the risk of oversimplifying:

    Under-appreciated conservative Americans have access to the ballot box to make their voices heard.
    Their voices are disproportionately influential when tunnelled through existing American political institutions.
    Yet despite the disproportionately influential voices of rural conservatives, the voices of contrary-minded Americans (many of whom have been effectively disenfranchised in the past) are now more numerous than rural conservatives.
    Some rural conservatives respond by amplifying the volume of their voices, sometimes in ways at odds with democracy.
    Some of that amplification took place at the US Capitol last week.

    I should point out that on a gradient of seriousness, what happened last week is serious. Yet I also think that it is an over-reaction to deny Trump access to Twitter and to take action that would bar him from ever holding elected office again. Both these action work against democracy and the debates that keep democracy from dying. They also run the risk of turning a venomous steaming turd of a President into a gleaming martyr.

    I am grateful to you for pointing out the polling defects.

    You’re welcome, but it wasn’t my work (and fortunately for my mental state I hadn’t actually seen the 45% approval claim before I saw the debunking of it)

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