During the United States’ lengthy Civil War, the Confederate bunting never crossed the portico of the US Capitol Building that now fortifies the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. But on January 6, 2021, wild-eyed men wandered about the corridors of the Capitol with a Confederate pennant streaming alongside the Stars and Stripes. When a shirtless and tattooed Jake Angeli, 33, a shaman from Phoenix, roved the hallways of the Capitol with a bullhorn, wearing face paint, a headdress made of coyote skin and buffalo horns, drumming the floor of the rotunda with a flag-draped spear singing and chanting, we have a metaphor for a house divided against itself. Trump’s pied pipers rallied a faithful mob. Some arriving by private jet. Others stayed at the Westin Washington the night before the rampage.
It was sedition as some form of cosplay. It was as if the storming of the Bastille Saint-Antoine, a political prison and fortress, on July 14, 1789, ended with selfies. In our COVID-19 Black Mirror world, the insurrectionaries documented their involvement on Facebook and Twitter as the event was livestreamed for a world in lockdown and working from home to view and cheer them on.
On June 16, 1858, more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. At 5:00 p.m., they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. At 8:00 p.m., Lincoln delivered an address to his Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representatives. In his introduction, he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” a concept recorded in all three synoptic gospels. Abraham Lincoln is the epitome of successful action to preserve One-America.
The task after the rioting inside the Capitol is now- How do the two Americas live apart? To claim that America is polarized is an understatement. Leaving the Oval Office has never been voluntary. Donald Trump was always a symptom; never a cause. This is America’s Rexit. America’s storming of the Bastille. Its unfinished revolution. It is not a war against the British Empire. Rexit is the exit of the conservative Red states from the snare of the oppressive ideologies of the liberal urban fold. America’s second civil war against its own fellow Americans. Trump may be impeached but the fact remains that he is a unifying force for seventy-five million Americans. That base is ready to leave if the Republican elites can’t represent their aspirations.
Brexit was England’s Bastille Revolution that finished only after 1,317 days, three Prime Ministers, two blown exit dates, dozens of votes in Parliament and years of negotiations. For four hundred years, England has been part of at least one larger entity: An Anglo-French Kingdom, the United Kingdom in various forms, a global empire, and the EU. The inexorable logic of Brexit is that England has finally stumbled towards some form of national independence.
Division in the United States is now irreconcilable. The platitudes and shibboleths appealing to the world that “this is not who we are” only serve to enlarge the gilt framed Trumbull paintings on the walls of the rotunda depicting the surrender of the British army at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, which ended the last major campaign of the Revolutionary War. Appeals from every quarter for unity from both parties have never sounded less sincere. In fact, they mirror the humdrum provisos that punctuate the end of commercials on television at night.
Amid a throng of flag-waving Trump supporters in front of the U.S. Capitol, Rick Saccone, a political science adjunct professor, posted a video to his Facebook page. He stated that “…We’re going to run them out of their offices.” The purge and politics seem to go hand in hand. Donald Trump, to describe his plan to fix problems in the federal government a few weeks before the 2016 election, tweeted “Drain the swamp” seventy-nine times, usually as a hashtag. Now he and his closest colleagues had become things of the marsh.
But as they witnessed the unravelling of the spectacle, many turned against Trump in desperate acts of self-preservation. A betrayal before his trial in the Senate. They who imposed economic sanctions on nations, orchestrated drone attacks and embargoes on others, moved capitals, impeded the appointment of judges to the World Trade Organisation, destroyed treaties and built a wall, were “Pensive”. The writing was on the Capitol Wall.
Cabinet secretaries hastily distanced themselves from a petulant president. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, condemned the storming of the Capitol in a Tweet. Wall Street Moguls left group chats like Autumn leaves falling in fields. Unable to do what appeared to be feasible only in Trump’s imagination, the tyrants trapped in the tragedy became venomous traitors in the bitter, bunker end. No one wanted to be accountable. Any involvement in illegal or unethical activities was deniable, because the tactic implies forethought such as intentionally setting up the conditions to plausibly avoid responsibility for one’s future actions. The void of clear evidence to prove their involvement makes their denial credible. A bunker insurrection of self-preservation and plausible deniability ensued.