“We Don’t Expect Him To Be There”

The Department of Justice is taking its own sweet time prosecuting the January 6th insurrectionists, but apparently getting closer to the former president and his co-conspirators. Meanwhile, a member of the House January 6th committee says they’ll have big news starting in June. From NBC News:

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., suggested that the House Jan. 6 committee’s upcoming hearings will be dramatic and include explosive revelations that the panel has been piecing together behind the scenes for months.

“The hearings will tell a story that will really blow the roof off the House,” Raskin said Thursday at an event . . . in Washington.

Members of the committee plan to hold those hearings in June and aim to have a report out about their investigation by the end of the summer or early fall, said Raskin, who sits on the panel.

“No president has ever come close to doing what happened here in terms of trying to organize an inside coup to overthrow an election and bypass the constitutional order,” he said. “And then also use a violent insurrection made up of domestic violent extremist groups, white nationalist and racist, fascist groups in order to support the coup.”

Raskin said the committee will present “evidence” that proves there was coordination among then-President D____ T____ and his inner circle and his supporters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The plan was to use then-Vice President Mike Pence to try to get President Joe Biden’s electoral vote tally below the 270 majority needed for victory, Raskin said, which under the 12th Amendment would shift the contest to a vote in the House. If that occurred, he said, Republicans would have the majority to seize the presidency because the votes would be cast by the state delegations, and the GOP controls more state delegations than the Democrats do.

“It’s anybody’s guess what could have happened — martial law, civil war. You know, the beginning of authoritarianism,” Raskin said, speculating on what might have unfolded if the plan was successful. “I want people to pay attention to what’s going on here, because that’s as close to fascism as I ever want my country to come to again.”

“This was not a coup directed at the president,” Raskin said. “It was a coup directed by the president against the vice president and against the Congress.”

The plan was coordinated “most tightly by T____ and his inner circle,” Raskin said, adding that the committee faced the most difficulty in this aspect of its probe. The panel has interviewed more than 800 witnesses, but he said, “The closer you get to T____, the more they refuse to testify.”

Speaking about the threats to Pence on Jan. 6 and the chants by rioters to hang him, Raskin said the vice president’s Secret Service agents — including one who was carrying the nuclear football — ran down to an undisclosed place in the Capitol. Those agents, who Raskin said he suspects were reporting to T____’s Secret Service agents, were trying to whisk Pence away from the Capitol.

Pence then “uttered what I think are the six most chilling words of this entire thing I’ve seen so far: ‘I’m not getting in that car,'” Raskin said.

“He knew exactly what this inside coup they had planned for was going to do,” Raskin said.

Unquote.

So Pence didn’t want to leave the Capitol. The scary interpretation is that he thought he was being kidnapped by the Secret Service. At a minimum, he knew that if he wasn’t at the Capitol, the Electoral College proceedings would go on without him, allowing Republican senators to disqualify the votes of selected states, the first step in overturning the election (the plan his corrupt boss had been trying to convince him to go along with for weeks). It hasn’t received much attention, but the oldest member of the Senate, 88-year old Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) admitted as much the day before the insurrection:

During an exchange with reporters on Tuesday [Jan. 5th], Grassley was asked how he plans to vote [on Jan. 6th].

“Well, first of all, I will be — if the Vice President isn’t there and we don’t expect him to be there, I will be presiding over the Senate,” according to a transcript of his remarks sent by a spokesperson.

Grassley serves as the president pro tempore of the Senate and will preside over any portion of the debate that Pence does not attend.

“We don’t expect him to be there.” Those words are just as chilling as “I’m not getting in that car”.

When Do We All Get To Say They’re Fascists?

From The New York Times:

The Republican Party on Friday officially declared the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and events that led to it “legitimate political discourse,” and rebuked two lawmakers in the party who have been most outspoken in condemning the deadly riot and the role of D____  T____ in spreading the election lies that fueled it. . . . 

From the resolution unanimously adopted by the Resolutions Committee at the Republican Party’s winter convention:

WHEREAS, Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger have engaged in actions in their positions as members of the January 6th Select Committee not befitting Republican members of Congress . .

WHEREAS , Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse . . .

RESOLVED, That the Republican National Committee hereby formally censures Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and shall immediately cease any and all support of them as members of  the Republican Party for their behavior which has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic . . . 

From The Times again:

It was the latest and most forceful effort by the Republican Party to minimize what happened and the broader attempt by [the former president] and his allies to invalidate the results of the 2020 election. In approving it and opting to punish two of its own, Republicans seemed to embrace a position that many of them have only hinted at: that the assault and the actions that preceded it were acceptable. 

It came days after [he] suggested that, if re-elected in 2024, he would consider pardons for those convicted in the Jan. 6 attack and for the first time described his goal as aiming to “overturn” the election results. . . . 

The censure  was carefully negotiated in private among party members . . . 

In response:

Then there’s this from Vanity Fair:

Over the last several years, there have been many opportunities to throw around terms like “fascist“ and “fascism,” typically in the context of the Republican Party and the wannabe dictator to whom many of its members have pledged their undying loyalty. In response, said Republicans have frequently gotten bent out of shape about such terms . . .  And yet . . . 

Per Insider:

Amid the [Republican Party’s] nationwide push against teaching about race and sexuality in schools, two members of the Spotsylvania County School Board in Virginia advocated for burning certain books, according to the Fredericksburg-based Free Lance-Star newspaper. This came as the school board directed staff to begin removing “sexually explicit” books from library shelves, after voting 6-0 in favor of the removal, the Lance-Star reported. The board has plans to review how certain books or materials are defined as “objectionable,” the paper said, which opens the door for other content to be removed. 

Courtland representative Rabih Abuismail and Livingston representative Kirk Twigg both championed burning the books that have been removed . . . 

Maybe We’re Not Headed for Civil War or Dissolving the Union

A Columbia University sociologist, Musa el-Gharbi, says we shouldn’t trust poll results that claim to show millions and millions of Republicans are crazy (although lots are):

According to a number of polls and surveys, significant majorities of Republican-aligned voters seem to believe the big lie that T____ was the rightful winner of the 2020 US presidential election and, consequently, the Biden administration is illegitimate.

Taking these data at face value, a growing chorus insists that we’re living in a “post-truth” era, where members of one political party, the Republican party, can no longer tell facts from falsehood. As a result of the Republican party becoming unmoored from reality, the narratives typically continue, America is drifting headlong into a fascist takeover or a civil war.

Fortunately for all of us, these dire predictions are almost certainly overblown. We are not living in a “post-truth” world. We are not on the brink of a civil war. The perception that we are is almost purely an artifact of people taking poll and survey data at face value despite overwhelming evidence that we probably shouldn’t.

For instance, in the wake of the 2016 election, T____ claimed to have had higher turnout at his inauguration than Barack Obama did. Subsequent polls and surveys presented people with pictures of Obama and T____’s inauguration crowds and asked which was bigger. Republicans consistently identified the visibly smaller (T____) crowd as being larger than the other. A narrative quickly emerged that T____ supporters literally couldn’t identify the correct answer; they were so brainwashed that they actually believed that the obviously smaller crowd was, in fact, larger.

Of course, a far more obvious and empirically plausible explanation is that respondents knew perfectly well what the correct answer was. However, they also had a sense of how that answer would be used in the media (“Even T____’s supporters don’t believe his nonsense!”), so they simply declined to give pollsters the response they seemed to be looking for.

As a matter of fact, respondents regularly troll researchers in polling and surveys – especially when they are asked whether or not they subscribe to absurd or fringe beliefs . . . [“well, the world is flat, isn’t it?”].

However, many academics and pundits do not seem to be in on the joke. Instead, post-2016, a consensus quickly emerged from credulous readings of polls and surveys that America is facing an epidemic of “fake news”, which was leading people to believe things that were obviously false, and to vote for unsavory political candidates. Some of the initial studies on this topic were blatantly prejudicial in their design; other widely shared studies were ultimately retracted.

As more reliable data began to emerge, it turned out that, contrary to the initial hysteria, “fake news” stories were viewed by a relatively small number of voters, and infrequently at that. Most of those served pro-T____ or anti-Clinton “fake news” by social media sites already seemed firmly committed to voting for T____, or intractably resolved against voting for Clinton (which is why the algorithms served them this niche content to begin with). That is, “fake news” is unlikely to have changed many, if any, votes. It is not a plausible explanation for the 2016 electoral outcome nor T____’s support more broadly.

Even people who share “fake news” stories typically never read (or even click on) them. That is, people are not sharing the content because they read the stories, grew convinced of their factual accuracy, and are genuinely trying to inform others. Instead, people typically share these stories based on their headlines, for a whole host of social reasons, while recognizing them to be of questionable accuracy see herehereherehere and here for more on this).

It should not be surprising, then, that correcting misinformation seems to have virtually no effect on political preferences or voting behavior; misperceptions are generally not driving political alignments to begin with – nor are they driving political polarization.

Contrary to narratives that have grown especially ubiquitous in recent years, Americans are actually not very far apart in terms of most empirical facts. We do not live in separate realities. Instead, people begin to polarize on their public positions on factual matters only after those issues have become politicized. And even then, polarized answers on polls and surveys often fail to reflect participants’ genuine views. Indeed, when respondents are provided with incentives to answer questions accurately (instead of engaging in partisan cheerleading), the difference between Democrats and Republicans on factual matters often collapses.

In other cases, apparent disagreements about factual matters often turn out to be, at bottom, debates about how various facts are framed and interpreted, or disputes about the policies that are held to flow from the facts. That is, even in cases of genuine disagreement, there is typically less dispute about the facts themselves than about what the facts mean – morally or practically speaking.

All said, measuring misperceptions is a fraught enterprise – even when it comes to banal and politically uncontested facts. Attempting to draw inferences about “incorrect” views on matters tied political, moral and/or identity struggles is a far more complicated endeavor. These are not data that lend themselves to being taken at face value.

Similar realities hold for the data that purportedly show we’re on the brink of a new civil war.

There is strong evidence that many of the surveys and polls indicating support for, or openness towards, political violence hugely overstate actual levels of support in the American public. Likewise, data that purport to show high levels of partisan vitriol may be misleading.

In general, behaviors are often a stronger indicator than attitudinal data for understanding how sincere or committed people are to a cause or idea. The number of people who are willing to rhetorically endorse some extraordinary belief tends to be much, much higher than the subset who meaningfully behave as if that claim is true. The number of people who profess commitment to some cause tends to be much, much higher than the share who are willing to make sacrifices or life adjustments in order to advance that cause.

The big lie is no exception. Both the low levels of turnout and the relatively low levels of violence are extraordinary if we take the polls and surveys at face value.

Event organizers were expecting, “hundreds of thousands, if not millions” to take part in the January 6 uprising. This would be reasonable to expect in a world where tens of millions of Americans literally believed that an apparently high-stakes election was stolen out from under them. Even if just 1% of those who purportedly believe in the big lie had bothered to show up, the demonstrations would have been hundreds of thousands strong. Instead, they only mustered 2,500 participants . . . 

The lack of casualties was also striking, even when one considers injuries and indirect fatalities. After all, the former president also enjoyed strong support among people who are armed and formally trained in combat, such as active duty and veteran military and law enforcement. A large number of other T____ supporters participate in militias, or are private gun owners.

Yet most January 6 participants did not bring firearms, and those who were armed did not discharge their weapons – not even in the heat of the violence that broke out. . . . 

In a world where 74 million voted for T____, and more than two-thirds of these (i.e. more than 50 million people, roughly one out of every five adults in the US) actually believed that the other party had illegally seized power and now plan to use that power to harm people like themselves, the events of January 6 would likely have played out much, much differently.

Indeed, had even the 2,500 people who assembled on the Capitol arrived armed to the hilt, with a plan to seize power by force, committed to violence as “needed” to achieve their goals – things would have gone much, much differently.

Instead, most participants showed up expecting T____ would provide them with definitive evidence for his claims of electoral malfeasance, and then unveil some master plan to take the country back. This didn’t happen. . . . 

There was an even small number . . . who showed up to the Capitol with a clear intent to forcibly overturn the election – who equipped themselves for violence, researched the congressional proceedings and the layout of the building, developed and executed a plan, etc. These are behaviors consistent with a sincere belief in the big lie, and a strong commitment to doing something “about” it. . . . 

Of course, even tiny numbers of genuine extremists like these can be extremely destabilizing under the right circumstances. Had Oath Keepers breached the Capitol instead of being repelled (even as Q-Shaman, Confederate Flag Guy et al wandered the building aimlessly) … January 6 could have played out much differently.

Nonetheless, there is a huge difference in talking about identifying and disrupting small numbers of highly committed individuals willing to engage in revolutionary political violence versus tens of millions of Americans genuinely believing the election was fraudulent and being open to violence as a means of rectifying the situation. Those are very different problems. Orders of magnitude different.

The good news is that the second problem, the tens-of-millions-of-Americans problem, is not real. It is an artifact of politicized polling design and survey responses, followed by overly credulous interpretations of those results by academics and pundits who are committed to a narrative that half the electorate is evil, ignorant, stupid, deranged and otherwise dangerous [well, they did vote for a person who has no redeeming qualities and are poised to do it again — that doesn’t imply being smart or well-informed].

In fact, rather than January 6 serving as a prelude to a civil war, the US saw lower levels of death from political violence in 2021 than in any other year since the turn of the century. . . . This is not an outcome that seems consistent with large and growing shares of the population supposedly leaning towards settling the culture wars with bullets instead of ballots. This turn of events does not seem consistent with the notion that tens of millions of Americans – including large numbers of military, law enforcement and militia members – literally believe the presidency was stolen, elections can no longer be trusted, and the fate of the country is on the line. . . . 

In truth, most Republican voters likely don’t believe in the big lie. But many would nonetheless profess to believe it in polls and surveys – just as they’d support politicians who make similar professions (according to one estimate, Republican candidates who embrace the big lie enjoy a 6 percentage point electoral boost as compared to Republicans who publicly affirm the 2020 electoral results).

Within contemporary rightwing circles, a rhetorical embrace of the big lie is perceived as an act of defiance against prevailing elites. It is recognized as a surefire means to “trigger” people on the other team. A demonstrated willingness to endure blowback (from Democrats, media, academics, social media companies, et al.) for publicly striking this “defiant” position is interpreted as evidence of solidarity with, and commitment to, “the people” instead of special interests; it’s taken as a sign that one is not beholden to “the Establishment” and its rules. That is, the big lie seems to be more about social posturing than making sincere truth claims.

For many reasons, this situation is also far from ideal. But it’s a very different (and much smaller) problem than partisans actually inhabiting different epistemic worlds and lurching towards a civil war. Glass half full.

Unquote.

This view is consistent with one of mine: if millions and millions truly believed abortion is murder, there would be a lot more resistance, including armed resistance, to abortion (despite the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision). Talk is often cheap.

President Biden Remembers January 6th, Challenges His Predecessor’s Lies and Looks Ahead

Here’s most of the president’s speech, delivered at the Capitol this January 6th (the video is available here):

To state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked. Simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution, our constitution, faced the gravest of threats.

Outnumbered in the face of a brutal attack, Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law.

Our democracy held. We the people endured. We the people prevailed. 

For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election; he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed.

. . . I’m speaking to you today from Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. This is where the House of Representatives met for 50 years in the decades leading up to the Civil War. It is on this floor where a young congressman from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, sat at desk 191.

Above him — above us — over that door leading into the rotunda is a sculpture depicting Clio, the muse of history. In her hands, an open book in which she records the events taking place in this chamber below. Clio stood watch over this hall one year ago today, as she has for more than 200 years. She recorded what took place. The real history. The real facts. The real truth. The facts and the truth that . . . you and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes. . . . 

Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging. Waving, for the first time inside this Capitol, the Confederate flag that symbolizes the cause to destroy America. To rip us apart. . . .  The mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol. American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears. 

Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers. Dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. Over 140 police officers were injured.

We all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened. One officer called it “a medieval battle” and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq. They’ve repeatedly asked since that day, how dare anyone, anyone, diminish, belittle or deny the hell they were put through? We saw with our own eyes. Rioters menaced these halls, threatening life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America.

But what did we not see? We didn’t see a former president who just rallied the mob to attack sitting in the private dining room of the Oval Office in the White House watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours.

Police were assaulted. Lives at risk. The nation’s Capitol under siege. This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection. They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people; they were looking to deny the will of the people. They’re weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election. They were looking to overturn one. Then weren’t looking to save the cause of America. They were looking to subvert the Constitution.

This isn’t about being bogged down past. It’s about making sure the past isn’t buried. That’s the only way forward. That’s what great nations do. They don’t bury the truth; they face up to it. . . . 

We are a great nation. My fellow Americans, in life there’s truth and tragically there are lies. Lies conceived and spread for profit and power. We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie. And here’s the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.

He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest, than America’s interest. And because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.

He can’t accept he lost even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.

That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward. He’s done what no president in American history, in the history of this country, has ever, ever done.

He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people. While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principle of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else. They seem no longer to want to be the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes. . . . 

So at this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be?

Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people? Are are going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.

The way forward is to recognize the truth. To live by it. The “Big Lie” being told by the former president, and many Republicans who fear his wrath, is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Think about that. Is that what you thought? Is that what you thought when you voted that day? Taking part in an insurrection? . . . Or did you think you were carrying out your highest duty as a citizen and voting?

The former presidents’ supporters are trying to rewrite history. They want you to see election day is the day of insurrection and the riots that took place here on January 6 as a true expression of the will of the people. Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country, to look at America? I cannot.

Here’s the truth. The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country. More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history. Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day, in a pandemic, some at great risk to their lives. And they should be applauded, not attacked.

Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written not to protect the vote, but to deny it. Not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it. Not to strengthen and protect our democracy, but because the former president lost instead of looking at the election results in 2020, and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes. The former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections. It’s wrong. It’s undemocratic. And frankly, it’s un-American.

The second “Big Lie” being told by the former president’s supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted. The truth is that no election, no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted.

Every legal challenge questioning the results in every court in this country that could have been made, was made and was rejected. Often rejected by Republican-appointed judges, including judges appointed by the former president himself. From state courts to the United States Supreme Court. Recounts were undertaken in state after state.

Georgia, Georgia counted its results three times, with one recount by hand. Phony partisan audits were undertaken long after the election in several states. None changed the results.

In some of them, the irony is the margin of victory actually grew slightly. So let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020.

Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results. He built his lie over months. It wasn’t based in the facts. He was just looking for an excuse, a pretext to cover for the truth. He’s not just a former president. He’s a defeated former president.

Defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes. In a full and free and fair election. There is simply zero proof the election results are inaccurate. In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced, an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case. Just think about this: The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate other election results that took place on November 3rd. Elections for governor, United States Senate, House of Representatives, elections in which they close the gap in the House.

They challenged none of that. . . . Governor, senators, House of Representatives, somehow those results are accurate on the same ballot. . . . The only difference: the former president didn’t lose those other races. He just the lost . . . his own.

Finally, the third “Big Lie being” told by the former president and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation’s true patriots. Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob, ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through the desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of Congress? Patriots? Not in my view. . . . 

You can’t love your country only when you win, you can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.

Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy. They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here out of rage. Not in service of America, rather in service of one man. Those who incited the mob, the real plotters who were desperate to deny the certification of this election, to defy the will of the voters. Their plot was foiled. Congress, Democrats, Republicans stayed. Senators, representatives, staff, they finished their work the Constitution demanded. They honored their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

Look folks, now it’s up to all of us, we the people, to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive. The promise is at risk, targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy, fear over hope, personal gain over public good. . . . We’re living at an inflection point in history, both at home and abroad.

We’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy, between the aspirations of the many and the greed of the few, between the people’s right of self-determination and self-seeking autocrat. From China to Russia and beyond, they’re betting that democracy’s days are numbered. They actually told me democracy is too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today’s rapidly changing complicated world. And they’re betting . . .  America will become more like them . . . They’re betting America’s a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strong man. I do not believe that. That is not who we are. That is not who we have ever been. And that is not who we should ever, ever be. 

Our founding fathers, as imperfect as they were, set in motion an experiment that changed the world, literally changed the world. Here in America, the people would rule. Power would be transferred peacefully . . .  

The former president’s lies about this election and the mob that attacked this Capitol could not be further away from the core American values. They want to rule or they will ruin, ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord, at Gettysburg and Omaha Beach, Seneca Falls, Selma, Alabama. What were we fighting for? The right to vote, the right to govern ourselves. The right to determine our own destiny. . . . 

As we stand here today, one year since January 6 2021, the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated. So we have to be firm, resolute and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted. . . . 

I did not seek this fight brought to this Capital one year ago today. But I will not shrink from it either. . . . I will defend this nation, and I’ll allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.  . . . This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats. We’re a nation of laws, of order, not chaos, of peace, not violence. Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails. So let us remember together. We’re one nation, under God, indivisible, that today, tomorrow and forever at our best, we are the United States of America.

So What Are We Going To Do About It?

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Inquirer sounds a painfully loud alarm some don’t seem to hear:

. . . It sounded more like a plot twist from a really bad self-published political thriller than real life: A 38-page plan for President T____ to declare a “National Security Emergency” and seize ballots as part of a wider effort around Jan. 6 to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as [his] successor.

According to one slide from the presentation that T____’s top aide, then-chief of staff Mark Meadows, viewed and later turned over to congressional investigators, the president would endorse a bat guano-crazy conspiracy about Chinese interference in the 2020 presidential election as a pretext to declare all electronic votes invalid.

It’s the kind of transparently fake and utterly corrupt coup that you’d only expect to see in the type of less-developed country we used to call a banana republic. But as the Washington Post and other outlets reported this week, the wackadoodle plan for T____ to stay in office after losing an election, thus ending American democracy, was circulated on Capitol Hill just two days before 147 Republicans indeed voted against certifying Biden’s wins in key states.

I know, it seems kind of funny — this nerdy tech tool that Bill Gates and his Microsoft monolith acquired to propel regional sales meetings in Duluth instead being used in the plot to end the American Experiment after 245 years. But the quickening flow of leaks and new discoveries from the House committee probing the Jan. 6 insurrection is no laughing matter.

Even though it should have been obvious in real time — an angry mob, urged by T____ himself first to come to Washington on Jan. 6 and then to march on the U.S. Capitol, where there was a violent clash with police, injuring some 150 officers and killing five, thus disrupting Congress and the certification of Biden’s victory for hours — the new disclosures have brought into sharper focus what the president’s men knew and when they knew it. Jan. 6 was a far greater threat to American democracy than Watergate, or anything else that’s happened since the first shots at Fort Sumter. Now, the questions are becoming less about what we know, and more about … what are we going to do about this?

Last week saw a cluster of news stories — some coming from the slowly forward-moving House select committee — that continue to confirm greater White House involvement in Jan. 6 planning. This clearer picture also shows an escalating, increasingly desperate T____-led effort to block the fair and legitimate counting of the 2020 votes, from the courts to the corridors of Congress to, finally, the bloody barricades.

For example, a report that two of the Jan. 6 event organizers met privately with T____ in a White House dining room just two days before the insurrection should cement the idea that the events leading up to the fateful day were closely coordinated with the president and his inner circle — a point that was arguably already driven home by recent confirmation of a Jan. 6 “war room” run by close T____ associates at the Willard Hotel.

But other new what-the-heck disclosures about the events leading up to Jan. 6 are a reminder that there are still things we don’t know or fully understand. . . . 

The sum impact of these disclosures should pressure the House committee to both speed up the pace of its methodical investigation and also to hold more public hearings — the arena where the average voter is more likely to watch and understand the threat to the peaceful transfer of power that was posed on Jan. 6. In a perfect world, both the new bombshell revelations and high-profile hearings in the mode of 1973′s Watergate Summer would light a match under the Justice Department and deer-in-the-headlights Attorney General Merrick Garland.

High-stakes public hearings might also shake the Beltway inertia that the threat to democracy posed by the insurrection should take a backseat to other matters having more impact on voters’ day-to-day lives, including the never-ending pandemic and the economic aftershocks, good and bad. Many in the elite Washington media seem to have adopted the mantra that it’s time to move on from Jan. 6, especially since any coup ambitions were seemingly thwarted with President Biden’s inauguration. Some tried to tamp down the disclosure of the coup-plotting PowerPoint circulating among T____’s highest aides and congressional allies, arguing that the existence of the document isn’t “a hair-on-fire moment” for the American system.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the originator of the PowerPoint plan appears to be a Texas-based retired Army colonel (who, interestingly, specialized in psyops) named Phil Waldron, who’d managed to first get his ideas and then himself woven into T____’s inner circle, including a close relationship with the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. . . . He told the Post he visited the White House multiple times in the days after the November 2020 election, met personally with Meadows and was part of those critical pre-Jan. 6 briefings on Capitol Hill. Waldron also said he met personally with T____ and “several Pennsylvania legislators” in the Oval Office last Nov. 25 . . . 

As crazy as Waldron’s claims of Chinese-led election tampering or his remedies of seizing paper ballots under a “national security emergency” might sound, it’s important to understand how close this plot came to succeeding. If days of hounding and pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to go along with the plan had worked, or if the subsequent violence had created a pathway for T____ to send in Army troops to seize control of the Capitol before Biden’s certification, America would have been plunged into . . . chaos.

The unsavory cast of characters that Team T____ was dealing with prior to Jan. 6 were the political equivalent of walking into a mobbed-up bar and trying to hire a hitman — to whack U.S. democracy. Hiring a hitman is considered a felony, even when no one is ultimately killed, and so is a plot to overthrow the American government, even if it fell short. It’s past time for Congress, Garland, the media and other key players to see this.

But there’s an even more important reason for the Jan. 6 disclosures to be seen and understood as the most important story in America right now: Bolstered by the lack of consequences so far for T____ and his inner circle, the coup attempt is ongoing. As the unpunished leader of a Republican Party that this antidemocracy ex-president has now spent six years bending to his will, T____ is currently leading an effort to change laws and remove any balky GOP officials who thwarted him in 2020 — to make sure he will be declared the winner in 2024, regardless of the reality-based vote count.

The New York Times reported this weekend that many believers in T____’s stolen-election conspiracy theories or even people who traveled to Washington on Jan. 6 are winning or the early favorites for a number of key vote-counting positions for 2022 and 2024, from the new judge of elections in the small town of Mt. Joy, Pa., to the powerful secretaries of state in the battlegrounds that cost T____ the presidency last year.

“This is a five-alarm fire,” Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, told the Times, adding: “If people in general, leaders and citizens, aren’t taking this as the most important issue of our time and acting accordingly, then we may not be able to ensure democracy prevails again in ‘24.”

Unfortunately, not enough people are acting accordingly. Any student of the last century of world history knows the seriousness of underestimating the rise of authoritarianism in far-flung precincts, that while the media is obsessing on the petty squabbles among, say, the Social Democrats, or the delusions of a decrepit ruling class, a madman who failed but learned from one aborted putsch is busy perfecting the second assault.

The only thing wrong with describing the PowerPoint for an all-American coup as a “hair-on-fire moment” is that the term is way too small to describe the existential threat that’s smoldering, unextinguished, in the rotting foundation of the United States and its increasingly haywire experiment. It’s been said before, but whatever you would have done in 1933 Germany or 1963 Alabama is what you are doing in 2021 America. We can speed up the hearings, put the biggest story on the front page, and arrest the coup plotters, or we can let the fire burn. The choice is ours.