Austin at Large: From Cloud Coup-Coup Land
Was this the worst that could happen? That (still) depends on what we do next.
Life is going on at 3pm on a breezy day in Downtown Austin; the cars are still rolling past me on I-35 at their normal speeds, the MAGA mob at the Texas Capitol a few blocks from me has not rioted yet and, I suspect, will not. (The building, which just reopened to the public Monday after months of protest- and pandemic-related security measures, is again locked down, even as the Capitol Complex revs up for the scheduled start of the 87th Texas Legislature next week.)
The last four hours or so have been the most epochal in U.S. history since at least 9/11, as President Apesh*t (who may no longer be president when you read this, and certainly won't be in two weeks) straight-up incited a riot against the very government he swore so mendaciously to defend four years ago. His speech then – the one George W. Bush told Michelle Obama was "some weird shit" – raised the specter of "American carnage" that only he could end and heal. Now that he feels rejected by those he was anointed to save, of course, the carnage materializes on cue.
For the last two years, I've been trying in this space to make a path by walking between the cynical and/or opportunistic insouciance of those who think MAGA Nation could never be truly transgressive or threatening, and the hair-trigger anger and panic of those who felt that every single bad, stupid thing Apesh*t did was a signal that the End Times were already upon us and perhaps had been since before 2016. That path, I think, is still the place we need to be to actually do what's needed to make sure that the attempted coup of January 6, 2021, remains the low-water mark of an era of malign excess, and not just another preview of coming attractions.
Surviving the Discourse
As I've semi-jokingly written here before, I pay attention to more of the madness that unfolds on political platforms so that you don't have to; even though, yes, 2020 was as hard on my mental health as on yours, my job demands that I spend more time on Twitter and Facebook and Reddit than I think is advisable for civilians. So I've seen plenty of both of the mindsets I'm trying to avoid, whether from mendacious clout-chasing Texas Republicans like our cover boy Ken Paxton, or from (white) leftist boys going around the horseshoe and finding common cause with seditionists, or from (white) #resistance forces who think all of this has been completely unprecedented and not-my-country. And, of course, a lot of arguing over what to call the things we're seeing, as if it would all be more tolerable or fruitful if we just labeled these outrages properly and made sure the right bad people suffered for them. In that sense, the wilding out of 1/6/21 helps clarify things. Insurrection is pretty easy to spot, and it looks different from a BLM protest, or even direct action by antifa super soldiers.
I have helped reset my perspective after too much psychically stressful time in the news trenches by realizing that, really, most people get what is actually happening. The fact that Apesh*t hadn't been 25th Amendment-ed back to Mar-a-Lago was not because people don't care, or are afraid of either his fans or his tweets, or don't believe his provocations are real or outrageous; or because the institutions the people support are failing to heed the warnings and are doomed to collapse under greater MAGA pressure. I think it's true that a lot of Beltway media and political influencers and the professionally savvy and the extremely online do hold and echo such beliefs, because The Discourse – the media pursuit of clicks, the political pursuit of campaign cash, the social media algorithm's pursuit of conflict-driven engagement – is larded with time-wasting bullshit.
These Truths, Self-Evident
The rest of the species can and does see quite clearly that the MAGA Nationals include enough violent extremists to be worth controlling and remediating just as surely as the pandemic that continues to rage and that they have directly helped spread. (And far more than anyone on the left.) Texans have been, perhaps, more aware of this than others because of our lengthy subjection to a Republican rule that gave up policing its disorderly fringe a long time ago, thus begetting Alex Jones and Jade Helm and Tea Party Patriots and all the rest, again including our cover boy, who spoke at Trump's riot rally Wednesday. The violent seditionists are not numerous or competent enough to really challenge the power of U.S. institutions, even if it's now beyond dispute that MAGA toxins have infected America's police forces and need to be flushed from the system.
It's also beyond any dispute that this is racist, that MAGA is white nationalism, that Apesh*t feels his power has been stolen because nonwhite votes are fraudulent by definition, and that the Republican Party and conservative movement have, at a minimum, tolerated such thinking for a very long time, which is how Trump came out of left field to snatch the keys to their kingdom. The Democrats' ability to call this shit out has of course been constrained by the party's aging white elders and the rich people in their orbit, but that's fixable and is in fact being fixed; it just takes time. Look how long it took Georgia and Arizona to finally flip. Texas can get there. The victories of Biden and Harris and Ossoff and Warnock (and, yes, Stacey Abrams) themselves show that America is doing something, and the right things, to get past MAGAgeddon. There will be plenty more work ahead.