As if to prove himself the most arrogant, selfish and careless of politicians, President Donald Trump egged on his followers to use the protest tactics of the powerless — all to endorse his pathetic attempt to grab power and deny what he is: a loser.
"Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!" he tweeted from his comfortable perch last month. From Day One, Trump has refused to act like a normal leader by taking any responsibility for this kind of bluster. To look strong, he incites others, always strutting behind those with the guns.
"All of us here do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened, left, radical Democrats," he roared from behind a protective shield at a rally near the White House on Wednesday. "That’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing … We will never concede. This was not a close election."
These kinds of mean lies can be expected by now from a president whose deceits about the coronavirus arguably contributed to the deaths of thousands of Americans. He incited people to flout public-health precautions. Clearly, he does not mind others dying or he'd have said so.
As always, Trump stayed in a safe place as supporters hoisting his seditious campaign flag crashed barricades at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. That's a decent distance from the guarded White House fortress, from where he will be evicted in two weeks — which a growing number of Americans might consider too long to wait.
Personal risk, to Trump, has always been for the little people — for troops, activists and public servants he seems to consider suckers. Don’t expect to find his family instigators, Eric and Donald Jr., mixing it up with police guarding the barricades. The two men talk tough. Their role in life is to collect money, promote the family brand and, like dad, insult the intelligence of the people.
Echoing the president, Donald Jr. at the Wednesday rally inveighed against all those Republicans who he said did not sufficiently collude in Trump's campaign to retroactively change the results of an election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
"This gathering should send a message to them," the eldest son said. "This isn't their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump's Republican Party."
There you have the nub of it: The GOP, c'est moi. It's all about one person. The president allows no respect for lawmakers doing their jobs. Remember just weeks ago when Junior cried out for an "army" of volunteers to "protect" the polls? That proved sadly impotent against Biden's 81 million documented votes.
Protest and civil disobedience exist for those who see a need to pressure those in charge for a desired result. The events in Washington on Wednesday were a mutation, however — a protest without a real grievance by those already empowered.
An elected executive's followers, with their hands on the controls of a major party for four years, are pretending to be denied a voice. They are in fact being denied the ability to "steal" the election by denying its outcome through a contorted procedural exercise.
This has been Trump's routine all along. Acting like a bold outsider, he gives the illusion of populism, while reserving a chance to escape accountability. Thus, all his spiteful drivel about a "deep state" and "draining the swamp" and "America first."
Trump's instigations have the pungent odor, if not quite the substance, of a government-sponsored putsch to derail the opposition, as if we are in a fist fight on the floor of an Eastern European legislature. Only a leader facing ouster would encourage his flock to resort to unrest.
Undoubtedly some in the Trump mob on Wednesday envied the burning, looting and arson that followed police shootings around the U.S. last year. They and the president may whine of unequal treatment by police or the news media, or anyone with legitimate power.
Trump excused the violence in his most diseased tweet yet: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long."
No, this is what you get when a truthless and erratic president who tweets "Law and Order!" but never pretends to defend a democratic republic reaches the end of the road. We are watching a particularly insane performance by the lamest of lame ducks.