Having reported from and observing Africa for more than 30 years I have seen a few insurrections in my time.
What happened on 6th January on Capitol Hill was nothing like one. And having watched a good deal of the coverage of the impeachment hearing in the Senate it does not seem to me that the Democrats have made their case.
Did Donald Trump try to whip up a crowd of thugs over weeks and months? Certainly.
Did he want to assemble them outside Congress on the day the election of President Biden was going to be certified to intimidate Senators? Of course.
But is there evidence of a clear, well thought out plan to storm the Capitol and overthrow the government? I think not.
What would an insurrection look like?
The Cambridge dictionary defines an insurrection as “an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government or ruler and take control of the country, usually by violence.”
The evidence of “organisation” seems strong. There was clearly a mobilisation of groups across the country, which Trump encouraged.
But where is the message or email from the former President issuing clear instructions for an attempt to defeat the government? I have seen none.
Think what a real insurrection or coup would have looked like. Trump would have used the mob he assembled for a much more specific purpose.
This is what a plausible scenario might have looked like.
First: the mob attacks with specific objectives. They would not have been opportunists who broke into the heart of government and then wandered about like political tourists – with their feet up on the desks of politicians and taking souvenirs as momentos.
They were armed and if they had had a proper plan they would have known what their targets were. These might have been to capture or kill key politicians. A real coup leader would have ensured that these events would not just taken place at one location. There would have been similar attacks on key targets across the nation.
Second: with the Capitol in the hands of real insurrectionaries President Trump could have ordered a State of Emergency. The army could have been sent in to take back control.
Third: with emergency powers at his disposal the Commander in Chief might have issued a string of orders. A “period of calm and reflection” might have been ordered leading to the election being re-run. The Biden victory would have been declared “null and void.”
Ask any dictator
Any African dictator who has seized power in a coup knows how this is done. It would have been accompanied by taking control of the media and pushing aside or intimidating the courts.
Trump is a crude amateur when it comes to political violence. His friend and supporter Vladimir Putin could have coached him on how a real insurrection is mounted.
Unpleasant, dangerous, sexist and racist – that’s Trump. But an insurrectionary? Hardly.
I am not one of those who harangue whenever you write yellow journalism about east Africa, especially Eritrea, Ethiopia, etc., not that I support those countries’ local dictators. However, when you said Trump is not an insurrectionist, you are sorely missing the point comparing the US with Africa’s banana republic countries. Trump is incompetent, be it running a business, a government, or being a politician. He is a demagogue who thought if he whips his red necks, he can cause havoc and hold power. He tried the military route a few months before January 6, and all the military leaders told him to take a hike except an ex-general known as Putin’s house boy who encouraged him to declare a state of emergency and then to run a fake election in some states to get enough electoral college. So I do not know why you compare oranges with apples and jump to a conclusion without doing your research. I guess the adage a leopard cannot change its spots comes to mind if I remember it correctly your origin is from apartheid South Africa. You show your solidarity with the insurrectionists who are nothing but who want to take back the US to the pre-1950s era using their silly slogan MAGA.
Thanks for your comment. As I suggested, he remains dangerous (that was the title of my article). But I just don’t see the evidence for a coup attempt. Surely all the evidence points to an attempt to intimidate. He wanted his vice president and the Senators to hear the roars of the crowd outside and know that their futures were on the line. They took him at his word and charged the Capitol building, which they succeeded in entering. But then…what a bunch of useless political tourists (as I pointed out). I agree with your point about the role of the military in blocking some of his avenues but there were others, which (and show me the evidence if I am wrong) he did not attempt. I am happy to be proved wrong in my argument, but I want to see evidence of a co-ordinated insurrection. Then I will believe. So far it’s lacking.
Thank you for your analysis. I have been asking myself the same questions. I very much agree with your perception. For me, the key sentence in your essay is “Trump is a crude amateur.” I think this was clearly visible in almost everything he did during the four years. Now that the Democrats have successfully torpedoed their own impeachment initiative I wonder what it will be like if the crude amateur comes back in four years but determined and more professional insurrectionists behind the screen use the opportunity?
The developments since last year’s elections for me show that the institutions of governance are still strong in the US and the professional staff largely committed to the constitution. But the parties are in a deplorable state, both of them. How long can the institutions be safe from being infected by the political decay in the US’ party system?
Interesting times ahead.
Best wishes – and stay safe
Dr. Wolfgang Heinrich
Thanks for your reply. As you say – interesting times!