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Lessons from an insurrection

Wednesday was the start of something, not its end

Supporters of President Trump clashed with Capitol police during last week's riot in Washington.ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

This is not over.

As he so often does, the traitor in the Oval Office made the truth plain to anyone who cares to listen.

“To all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed,” he said on Thursday, after the insurrection he incited left four of his biggest fans and one police officer dead. “But I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.”

Just beginning. If you think this man has learned the right lessons from all this, you haven’t been paying attention.

White House aides told Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse that, on Wednesday, the president was “walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol police trying to get into the building.”


Democrat Joe Biden will take the oath of office on Jan. 20, but the inciter-in-chief and his “wonderful supporters” — including the politicians and pundits who helped whip up the insurrection — will still be with us. What burst into the open over the last five years, the cult of white supremacy and white grievance and white entitlement — an unholy trinity leveraged by Republicans for tax cuts and federal judges and vote suppression — will remain.

Even in the face of the destruction and the deaths, the seditionists who took over the Capitol — and too many of those who serve within it — have no regrets. Instead, they’ve returned to their distorting echo chambers, spinning further delusions to explain away the horrors.

If anything, they appear angrier now, more emboldened. And they’re planning more mayhem for the the week of the inauguration.

As horrific as it was, Wednesday would have been even more catastrophic if the marauders had been better organized. The most generous explanation of the day’s massive security failures is the official one: that those who protect the Capitol were surprised by the siege, overrun because they expected a protest, not an insurrection.


How could that be possible, given the rhetoric of the last two months and the open plotting of the last few weeks? How is it possible, after armed Trumpists menaced lawmakers in Michigan’s state capitol, and after the FBI foiled a plot to kidnap the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, parroting the president’s criticisms of her? Afterward, Trump, doing his part, suggested the kidnapping plot was maybe “not a problem.”

Those who protect the Capitol didn’t see them coming because the Trumpists wore this country’s most effective camouflage: Whiteness, which blinds law enforcement to the threat they pose.

Don’t believe it? Imagine how differently Wednesday would have gone if the goons openly plotting to storm the Capitol and murder lawmakers had been Muslims. The nation’s entire security apparatus would have been mobilized to round up organizers and head off the attack. Instead, we have virtual silence from the Department of Homeland Security and, even now, excuses from some Republican diehards: Folks just got a little carried away, guys, but their hearts were in the right place!

That’s why those who laid siege to the Capitol were yukking it up and identifying themselves on livestreams on Wednesday. Because they believed they could get away with it — and too many of them, allowed to waltz out of the building they desecrated, were probably right.


The security failures that allowed Wednesday to happen can be corrected: But better coordination between Capitol police and other forces won’t fix the fact that too many Americans are still blind to the existential danger to the republic posed by this president and his ideologically diseased ilk.

Addressing that starts with taking power from those who leverage hate for their own purposes. And empowering those who want all Americans to enjoy the same comforts and rights — especially at the ballot box.

It’s easy to feel hopeless after last week’s gut-punch. But we’ve just elected a president and a Senate invested in making this country more just. The day before the attempted coup, record numbers of voters in Georgia sent their first Black man, and their first Jewish one, to the US Senate.

The antidote to Wednesday in Washington is Tuesday in Georgia. Those who would drag us back can keep trying, but change will come.

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.