Five days ago I put up a post in which, at one point, I described the insurrectionists as people “playing at being soldiers.” There were several interesting responses questioning such things as my snark about their wearing camouflage equipment. Without returning to that issue, let me say something in a more organized way about why I found the entire event so weird.
The purpose of many of those who broke into the Capitol, I think we can agree, was not merely to protest the declaration of Biden as the new president but to “stop the steal” by interrupting the procedure by which the vice president in his ceremonial role as President of the Senate opens the envelopes containing the reports of the electoral votes and declares the winner.
The entire event was so horrendous, the real-time cell phone videos so mesmerizing, and the threat to the lives of the senators, the members of the House of Representatives, and the vice president himself so dire that none of us really thought to ask an obvious question: suppose the efforts of the insurrectionists had been successful, what would they have done then? Suppose they had succeeded in breaking into the Senate chamber and House chamber while the Senators and Representatives were still there and the Vice President was still in the chair. Suppose – what is hard to imagine, given the presence of armed Secret Service agents not hesitant about using force – that the insurrectionists had actually coerced Pence into declaring Trump the victor in the election. Then what? What would the insurrectionists have done?
I think the answer is clear. They would have declared victory and gone home. Gone home! I think they actually believed that if they forced the Vice President to go through the charade of declaring Trump the winner in the election, then that would have been it and Trump would have continued to be president.
Think for a moment about how crazy that is. Did they actually think that Joe Biden would just say “aw shucks, I came so close, well nothing for it but to go home to Delaware and have dinner with Jill.” Did it never occur to them that after they left town Mitch McConnell might move to strike those proceedings from the record and then go on with the regular declaration of Biden as winner? Did they think that the members of the House of Representatives would shrug their shoulders, snap their fingers, and just figure that there was nothing they could do? Did they imagine that a Supreme Court that had declined even to listen to any of the 60 and more lawsuits brought by Trump against state election commissions would certify the proceedings as constitutional?
I really do not think any of this crossed their minds. I think they viewed the proceedings on January 6 more as part of a videogame than as a political ritual. They were not revolutionaries, they were action figures.
None of this makes what they did any less dangerous nor, I am happy to say, will it constitute a successful defense when they are called into court. But it would not surprise me if a videogame surfaces in the near future titled Stop The Steal. It will be a great success.