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To properly understand the storming of Capitol Hill last Wednesday, you must empathize with those who died.
This is not something that President-elect Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, presumptive Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, or their vicious media boosters want to do. They want to eradicate the legacy of President Trump and crush his supporters.
But you can’t erase 75 million people without destroying America.
So, let’s start with Ashli Babbitt, 35, fatally shot by law enforcement as she tried to climb through a broken window into the Capitol building. She was a military veteran and struggling small-business owner, a Trump admirer who dutifully answered the president’s call to fly across the country to support his doomed effort to overturn the election result.
Babbitt had served in the pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like many of her generation, she came of age in the patriotic aftermath of 9/11 and signed up with the Air Force straight out of high school.
Like many veterans she was disillusioned on her return to a nation which ignored their sacrifice and was busy shipping the jobs of the working class off to China.
Trump’s America First rhetoric and rejection of needless foreign wars won her ardent support.
“My sister was 35 and served 14 years. To me, that’s the majority of your conscious adult life,” her brother Roger Witthoeft, 32, told the New York Times. “If you feel like you gave the majority of your life to your country and you’re not being listened to, that is a hard pill to swallow.”
In the end, Babbitt succumbed to the madness of the crowd Wednesday and lost her life as a result.
On the opposing side of the mob that invaded Capitol Hill was police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, also a military veteran. Like Babbitt, he was a Trump supporter, and, like Babbitt, he had enlisted straight out of high school. He served with the National Guard in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Enduring Freedom and was upset about the lack of support for veterans.
Sicknick died in hospital the day after the riot, from injuries sustained “while physically engaging with protesters,” said Capitol Police. His death, like the apparent suicide Saturday of another officer involved in the riot, shames armchair critics who have accused police of not doing enough to hold back the mob.
Police that day were outnumbered and caught by surprise when people like them, who they expected would respect the law — military veterans, blue-collar workers, firefighters, state legislators — turned on them.
There is rich irony in post facto laments about insufficient policing from Democrats who backed calls last year to “defund the police,” glorified months of anti-cop protests, normalized violence and even named streets after the instigators.
Biden played along with the anti-cop rhetoric last summer, with slippery words about “redirecting” police funding as punishment for “systemic racism.” He pretended Antifa was just an “idea,” rather than the jackbooted thugs we saw rampaging through the streets.
But on Thursday, when the worm had finally turned, and it was Trump supporters who were in the wrong, Biden transformed into a law-and-order hawk, blasting them as “thugs,” “white supremacists” and “domestic terrorists.”
“Don’t dare call them protesters,” he said, declaring the priority for his new attorney general would be “domestic terrorism.”
Biden thus set the stage for an authoritarian crackdown on the populist nationalist movement which propelled Trump to power.
To drive home the point, he injected racial division into the powder keg.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently,” he said.
That’s just not true. On Wednesday, Capitol Police reacted with tear gas and deadly force.
What marked last year’s riots was the supine police reaction. The NYPD even kneeled in solidarity. On the few occasions Trump sent in federal reinforcements to quell the mayhem, he was maligned as a fascist.
Everyone understands what happen at Capitol Hill last week was terrible, but when you crack down on your ideological foes after condoning bad behavior from your own side, you lose all credibility.
Now, instead of turning down the heat, Biden and his party are proceeding with another spiteful impeachment and cheering on the social-media companies that have canceled the president’s accounts.
We know it’s not just about punishing Trump, who will be gone before any vote gets to the Senate.
They want to humiliate and demoralize his supporters, the half of the country Biden dismissed during the campaign as “chumps” and “ugly folk.” They want to crush the populist-nationalist movement which they see as a challenge to their power.
They want to ideologically “cleanse” the nation, as Rick Klein, the political director at ABC News put it in a tweet.
Getting rid of Trump is the “easy part,” he said. “Cleansing the movement he commands is going to be something else.”
This is a recipe for disaster. It only accelerates the alienation that delivered Trump to the White House in the first place.
Biden has an opportunity to live up to his campaign promise of “unity” and stop the nation sliding into a cauldron of hatred.
He should stop the impeachment and ensure that the Capitol Hill rioters receive punishment proportionate to that meted out to last year’s BLM-Antifa culprits.
After all, when you spent the summer cheering on the destruction of statues, and the trashing of American history and social norms, you can’t pretend that the Capitol is some “sacred” institution exempt from the vandalism you unleashed.
That kind of double standard only disenfranchises millions of Americans and pushes some to a place where they feel they have nothing to lose.
One last kick out the door for the Trump family came from the upmarket magazines, which never deigned to put the fashion-plate former-model first lady on their covers.
Instead, they’ve rushed to make Kamala Harris a cover girl before she even takes office.
But the gambit backfired on Vogue, with widespread condemnation of a grungy cover shot of the vice president-elect in black jeans and Converse sneakers.
Hardly a glamour shot in keeping with the aspirational nature of the magazine. What may have started out as an insult to Melania Trump has done no favors to Harris.