It’s now been a week since Trump’s failed insurrection and attempt to overthrow the election he lost. He has, as of about an hour ago, been impeached for a historic second time.
Wyman brings an incisive, historical perspective:
No violent political event happens in isolation. Something like what happened last Wednesday is always part of a broader trend or pattern, with both direct antecedents and successors. In other words, something happened before to make it possible, and it will lead to something else afterward.
This sounds basic, and it is, but bear with me for a moment. We have a strong tendency to understand events unfolding as a story, a narrative, with all the structural beats we expect from a story: beginning, rising action, climax, resolution. Even as we’re consciously aware that there will be a tomorrow, a next week, and a next year, it’s hard to avoid treating the most recent big thing - in this case, the riot on the Capitol - as either the end or beginning of one particular story.
Narrative is how we process information and give the world some shape and meaning. But it’s deeply misleading as an attempt to understand the complex interactions between past and present that define a political system.
What happened last Wednesday was the result of weeks of screaming lies from Republican elected officials and media figures, not least the president; years of increasingly positive rhetoric around political violence, and the dehumanization of political opponents, from many of those same figures; the lack of crackdowns on far-right violence and instigation going back to clashes in Portland, Berkeley, Charlottesville, and before; the coalescence of a specific form of American nationalism rooted in property ownership, firearms, whiteness, and the unstinting belief that only they embody the true American nation; the growing strength of the militia movement during the Obama and Clinton presidencies; and deeply rooted traditions of American political violence before that, going back to Reconstruction and the foundational acts of rebellion that separated the colonies from Great Britain. Those are just a few things, not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, and we could go on and on.
Over the course of the past week, details have emerged about exactly what happened last Wednesday — this timeline from The New York Times is an incredible resource — but Wyman’s predictions about this being only the beginning seem true. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared members of congress were nearly murdered and Representative Mikie Sherrill claimed Republican members of congress were giving “reconnaissance” tours to the very people who would carry out the attack. This was a tragedy and it could have been worse, given American’s penchant for arming themselves to the teeth. Everyone involved, starting with the president and sitting members of congress, need to be brought to justice.