“A republic, if you can keep it.”

A group of people approached Benjamin Franklin at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention asking what sort of government the delegates had created. Franklin answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.” 

Whether this encounter is fact or legend, the founders were no doubt aware of the challenges that a republican form of government presented to a people. It is often remarked upon that the same year that the Declaration of Independence was penned, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations first appeared. Less well known is that that was also the year that the first volume of Edward Gibbons’ The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire appeared. The lesson of that book is this: will we remain citizens of a republic or become subjects in an oligarchy? That question was surely on Franklin’s mind all those years later. Sadly, it seems a lot of people are eager to become the latter. They shame those who a passionately republican.

Supporters of President Donald Trump gather on the National Mall during a rally near the White House in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.
Massive Pro-Trump rally in Washington DC, January 6, 2021.

In his speech today, before a massive crowd in Washington DC, President Trump went through some of the evidence for election rigging and fraud—as well as violations of the Constitution and called on Vice-President Pence to send the matter back to the states. I have blogged about this, but the accounting is covered in much greater depth in such alternative news outlets as The National Pulse and Revolver News, as well as in Peter Navarro’s reports The Immaculate Deception and The Art of the Steal. What the President said today is largely correct. At the very least, if one cares to know, and that is the very least one should do, he should learn about it and demand a closer look at it. When the media tells you there is no fraud, the media is lying to you.

Also today, after Alabama and Alaska affirmed their electors, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) objected to the certification of Arizona’s Electoral College votes during the joint session of the House and Senate to count the electoral votes cast in November’s election. His objection threw what was in establishment circles supposed to be a routine exercise into a different Constitutional process. The House and Senate will now participate in two hours of debate on the Arizona objection in each chamber. Arizona is only the first state to object. More are expected.

That debate has been delayed, for, at the same moment, the pro-Trump crowd marched on Congress, the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances manifest. However, not all protestors marched with peaceful intent. Some entered the Congress to meet Capitol police with arms drawn. Scuffles broke out between officers and protestors. Now it appears that Capitol police have shot a protestor in the chest. Outside, fights between individuals were recorded. It is unclear as to who all is involved. Congressmen were evacuated.

In light of the violence, Trump has taken to Twitter to calm matters, throwing his weight behind peaceful protest and the rule of law. We hope that people listen to him and avoid violence. But some are surely too caught up in the passions of the moment to heed his call.

He followed that with this:

I’ve been giving folks the heads up on these developments for months. That frustrations would boil over was not unexpected. Those who rely on the censorious social media and legacy media—the propaganda arm of corporate governance—have been made ignorant. Today comes as a surprise to people who haven’t been paying attention. This moment is bigger than the president. People believe they’re losing their republic. As I have documented on this blog, they are not incorrect.

Detractors say that it is Trump who is overthrowing the government. Amy Klobuchar began today by challenging Republicans to “choose our republic or subvert democracy for Trump.” But what followed in the joint session is the lawful way forward. Our Founders created a system to handle this. Those who act as if challenging an election is un-democratic, even fascistic, are projecting. Challenging an election is what democracy looks like. If only Al Gore has stayed the course, history might very well be different today.

These several contested states need to decertify the election and conduct an open and transparent investigation into it. If they can’t get that work done by inauguration, then the federal government needs to move to a contingent election as per the Constitution. Pence should have thrown this back to the states. He punted and now we are moving straight away into the federal process. At the same time, the states are moving forward in any case. This is not over.

So it’s time for the civics lesson that a lot of folks never received as children. We will see whether the violence derails the opportunity. Whatever the character of the violence now occurring in our Capitol, violence is not the way forward. The Constitutional process was working itself out.

Violence is an unfortunate outcome not only because people are hurt, but because it threatens to obscure an inflection point in our history: challenging the power of corporations and its establishment in government. That’s what “Stop the Steal” is really about: the People versus Wall Street. This moment will be remembered for all of history. It may very well be recorded as the moment that the republic lived or became a corporate oligarchy. Violence obscures the significance of the moment by provides the images the media needs to derail democracy.

Finally, this must be said. After months—years—of Antifa and BLM burning down buildings, looting shops, assaulting civilians, and shooting police, while being praised as “peaceful” protesters, progressives are claiming things on social media that things would have been much worse for those entering the Capitol building today had they been black and brown (and Muslim, etc.). As they tell it, the woman shot and killed by DC police enjoyed “white privilege.” The depth of delusional thinking among progressives is truly staggering. Ideology-is-truth. In their warped minds, the “far-right” protestors become “terrorists” that are “babied” by the police. Progressives have become completely untethered from reality. For more on this see Antifa, the Proud Boys, and the Relative Scale of Violent Extremism, Antifa and the Boogaloos: Condemning Political Violence Left and Right, Suppressing the Rabble: Portraying Conservatism and Republicanism as Fringe and Dangerous, The Problem with Antifascism, On Riots and the Postmodern Corruption of the Culture of Protest, Portland and the Rule of Law.

Update January 6, 2021, 8:30 PM: The woman shot and killed by DC police inside the US Capitol during the protests was was Ashli Babbitt, a 14-year military veteran who served four tours with the US Air Force. She was a high level security official throughout her time in service.

Protester killed in Capitol was Air Force vet from California
Ashli Babbitt, shot and killed by Capitol police

She was climbing through a window and appears to have been shot from some distance. Here is some raw footage of the incident:

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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