By Jim Holland
The other day Mike Pence referred to the Jan. 6 coup attempt as “one day in January.” The use of the word “day” to describe a coup attempt brings to mind the 1960’s movie about a fictional failed coup attempt, “Seven Days in May.” Any similarities?
One is fiction. The other is stranger than fiction. And, though it happened on live TV, it is widely denied, discounted or dismissed. Witness Mike Pence.
The movie was a about a Cold War national defense policy disagreement. The January coup attempt was about a Big Lie – the claim of widespread vote fraud. That claim has been repeatedly shown to be false and without basis. Shown so by Republican election officials and dozens of court decisions.
The generals in the fictional coup attempt envisioned a military usurpation of national authority. Our military had no part in the Jan. 6 real coup attempt, other than the National Guard pushing rioters away from the Capitol after the rioters’ effort had failed.
The real coup attempt had three sets of actors: the rioters, Republican senators and Vice President Pence. According to the plan war-gamed in the White House Jan. 5, Pence, presiding during the counting of Electoral College ballots, was to declare that no candidate for president had a majority because some Biden ballots were to be disallowed due to the phony fraud claims.
Pence’s declaration of no majority would then send the presidential election to the House of Representatives, where each state would have one vote. And, since Republicans hold the majority of seats in a majority of states, the party-line vote would hand the election to Trump.
Pence pondered his assigned role. He was conflicted: to obey either our Constitution or Trump. He then contacted former Vice President Dan Quayle back home in Indiana for advice. Ultimately, Pence followed Quayle’s advice and did the right thing. He refused to assume a power he did not have and preserved his country’s political system.
The senators’ scheme was not so concise. Those involved in the coup spoke to object to the electoral ballots in some states. Those objections caused the two houses, which had been meeting jointly, to return to their separate chambers to debate and vote on the objections.
The rioters broke in during those debates. Their “stop the steal” objective was to stop the counting of Electoral College ballots and postpone the certification of the election.
Members sought shelter behind barricades and in secret places, protected by Capitol Police. Reconvening after having their lives threatened, the fire of enthusiasm those senators had shown earlier had gone out. The election was certified.
From the television coverage, it looked as if the rioters were trying to physically occupy the place. For hours that objective was accomplished. Then the effort of the rioters was spent. The Capitol Police, having employed only non-lethal weapons and tactics for hours, shot a rioter who was penetrating a barricaded chamber filled with elected officials and staffers. That rioter died of the bullet wound.
About that time, the rioters stopped their aggression. Figuring, I imagine, that they had gone about as far as they could go. They commenced to mill about the Capitol like tourists and not resisting as arriving police reserves and National Guard troops herded them out of the Capitol and off the grounds – returning to quarters to watch it all on TV, Facebook and YouTube.
The fictional Gen. James Scott Matoon planned a banana republic scenario, an interval of martial law to be followed by a better – in his mind – president, whose selection was not specified.
The planners of the Jan. 6 coup attempt must have expected that the results of their shenanigans would be accepted as calmly as those tactics they used to pack the Supreme Court were accepted. To some extent they have succeeded.
Trump and his loyalists still repeat the Big Lie. And, like Pence, deny, discount and dismiss “One Day in January.”
Just now those same rioters, plotters and thugs resist a Congressional investigation that threatens to reveal details of their planning of the failed coup, ignoring subpoenas and employing Fifth Amendment protections to conceal their deeds/misdeeds.
But, prosecutors and the courts have begun sending Capitol attackers to jail and prison. Their riot had no chance of changing the election, but they go to jail.
The shenanigans of the White House plotters and Senate thugs had possibilities. It just needed a few more unethical, un-American guys and gals in Congress to succeed.
A coup attempt not punished becomes practice.
(Duncan resident Jim Holland is Pct. 19 chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)