A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Straub: So it has come to mob rule, terrorism, vandalism of Capitol, encouraged by sitting President

A little more than 85 years ago, during an era of rising fascism in Europe, Sinclair Lewis, who authored such classics as Babbitt and Main Street, published a novel with the title It Can’t Happen Here, about a charismatic, populist politician, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, who is elected president by instilling fear in voters and vowing to usher in economic reforms.

Almost immediately upon assuming the nation’s highest office, Windrip began the process of imposing an authoritarian regime, bullying Congress and generating support by frightening the populace while embracing traditional American values.

Sound familiar?

His tenure ultimately resulted was civil war.

The title was ironic. One often hears that fascism in its various forms can’t possibly take hold in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The history of Germany, Italy, Russia, North Korea, or any totalitarian nation extent, carries no resonance in the United States.

Think again.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

The past few hours have demonstrated that this nation, founded on liberty, isn’t immune to the enticements of an evil, sick individual who promises to, for instance, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” There is nothing so special about this nation that renders it impermeable to the patter of a conman who places his own desires above those he is elected to serve.

The nation’s capital was in chaos on Wednesday. Congress on this day was slated to meet to accept the findings of electors from across the nation who determined that, on Nov. 3, former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, had collected sufficient electoral votes to unseat the incumbent Republican, President Donald J. Trump, a finding that should lead to Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

But Trump, a notorious demagogue and sociopath who has displayed the mental capacity of a gnat, has other ideas. He has been lying nonstop since the votes were tabulated, insisting that the election was “rigged’’ and that he, not Biden, had actually won the contest by several million votes.

Over the past many weeks Trump has endeavored to overturn those results, asserting fraud despite his inability to substantiate even a single instance. State election officials, Democrats and Republicans, have rebuffed the president’s avowals at every turn. The courts, state and federal, have informed him time and time again that he has no case.

Yet he persists. And millions of supporters, almost all White, primarily male, under educated in many instances, have followed him into the Valley of Death, culminating in a giant act of domestic terrorism on Wednesday, instigated by the words of the president himself, leading to the riotous takeover of the Capitol building, disrupting the electoral vote count, thus disturbing any hopes for a peaceful transition of power, and forcing assembled lawmakers to, in some instances, flee for their very lives.
Representatives from both parties begged Trump to call off the dogs and restore calm.

This was his response via Twitter:

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

Those are the words of a disturbed individual intent on tearing this nation asunder in order to satisfy his own self-worth, which has long been terribly inflated. They are the words of a seditionist whose message falls on the ears of fellow seditionists. He is a cancer who will finally be removed from office on Jan. 20. It’s a fete that should be accomplished earlier if at all possible.

It won’t “happen here” this time. But the events of Jan. 6, 2021 firmly establish that fascism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism and just about any other ism you can conjure is sitting on the doorstep just waiting for an equally evil, sick sociopath who is just smarter than the dimwit who currently resides in the White House to let it in.

Of course it should be noted that Donald J. Trump didn’t achieve his infamy by his lonesome. There have been far too many enablers, sycophants and fellow grifters to bolster his fetid path, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell, who remained silent about the president’s perversities over the past four years while doing everything in his power to push the Trump agenda of nonsense.

Suffice to say Mitch hasn’t covered himself in glory. But the record should note that he finally, openly disavowed the president when it came to efforts to subvert the electoral vote count. A number of Senate Republicans on Wednesday, led by stooges like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO, announced their intention to challenge the outcomes submitted by several states, including Arizona and Georgia, thus potentially setting the stage for a fight over declaring Biden the victor.

McConnell was late to the party, refusing to cite Biden as the president-elect for several weeks after the vote, kowtowing to Trump and his effort to overturn the will of the voters. He finally capitulated when the 50 states certified the outcome, drawing the ire of the never-say-die president who cast the Louisville lawmaker as an ingrate, taking credit for Mitch’s own overwhelming victory at the Nov. 3 polls.

McConnell, to little avail, sought to circumvent a Senate floor fight over the electors’ tabulations, a move he hoped would avoid conflict within the GOP caucus and bring the whole rigmarole to a screeching halt, setting the stage for what was hoped to be a peaceful transfer.

On the floor, McConnell rebuked his fellow Republican lawmakers who challenged the election results, insisting they were engaged in subverting the Constitution.

“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken,’’ McConnell said. “They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it will damage our republic forever.”

The nation’s form of self-government would “enter a death spiral,” he said, if the outcome was overturned.

“It would be unfair and wrong to disenfranchise American voters and overrule the court and the states,” McConnell said. “I will not pretend such a vote will be a harmless protest gesture, while relying on others to do the right thing. I will vote to respect the people’s decision and defend our system of government as we know it.”

Those words had little impact on what has come to be known as the Seditionist Caucus, whose members marched on with plans to challenge the results. That, of course, was undercut by the invasion of the Capitol, forcing a delay in any congressional action.

It was, frankly, McConnell’s finest hour as Republican leader. It’s unfortunate he didn’t seek to confront Trump earlier, when it would have benefitted the republic. Instead he gave this nutjob a loose rein, a move that proved costly because it’s likely to cost him the only job he ever coveted.

Sometime within the next few days, or, perhaps, weeks, according to how the cards are eventually dealt, McConnell will be ousted as the upper chamber’s chief cook and bottle washer, thus depriving him of the power to set the nation’s political agenda and pack the nation’s federal courts with the sort of right-wing radicals that make Roger Taney look like William O. Douglas.

McConnell’s departure from his position of majority leader is the result of a pair of run-off elections in Georgia on Tuesday that suddenly – and surprisingly – hands the keys of the kingdom over to the Democrats. The chamber will soon feature 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. But Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, will be trading her seat on the floor for the presiding chair as the newly-elected vice president, giving her party the slimmest margin possible.

That places Mitch in the unenviable position of leading the Senate minority, a spot that carries some influence through its ability to block legislation but represents a poor alternative to being able to call the shots. McConnell will in no way be disappearing from the political scene but his curriculum vitae will be significantly diluted.

It’s been a long six years since McConnell assumed the helm and the nation is substantially worse off for it. A list of his sins would dwarf Gibbons’ Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. He stood in the way of efforts to expose Russia’s influence on the 2016 election. He destroyed whatever sense of fair play existed in the Senate through his conniving on appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, his refusal to budge on aid to not only individuals suffering from the depravations of COVID-19 but states and municipalities as well.

But Mitch’s greatest assault on the body politic has been his unabated support for the delusional sicko who has resided in the White House for the past four years, who has busily gone about the task of transforming what Ronald Reagan described as a “shining city on a hill” into a cesspool.

McConnell, indeed, had one shining moment, and it should be remembered. But he also should be remembered for his failures as a senator, a leader, and a man.

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  1. Willie says:

    “… the events of Jan. 6, 2021 firmly establish that fascism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism and just about any other ism you can conjure”

    Socialism, right Bill?

  2. Joe S. says:

    I do not condone violence on either side. But, social media is and the mainstream media are so warped right now.
    BLM and Antifa burn, loot, destroy, take over, and disrupt major cities throughout the nation for months at a time. Your talking hundreds and buildings and cars on literal fire, tens of millions of dollars of merchandise stolen, hundreds of millions of dollar in property damages, business shut down because of it, etc.,etc., etc. (that is fact, you can look at just 10 minutes of any video on it.)
    Trump supporters unlawfully enter the capital and raise a ruckus for about 5 hours. I would guess and hope only $100,000 in property damage (as opposed to easily $100,000,000 nationwide by BLM and antifa). They didn’t light anything significant on fire, 4 of them were shot dead, one of which is very clear video of an unarmed lady shot for starting to climb through a window. she was white and had a trump flag so there will be little to no mention of her.
    Again, I do NOT condone or support what happened yesterday.
    But this clearly shows the bias. BLM/Antifa were “protesting” and even “peacefully protesting” for months doing what they clearly did. And the Trump supporters were “rioters” and “domestic terrorists” and “privileged white people” for one day of protest, 4 of them dying, and yes a little bit of violence and property damage, but nothing compared to BLM and Antifa.
    It’s sad that many people are so blinded and biased when it comes to the information they choose to only see and digest it like it’s the gospel. Wake up and look at both sides of the coin people!
    Now that the democrats control all 3 branches, get ready for the value of the dollar to be wiped off the face of the earth. the printing presses at the federal reserve are about cranked up tenfold. We as a nation reap what we sow. unfortunately the “democratic socialists” in the name of being nice and chasing good feelings and disregarding reality and logic, will wake up too late when they realize what they’ve actually done and that feel good socialism has real life consequences like wide spread poverty and suffering of 99% of the population subjected to it (except the politicians and there ultrawealthy elite friends).
    Pray (and swap out all of your paper money for gold).

    • Kevin LeMaster says:

      None of what you mentioned is an insurrection, a storming of the Capitol with the goal of shutting down the Constitutional imperative of Congress to certify the electors. This is what happened on Wednesday. Your “BLM and Antifa” screed is not even the same thing. Five people died on federal property. At least one was a police officer. And who cares if “no fires were set”? Is that our standard now? As far as “white privilege”, do you really believe that if this was a black mob that they wouldn’t have been shot down before they got anywhere near the Capitol steps? Maybe they would just have been gassed like on Lafayette Square, for a photo op.

      • Willie says:

        Kevin, nice try but we saw from May to August of 2020 what happens (nothing) when a mob goes about doing whatever they please. Did you forget about all of the innocent bystanders as well as law enforcement who were killed and injured because of those “protests” ? And one of the far right group storming the Capitol was shot and killed. Facts matter.

  3. Jerry Smith says:

    I didn’t read the venom-spewing all that closely, but I think you only called Trump three names this time. Your inner 12-year old failing you? I guess you made up for it with McConnell. Thanks for telling us all about Kentucky politicians from your compound in Maryland!

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