This morning I woke up and immediately turned on the radio, something I do regularly but which felt particularly urgent today. I wanted to know if there were any more pipe bombs discovered in federal buildings and how many people died as a direct result of the pro-Trump coalition of conspiracy theorists and white nationalists who stormed the Capitol building to ostensibly protest legitimate election results yesterday. (The answer, at least initially, was four.)
Imagine my surprise, then, to hear a steady stream of pundits and politicians looking forward to a “peaceful transition of power” with the same breath they used to describe yesterday’s events. I might argue that peaceful transition ended at one point or another in the past few months, and that the fantasy of an orderly progression from one administration to another has been delusional for about, say, four years. But perhaps you’ve seen the photographs of the guy in the Punisher vest carrying zip ties through the Senate chamber, or the one of men waving Trump flags as they scaled the Capitol wall: What should be obvious at this point is that the “peaceful transition” is irrefutably over now.
Since the election, the impulse to filter the grotesque or previously unimaginable through the language of optimism and stability has landed us in a bizarre place, watching the coup on the horizon as people on TV act as though saying words like democracy or integrity or bipartisanship will manifest a parallel reality in which the president’s supporters haven’t already been primed extensively to commit violence in his name.
This is why, I imagine, Ted Cruz and George Bush and Joe Biden and the CEOs of Blackstone and Morgan Chase as well as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have all urged nearly verbatim that the transition be peaceful sometime in the last 12 hours, an outcome not only impossible on January 7th but one that many of those figures actively worked against to their significant personal gain. It’s a minor gripe given the rather extraordinary circumstances, but if there was ever a time to call something by its name it might as well be the time a crew of a losing candidate’s supporters broke into the Capitol with zip ties and guns to contest an election they’d been repeatedly encouraged to believe was a hoax.
The transition between presidents in 2021 is not peaceful. And there’s no way it’s going to be any more smooth or respectful of a process from here. There’s supposed to be an inauguration in two weeks.