*NOTE: Depending on who you ask, January 6th was a protest, a riot, an insurrection, a failed coup, or a non-guided tour. I posit that the day's events were technically all five.
Trump warned us: While on national television, he said he wouldn't accept the election results if he lost. He said it in 2020. He even said it in 2016, in the last debate he had against Hilary Clinton. He said it before then, insisting that election and voter fraud was this terrible problem we as a country had to face. We knew for at least four years that if Donald Trump lost the election, he was not going to concede. How could he, what with all the fraud?
Even months before the 2016 election, Trump told his constituents to "watch out" for cases of voter fraud. He was so convinced that voter fraud was so rampant that Trump established a "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity." The Commission found zero cases of voter fraud, but it was the target of countless lawsuits and ridicule from different state's election officials. It lasted seven months before it was disbanded.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It's important at this time to point out that when you claim something to be a certain way ("there's at least five million cases of voter fraud"), you need to have evidence to back up that claim. "Because I lost the popular vote in 2016 by three million votes and that hurt my feefees" doesn't count.
As the 2020 election loomed closer, Trump continuously and baselessly claimed that voter fraud was this huge, national problem. As the votes started coming in, he continued his rhetoric that there were fraudulent votes in battleground states that cost him important electoral votes. The doublethink message came out: if Trump was ahead in a state, "STOP THE COUNT." If he was behind, "COUNT THE VOTES."
As it appeared that Biden won the presidency, Trump did not accept it. In the days following the election, lawsuits came out across different states claiming the election's results were not legitimate. Some of these lawsuits were over procedural issues (hours of voting locations, postmarks of mail-in ballots), while others were more grand in scale (throwing out an entire state's results based on testimony of a couple of people). Almost every case brought up regarding the 2020 election has been dismissed, dropped, or ruled against the plaintiffs claiming fraud.
In addition to the lawsuits, Trump had another card he was trying to play: convincing people in charge of the elections themselves that their own results needed to be thrown out or altered. Trump called Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and told him to "find" 11,780 extra votes for Trump. People on the Trump team (including his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani) also called the chair of the Maricopa County (AZ) Board of Supervisors in an attempt to get him to flip the county's results. The then-president even reached out to his own acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to "just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen."
None of these avenues led to any change in the election results. Even still, Trump persisted, this time with his supporters.
Remember, Donald Trump spent a half decade claiming that the United States election system is rigged. He claimed it even after he won in 2016. He certainly claimed it after he lost in 2020. He never had clear evidence to back up these claims, but since they were said by Donald Trump, his supporters believed it.
Now he had one last card to play: a rally set up at a park outside the White House on January 6th. Once he attached his name to it, Donald Trump began promoting the event as a way to "Stop the Steal" and "never give up." At a rally in Georgia two days before the event, Trump told his audience things like:
"They're not taking this White House. We're going to fight like hell, I'll tell you right now."
"And I want to be clear. If those of you that know how badly screwed we got, I want to be clear that we can't let that happen again. We can't let that happen again. We're going to come back, and I really believe we're going to take what they did to us in November 3rd. We're going to take it back."
"If you don't fight to save your country with everything you have, you're not going to have a country left."
This was the rhetoric Trump was using.
Thankfully, the events on January 6th were not as organized as they could have been. As people flooded the Capitol building, the overwhelming majority took it as a spontaneous self-guided tour. Some people took souvenirs -- a letter on Nancy Pelosi's desk, a podium, a fire extinguisher -- while others used their time to rifle through Senate documents in an attempt to find something to prove their case.
Among these relatively calm protesters & thieves, however, there were some sinister people in their midst. Groups of people beat the outnumbered defending Capitol and Metro Police. More than 150 officers sustained injuries. Pipe bombs were discovered in buildings near the Capitol building. Social media groups coordinated attacks against progressive lawmakers should any be found. People were seen with long zip ties, presumably to be used as makeshift handcuffs. Chants of "HANG MIKE PENCE" rang through the crowd, as protesters were aware that the Vice President was set on certifying the election results.
The events of January 6th, while ineffectual in changing the results of the presidential election, will still be seen as a black mark on the history of our nation. A president on his way out hung on to his constantly-misguided theories of election and voter fraud, and used them to whip up his base into a reckless frenzy. As the January 6th Select Committee reviews the information given to them, they'll find a number of people helped foment the rage and aggression of the protestors, rioters and insurrectionists that day.
I hope they also put to record the person who started it all, five years ago.
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