It’s now two weeks past the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, and I am sad to see that the effort to minimize the insurrection has been amazingly successful. I perhaps shouldn’t say “amazingly,” because millions of Americans never wanted to hear about it in the first place, even as the Department of Justice has hauled 11 people into court on charges of seditious conspiracy. Trump voters, elected cowards in the GOP, and conservative-media enablers continue to insist that it was just a tourist visit that got a little rowdy, and they want to know why the rest of us can’t just move on.
This effort has succeeded, in part, because so many Americans are unable or unwilling, as my Atlantic colleague George Packer wrote, to imagine what it would actually look like to have our democracy implode in the wake of a failed election. I want to suggest what things would look like some time after such an event.
It would not, I think, be what you might expect. It certainly won’t look like what the more inane cosplayers on the left think it would look like. That is, it wouldn’t be a sudden, dramatic fascist takeover, with Trump or Ron DeSantis or Ted Cruz striding to the podium on Pennsylvania Avenue with a red-and-black armband and shouting the beginning of a new millennium. None of these guys are remotely that organized, and besides, it’s not what they really want.