There is a saying in counter-terrorism that the good guys need to get it right 100 per cent, but the baddies only need to get lucky 1 per cent of the time.
You can use this as a political analogy: the left can get away with being awful all the time, because the fellating media and the rest of the establishment will cover up for them, excuse or even glorify their behaviour; by contrast, the right has to only make one misstep or mistake, and it gives the left the full licence to go bananas. Their everyday rhetoric about the right might be overwrought and hyperventilating as it is, but now the reality finally justifies it, or at least can be easier stretched to justify it.
More than a week ago, I wrote, borrowing from Talleyrand, that the Capitol Hill invasion by a few hundred crazed Trump supporters was worse than a crime; it was a mistake. It was a monumental own goal that a small group of idiots kicked into the net defended by 75 million Republican voters. Just how monumental it was is becoming clearer (and darker) every day.
The MAGA storming of the venerable halls of the American legislature might have been a sham and a shambles, comparable to the reality (as opposed to the myth and long-living symbolism) of the storming of the Bastille by revolting Parisians (all seven confused prisoners freed) or of the Winter Palace by the Bolsheviks (virtually casualtyless skirmish involving a handful of disheartened defenders and a troop of rebel sailors who got sloshed in the cellars afterwards), but like 1789 and 1917 it will no doubt haunt the historical memory more for what it represented (or was made to represent by those who write history) rather than what it was.
What it was – apart from a major embarrassment for the United States and a sad, disheartening spectacle of folly – was the Reichstag fire for the American left.
Much has been written about the fire that damaged the Weimar Republic’s parliament building in 1933, most of it conspiratorial. The Nazis trumpeted it as a communist conspiracy against the German state. The communists (and much of the mainstream) continued to suspect that the Nazis set the fire themselves (or at the very least knew and didn’t stop it happening) – what in today’s parlance is known as a “false flag” operation – to give themselves the excuse to destroy opposition and install a dictatorship. It seems now, boringly and perhaps tragically, that the Reichstag fire was what it had first appeared it was: an act of a disturbed Dutch communist, acting alone and without anyone else’s knowledge.
But it still served its purpose, albeit not the arsonist’s. The part which everyone knows is how Hitler essentially used this pretext of a communist “uprising” and “terrorism” to crack down not just on communists, of whom they were indeed great many in Germany, but on all the parliamentary opposition, of which there was even more. The result was the end of German democracy and the beginning of a totalitarian Nazi dictatorship. No doubt Hitler would have gotten there eventually anyway, perhaps really staging a fake incident (as he would later in 1939 to provide a fig leaf for his invasion of Poland); the fire was just a happy accident of timing, of which he took full advantage, to get things moving his way as early as possible.
With all the overwrought talk of a “coup”, “insurrection”, “sedition” and “treason” – what did you expect from the same people who thought that Trump was a Hitler and they “the Resistance”? – there is no surprise that the logical next step is trying to tar both the ex-President and his 75 million voters with the brush of “terrorism” and “extremism”. Again, what did you expect from the same people who for years went on describing the Trump GOP base as the “deplorables” at the mildest and “white supremacists” and “racists” as of the course? And as we know from the past, when you call somebody a terrorist and a Nazi, the next step is to launch a War on Terror – this time a domestic one – and to remove that person from the political landscape, because after all, in a democracy we cannot tolerate anti-democrats. Germany had to be de-Nazified after the Allied victory; now America has to go through the same process. Collaborators need to be purged, the population re-educated. This is pretty much the rhetoric rising right now, seeking in effect criminalise one of two major political parties and half the country.
According to the the former FBI director James Comey, “The Republican party needs to be burned down or changed,” in order to rid it of “Trumpism” (which seems to be extremely popular among the party base, so burning it is). Robert Reich tweets “There is no compromising between democracy and fascism.” Juliette Kayyem, assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under Obama, says: “I don’t feel comfortable calling Trump a terrorist just because I think that then we’re going to get into that debate. But it’s important to say that he’s the spiritual and operational leader of a domestic terrorism movement.” Michael Beller, lawyer working for PBS, gets caught on a hidden camera enthusing that “Even if Biden wins, we go for all the Republican voters, and Homeland Security will take their children away… We’ll put them into re-education camps… These times, which are unique, I mean it’s close to Hitler” (and gets fired). Katie Couric asks “how are we going to really almost deprogram these people who have signed up for the cult of Trump.” Stuart Stevens, at the Lincoln Project, announces “we are constructing a database of Trump officials & staff that will detail their roles in the Trump administration & track where they are now… No personal info, only professional. But they will be held accountable & not allowed to pretend they were not involved.”
Democrats and the left more broadly are far better organised and far more ruthless in exercising power and implementing their agenda. No doubt they would love to see a shattered, demoralised and supine opposition that won’t be an effective break on their political agenda. The irony of arguing that America has been going through its Weimar period in the late ’10s is that we all know what came after Weimar but despite what the proponents of this line expected it’s not going to be Trump the dictator. Don’t worry, Biden/Harris are not Hitler either (even if both made large contribution in their political careers to mass incarceration). The creeping authoritarianism will be much softer, like deplatforming Donald Trump and the big tech collusion to crush Parler. The left would love to implement its own version of Chinese social credit score, where wrongthink is punished by making your life a misery in hundreds of little ways and showing all the correct attitudes and behaviours opens up limitless possibilities. You don’t have to lock anyone up if you can marginalise, silence, ostricise and blacklist the voices you don’t like. In cyberspace no one can hear you scream if they don’t want you.