Joe Biden’s own language certainly sounded less like a magnanimous winner uniting his people than like that used by autocrats and dictators to hold onto power, argues Diana Johnstone.
By Diana Johnstone
Special to Consortium News
What happened in the Capitol on Jan. 6 was not surprising. It could have been avoided. It could have been prevented if the Democratic Establishment which held onto keys of power throughout Trump’s mandate had truly wanted a smooth presidential transition. For months prior to the election, the elite Transition Integrity Project was spreading the alarm, loudly echoed by liberal media, that Trump would lose and refuse to acknowledge his loss.
There was a simple, obvious way to avoid such a drama. In an article for Consortium News last August, I suggested how this could be done.
“It seems to me that if the Democratic establishment gave priority to a peaceful election and transition, against the possibility that Trump might reject the results, the smart and reasonable thing to do would be to reassure him on the two counts which they suggest might incite him to balk: postal vote fraud accusations and the threat of criminal charges against him. […]
As for postal balloting, it should be conceivable that Trump’s misgivings are justified. […] In an age when anyone can photocopy any document, when mails are slow and when there are many ways in which ballots might be destroyed, such misgivings are not far-fetched. […]
For the sake of domestic peace, why not try to find a compromise? Kamala Harris has introduced legislation to generalize postal balloting. Why not, instead, extend polling time, opening polls not only on the second Tuesday in November but on the preceding Saturday and Sunday? This would provide time to allow voters afraid of Covid-19 to keep distances from each other, as they do when they go to the supermarket. It would reduce the number of absentee ballots, the time needed for counting and above all the suspicions attached to postal voting. But the more wary Trump is of postal voting, the more Democrats insist on making it universal.
It becomes clearer and clearer that hatred of Trump has reached such a pitch, that for the Democratic establishment and its hangers-on, defeating Trump at the polls is not enough. They are practically inciting him to contest the election. Then they can have something more exciting and decisive: a genuine regime change.”
So indeed what we got was something more exciting. Not exactly regime change, because we are seeing instead a powerful reaffirmation of the regime that was really still there during Trump’s largely deformed four-year term. The haste with which his aides and allies desert him in his last hour makes this clear. He was always a president without a team, operating on hunches, rhetoric and advice from his son-in-law and a few insiders who were really outsiders.
But what we are getting is indeed exciting: an alleged “insurrection” supposedly incited by Trump to “steal the election” (which it had absolutely no way of doing). The scenes of disorder have been instantly exploited to plunge him and his followers into an abyss of ignominy, if not criminal proceedings and imprisonment.
More Like Otpor
What happened on Jan. 6 was not an insurrection. Anyone wanting to know what an insurrection is should look up the U.S.-sponsored armed uprising that overthrew duly elected Chilean President Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. The Capitol disturbance was more like what happened when U.S.-trained “Otpor” militants broke into the Serbian parliament in the midst of that country’s 2000 presidential election and set fire to ballot boxes.
Or check out a particularly pertinent insurrection when truly violent demonstrators took over the Ukrainian Parliament in 2014 and overthrew the government, an event hailed by then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as a great victory for democracy. Then there was the Hillary-endorsed coup in Honduras, the almost successful attempt to overthrow democracy in Bolivia, the U.S.-backed Guaido farce in Venezuela, etc., etc., etc.
No, an insurrection is not when a large crowd of people who feel their candidate has been cheated vent their indignation by managing to break into “their” parliament with no purpose in mind. Most of the intruders milled about taking selfies with no clear idea what to do next. By world standards, the “violence” on Jan. 6 was very mild indeed, the only gun violence being the fatal shooting of an unarmed Trump enthusiast, Ashli Babbitt, who could easily have been pushed back from her adventurous attempt to climb over a barricade.
The intrusion was so far from carrying out a pro-Trump plan that it had the opposite effect. The immediate political result of the eruption of the undisciplined crowd was to prevent Republican Senators who were so inclined from presenting their arguments against the legitimacy of the November vote. If anything, the action worked in the favor of President-elect Biden.
One might think that in his moment of victory, a true statesman would demonstrate the qualities it takes to lead a nation by offering to bring all people together as fellow Americans. He did quite the opposite.
The very next day after the Capitol happening, in his small fiscal haven home state of Delaware, Biden raged against his opponents as a terrorist mob, no less.
“They weren’t protestors,” he proclaimed. “Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple.”
Trump, said Biden, “has unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of democracy from the outset, and yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack.” Trump had poisoned the political environment by using “language that autocrats and dictators use all over the world to hold on to power.”
Biden’s own language certainly sounded less like a magnanimous winner uniting his people than like that used by autocrats and dictators to hold onto power. Trump was trying to “deny the will of the American people,” he said, much as Trump said of him. The whole problem was that “the will of the American people” was far from unanimous.
The Authoritarian Center
So even before his inauguration, President-elect Biden has given us a bitter taste of days ahead. There is to be no sacred unity, but deepened division between The Good (woke liberals), the Bad (Russians and other enemies of Our Democracy) and the Ugly Americans, to be labeled Domestic Terrorists, White Supremacists and fascists.
The authoritarian center, ranging from opportunistic Republicans to The Squad, can rally around the necessary purge of Domestic Terrorists, silencing their communications and getting them properly fired from their jobs.
The Establishment has long been determined to crush Trump. But there is talk of “purging” all his followers as well. Biden is already speaking like a War President, calling for measures to combat the internal enemy such as accompany major wars.
The oligarchic nature of the American War Party is revealed by the haste with which privately owned social media enterprises silence dissent – even the still acting President of the United States. Indeed, who really rules the United States? Is the president only an agent of economic powers whose role is to serve their interests? And the trouble with Trump is that he had not been picked for the job.
Trump managed to appeal to millions of discontented Americans without offering any coherent practical program to replace the War Party with policies capable of transforming the nation into a haven of peace and prosperity. His confusion mirrored the ideological confusion of a population scandalously undereducated in history and political ideas. The illusion that Trump was the leader dissident Americans needed cost Ashli Babbit her life and led thousands of Trump voters into what amounts to a trap. Trump himself was led into the trap.
A completely different approach to politics is needed to restore democracy to America. All appeals to identities and ideologies can only deepen the confusion and divisions, because they prevent people from understanding each other.
The Biden administration appears intent on strengthening such confusion and divisions precisely by recourse to identities and ideologies. I firmly believe that only a scrupulously rational, open-minded, factual and pragmatic approach to clearly defined practical problems could bring peace to the United States, a peace that could favor peace in the world.
From outside the melee, it is easy to define the serious issues that should dominate political debate in the United States. But instead of that, we hear a torrential exchange of insults. The establishment elite cannot stoop to exchange viewpoints with populists denounced as deplorable, racist, misogynist, white supremacist, fascist and now even “terrorist.”
The populists’ unfocused denunciation of the elite describes Wall Street Democrats as “socialists” and veers off into accusations of genocidal vaccination campaigns, occult pedophile rites and Satanism. Instead of anything resembling a clear political division, America is increasingly split by blind, burning mutual hatred.
What American political life needs is not more censorship, but the self-censorship of reason. That is very far away.
Diana Johnstone lives in Paris. Her latest book is Circle in the Darkness: Memoirs of a World Watcher and is also the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her lates book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. The memoirs of Diana Johnstone’s father Paul H. Johnstone, From MAD to Madness, was published by Clarity Press, with her commentary. She can be reached at [email protected] .
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
Many “Republicans” and Pro-Trumpers cheered the need for greater law enforcement & actions in the wake of the BLM & Antifa unrests.
Now those forces are working against them.
You gotta be careful what you wish for.
I am no fan of Trump, nor of most of his fanboys & fangirls, whom are largely, mere thoughtless followers.
I’ve little regard for people that need strong leaders, who mostly attract weak minds.
But have you read the report on postal irregularities, and other issues regarding yet another fraudulent election (Trump wasn’t elected either, he was in placed in office by the Oligarchs, those he bowed to and is now facing-off against)?
The mail-in ballot issue is far more complex than presented herein.
Sadly, as people are caught up in the mindless entertainment of phony-“partisan” politics, which more resemble episodes of the Jerry Springer or Maury shows, the larger, underlying issues get buried even deeper.
The Ancient Greek Historian Plutarch wrote of the dangers of growing wealth inequalities.
Republics often become Empires, and Empires devolve to tyranny (my assessment, not Plutarch’s).
Plato wrote of the same, several hundred years before that, in his Republic, noting:
“Injustice [inequality] causes civil war, hatred, and fighting, while justice brings friendship and a sense of common purpose.”
America is an angry nation.
Yet few realize why they’re truly angry, and even fewer know whom to direct that anger towards.
Divide & Rule is taking greater shape, as that inequality continues to rise.
The masses are being led & distracted by those phony-“partisan” politics into blaming, turning & fighting each other.
Rather than focus on the true sources.
Many nations across the globe are facing the same.
From India, to China/Hong Kong, to the Philippines, to Europe, etc.
Inequality is continuing to rise in each.
There is a political theory that states that Nationalism is used to mask & quash inequalities.
That “Nationalism” can take many forms, not necessarily limited to mere national identity or borders, but more group identity.
The “Conservatives” become more cohesive, and band together looking to blame & fight the “Liberals”.
Similarly, the “Liberals” come together, and look to band together to blame & fight the “Conservatives”.
Both groups are being covertly led in the same directions, but largely unaware of that herding.
Pro-Trumpers have played right into the hands of the Oligarchs, whom seek ever-greater control and oppression.
Now most any activism or protesting will be viewed as insurrection.
Greater fragmentation across more group identities prevents true progress & reform, and creates even more dangers of inequality.
As each seeks most only to satisfy their own ‘in-group”.
Trump was correct, there is a Deep State.
But sadly he worked mainly to continue to support that Deep State (perhaps unbeknownst to him).
And that Deep State is now working to destroy Trump. And he continues playing right into their hands.
That Deep State has created a monster, the Hydra.
That Hydra has numerous heads, from Big Banks to Big Med to Big Tech to Big Ag/Food to Big Chem to Big Media to Big Pharma to Big Government, etc.
With each largely 0wned, and thus controlled by those Elite, whom have continued amassing & hoarding ever more wealth & assets.
That Hydra exists to protect its creators, the Oligarchs.
That Hydra, with it’s many heads, is now nearly impossible to defeat.
As is currently being demonstrated.
Though the masses may rally against one head, like Big Tech, even perhaps damaging or severing that one head, the many other heads continue to support that massive beast, the Hydra.
As the damaged/severed head is allowed to regenerate.
And the masses led to continue to feed those other heads, unaware of their complicity in aiding that beast.
Biden is now the favored puppet.
And as a career, political insider he likely knows the consequences of resisting the Oligarchs, but the actions against Trump are serving as a blatant reminder.
Obey or be destroyed.
This whole narrative is sad, on so many different levels.
The only winners in all of this, are the Oligarchs, the true Deep State.
“I firmly believe that only a scrupulously rational, open-minded, factual and pragmatic approach to clearly defined practical problems could bring peace to the United States, a peace that could favor peace in the world.”
If only our dear leaders had had any intention to pursue peace. Alas, they do not. War is their bread and butter on the world stage, and war is what they spend most of their time (and half of our money) on. The events at the capitol are already being used to sew even more, now coming to a town near you.
Great thinking and diagnosis of what is needed and what is lacking on both sides of the current American divide, which is what Johnstone always gives us. (I’m reading her latest book now and learning a lot about 20th century history.) But on one point I think she is mistaken: that of mail-in ballots. After years of voting on computers with no paper trail and knowing how easily the vote could be — and was — changed by “technicians” who came in to adjust machines, with no hope for adequate oversight of the process, I was happy to vote on a paper ballot and know the paper would be there for re-counting by hand as well as machine, if needed. My state, Maryland, had a sound system: registered voters could go on-line to request an absentee ballot. We received one ballot, which also had a tracking number. After voting, we received notice that our vote had been counted. How we voted was well protected. It greatly increased turn-out and is a real advance for democracy, I think.
Diana Johnstone has written a masterpiece with this article!
A more and more lonely voice of reason crying into the wind, echoes of Cassandra.
Yes Diana, thank You , one hopes You can perhaps find a permanent home here, I too enjoyed your books including “Fools Crusade”.. as well as all the above,I hope You are ok, negotiating what appears to be a near Police state in Paris and other major French Cities , best regards to You a Universal treasure who’s books I whole heartedly recommend to those here who are unfamiliar with them….
My enumerations from this article of the solutions to the current deep rifts and malaise in US: A public educated in civics; Open, secure and transparent elections held over a long weekend; End partisan media echo-chambers and return to journalism without fear or favour; And adding Eric’s comment of Ranked Choice Voting, which we call Preferential Voting in Australia. All of these are easily initiated and made laws in the next 2 years with the Dem majority in both houses. Of course implementing these initiatives would exchange the balance of power and fear between the politicians and voters. For that reason unfortunately, I expect there aren’t nearly enough brave members of Congress and a new President too invested in the past to enable solutions such as these to actually see the light of day. There are now many models of democracy around the world that have improved on the original, but politicians in the US are perfectly happy to stick with something developed in the horse and buggy days. Too bad for them that the sick, desperate and angry voters don’t just have muskets.
Biden’s decades-long record as a solid conservative Dem Party insider, speaks for itself. He has maintained a noticeable “paternalistic” (authoritarian) bent, giving him a measure of predictability. I can think of no politician who more clearly represents today’s Democrat Party, than Joe Biden.
Every coup under Trump has failed. Maduro is still in charge of Venezuela. Assad is still holding down Syria. The pre-Trump war establishment was about ready to coup North Korea. Rouhani is still leading Iran. Evo Morales returned to Bolivia less than a year after he was couped. And the Jan 6th events were not even close to a coup.
That is about the only reason why I will miss Trump. I’m afraid that Biden has taken part in plenty of successful coups in the past and he will probably be better at them than Trump was.
“No, an insurrection is not when a large crowd of people who feel their candidate has been cheated vent their indignation by managing to break into “their” parliament with no purpose in mind.”
This statement is basically untrue and minimalizes something that has not happened since the British burned it down in 1814. Many of the thugs, for those of us who actually watched the extensive videos, have been recorded saying that they wanted to stop the electoral vote count and prevent certification. And they wanted Trump to remain in power. They only succeeded, fortunately, in delaying the process and committing a lot of vandalism.
Some had been recorded making threats of violence against legislators; and the level of violence displayed, including that which led to the death of one police officer-one of the ones who had the guts to try doing his duty- adds authority to that threat. That officer was bashed in the head with a fire extinguisher.
And then there is the unfortunate Ashley. A vet whose job had been to secure military bases certainly would have known that an attempt to break into a secured, restricted government area, especially in the midst of an attack , could have fatal consequences, especially while wearing a back pack.
Granted it doesn’t compare to Maiden Square or some of the other coups the author mentioned, which were successful; but those were aided by CIA, whereas America’s White supremacists and neo-fascists are amateurs with a deficiency of smarts. Not deterred they have stated their intention of coming back armed. A number have declared a liking for a second Civil War; Wednesday sure looked like a dress rehearsal. However there will be 10,000 national guard in DC by Saturday, so that would not be wise.
Of course, one of the most obnoxious takeaways from this was the contrast between the way an almost entirely white and very violent mob was treated compared the violent assaults on largely peaceful BLM protests over the last year.
Hopefully this will mean organized white supremacy will be taken more seriously, especially in regards to their infiltration into local police forces(documented by the FBI , The Intercept , Sept 29,2020), as well as highly placed sympathizers.
Although I agree with your assessment regarding American interference & Color Revolution support to overthrow other Nations, I have to take issue with some of your commentary regarding Biden? Although Biden is a Corporate stooge, since his Election win, he has tried to use language indicating a willingness to unite the divided states of America? Unfortunately with the extreme Political polarisation in the Country, this will be a impossible task for Biden to ever achieve? Also, why should Biden show any mercy or forgiveness to Trump? Trump has, for the past 2 months delegitimised Biden’s election win claiming he won & personally insulted him then incited his Cult Mob to commit their laughable, Bearded, white trash, Hillbilly Coup d’état of the Capitol! Trump incited the violence that resulted in the deaths of 5 people & must be held accountable for his crimes & you can’t blame Biden for what Trump incited people to do?
Repeating exaggerations does not bolster an argument. “…deaths of 5 people.” Only 2 people died directly because of the riot. I would be willing to bet that on any given football Sunday (before the pandemic) that it would not be unusual for 3 people to die while attending an NFL football venue, from medical emergencies, underlying conditions, etc. It’s bad enough – on its own – that one woman was shot and killed and one cop was assaulted and murdered; no need to gild the lily. I’ll qualify that though by saying that I don’t know the details of the medical emergencies cited in news reports.
Otherwise, I generally agree with the sentiments you expressed, though Biden’s remarks are not nearly wizened or measured sufficiently for the moment we are passing through. Accountability? – yes: retribution and revenge? – no.
I watched (up)Chuck Toad (Chuck Todd) this past Sunday on “Meet The Press.” He was engaged in the tired old partisan game of trying to get opposition luminaries to ‘fess up, admit they were wrong, and generally embarrass themselves in front of a national audience. Those kinds of games should be abandoned, as they do not move us forward. And even though I agree with the millions that believe Trump should resign, it is a misreading of that person to believe that he ever would.
Another contribution to the Chaos.
Thanks to Diana, whose wide experience and thoughtful reflections are a real help to those finding so much confusion in world affairs. Biden indeed sounds overwrought and Nancy Pelosi and other Dems were as extreme, confirming the impression that the millions who support Trump are going to continue to find their lives considered worthless. Those who by default supported Biden after the destruction of Bernie (who at least cared about domestic US matters) will also be disappointed as he includes nobody progressive in his team so far, plenty of known disasters eg Victoria Nuland, and apparently the intention of returning to the tired old failed days of Obama which led us to the last four years.
Diana Johnstone is more knowledgeable than I on probably every front, but I do not understand the jaundiced eye that she casts on mail-in voting. Not only was this the correct response during this ongoing pandemic, it is a remedy to voter suppression that has been long overdue to cure at least one aspect of a flawed US democracy.
Several States have been voting entirely by mail now for several decades with little to no complaint from those States’ citizens. In those states voter participation is higher than in those that have not adopted this method. Here in Ohio during the primary and general election mail-in voting was adopted and when I learned the details of how it was made possible, it worked exactly as I imagined it should work. Barcode tracking from individual voter registration to counting valid ballots drastically reduces the possibility of voter fraud, and the long-form paper ballots create that “permanent” trail of evidence that can be examined and re-examined – if necessary, as was done in Georgia – to settle any and all legitimate concerns of fraud or other irregularities.
I was an election worker in my county for six election cycles. It is a very expensive proposition to maintain the equipment, set up the polling places, man the polls with workers, count the votes, and disassemble and store the equipment. A fixed permanent facility to handle all of the mail-in ballots from the county should be less expensive to set up, maintain, and man with trained poll workers.
Voter suppression is a very real occurrence. Holding the election on a single day during work hours is the first instance. The allocation of voting equipment is a second instance, often abused by partisan control of State governments. Even if partisan schemes are excluded, equipment is often allocated based on past participation and may be woefully inadequate for the participation of an energized electorate as we just saw – from both factions.
There is also a history and a reality of intimidation at the polling places. The last election that I worked I had to – with much trepidation – physically remove persons from the entry to a polling place to that distance prescribed by our State law. It wasn’t my choice – I was so instructed and charged.
I heard statements from Trump and other Republicans that if mail-in voting should be universally adopted, then there will never be another Republican POTUS or Republican majority in either house of Congress. There is absolutely no reason – other than the loss of the operation of voter suppression – that this should be true. If the will of the majority – the mythical basis of our “democracy” – is solely an artifact of the method of casting a ballot, then there is something truly amiss with that system.
Though not related to Diana’s comments or my counters, it is true that Donald Trump via the installment of DeJoy attempted to cripple the USPS to disenfranchise millions of US voters. Although that did not succeed, the USPS has been crippled, as even every day mail is now backed-up and running behind by several weeks. As we sort into columns which partisan side is responsible for what particular malady that now besets us, let’s not forget this purposeful attack on one of our nation’s oldest and most reliable institutions.
Your post is well explained as to the time you were helping during the voting process. I particularly liked your last para –
graph about DeJoy and the postal system. could that action be considered obstructionist ???
Thanks Stephen. I believe it was obstructionist wrt the election. But now the consequences go beyond the election. Medications are shipped via the mail. Also, because the USPS has been so generally reliable the cycle of billing and payments so predictable, what is happening is that payments sent are not arriving on or before they are due, and second notices of payments due (and in some cases penalties added) are passing (slowly) in the mail. Just yesterday we received a second notice for a bill that we had mailed payment in the last week of December, that normally would have arrived on time. (For propane – the entire transaction within our local region.)
From what I’ve read over the years, Colorado’s system is better than anyone else’s because of its convenience and transparency. Our results were timely and probably more accurate than most. If you have a complaint, our paper ballots are available for scrutiny. The only improvement I’d add is a method of showing everyone how their vote was counted–I’m picturing a spreadsheet with a line for my votes that can be looked at by everyone and numbers that can be verified by everyone. This could be added to any system right now & would increase trust in the final results. I’m not sure that’s their goal, though.
For the system that was implemented here in Ohio the county BoE’s internet portal allowed, with just a few clicks, the ability to see: the acknowledgement of your request for a mail-in ballot; the notification that said ballot had been mailed to you; acknowledgement that the BoE received your completed ballot; confirmation that your ballot was verified and counted.
I assume, or maybe should say “hope”, that if there was some question as to the validity of my returned ballot – e.g. challenge of signature or some other provided information discrepancy, that the portal would have also notified me of that and informed me of how to cure that.
As to verifying that your vote was tallied as you had intended that would be a little trickier I would suppose. Perhaps with the addition of unique passwords attached to your voter registration ID. As of this election all I had to do to check the above steps was type in my name. I was also able to go to the portal of the distant county where one of my sons resides, type in his name, and check on the status of that process wrt to him. As it happened I hand delivered my and my wife’s ballots (allowed in that instance) to the BoE and waited at the desk while the clerk verified our signatures and logged them into the system. Immediately upon arriving home (a half hour later) I went to the BoE portal and verified that my completed ballot was logged into the system. I believe that last visit also informed me that my vote had been counted, which tells me that Ohio was not constrained to wait until the day of the election to tally those ballots. That would seem to be true since I believe this new method was widely utilized during this election and Ohio reported its results early in the evening of election day.
Diana Johnstone is more than likely right about Biden’s present intentions, along with those of the rest of the American PTB. However, let us not underestimate the fact that the entire human race is suddenly in uncharted waters, under attack simultaneously by a new form of capitalism called global neoliberalism and a new form of virus called Covid-19, both with demonstrated proclivities to mutate and feed off one another. At the same time, environmental, racial, and other existential crises are also coming to a head. Short of a personal and private revelation (if there is such a thing), no one can possibly have a clear and coherent idea about how all of this will shake out in the coming years. NO ONE. Not even as perceptive and experienced a world observer as Diana.
Thanks for your observations, Ms. Johnstone. If only the powers that be understood the situation we are currently in and all the dire consequences of their misguided actions. There’s a lot of tragic fall-out from recent events, and, sadly, I have begun to experience this when trying to address my concerns with family members, the majority of whom react vehemently when I introduce the possibility of vote collection monkeyshines. I don’t take kindly to being branded as a conspiracy theorist, when that term is automatically used pejoratively. In my home state, Maine, we now have ranked choice voting, so I was able to vote my conscience for Howie Hawkins (who, surprise surprise, was on our ballot forms, unlike, apparently many other state ballots), and (now to my regret) I held my nose and designated Biden as my second choice. If I had had your prescience, I would not have included a second choice on my ballot form. In 2021, I fear, we will be descending into a fearful national nightmare. BTW, I loved your books “The Queen of Chaos” and your most recent one, “Circle in the Darkness”. You are one of the rare voices of reason and I’m glad you have a relatively wide audience of open-minded, rational readers.