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A Tale of Two Authoritarians

Published: January 8, 2022
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Dick.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney visited the House of Representatives yesterday. He and his daughter Liz were the only two Republicans present at a moment of silence commemorating the events of last January 6th. It was a touching scene, which perfectly described why the surviving anti-Trump Uniparty of the political mainstream is at least as much of a threat to democracy as the “insurrectionists” they never stop wailing about.

In a story entitled “Dick Cheney returns to the House and receives a warm welcome . . . from Democrats,” the Washington Post wrote that “Democrats put aside their fierce and lasting policy divides with the Cheneys to thank them for condemning the attack and Trump’s continued effort to undermine the 2020 presidential election results with his false claims of fraud.”

(News writing has become a pre-fab profession, like assembling IKEA furniture. All you need is an Allen wrench and a list of the latest clichés. “Trump’s efforts to undermine the 2020 election” has replaced “Trump’s efforts to coordinate with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” and “Trump’s false claims of fraud” has replaced “Trump’s false claims of ‘fake news.’” Part of the significance of January 6th is that it updated popular propaganda stock, which had grown stale.)

I don’t mean to understate the seriousness of January 6th, even though it’s been absurdly misreported for over a year now. No one from a country where these things actually happen could mistake 1/6 for “a coup .” In the real version, the mob doesn’t take selfies and blaze doobies after seizing the palace, and the would-be dictator doesn’t spend 187 minutes snacking and watching Fox before tweeting “go home.” Instead, he works the phones nonstop to rally precinct chiefs, generals, and airport officials to the cause, because a coup is a real attempt to seize power. Britannica says the “chief prerequisite for a coup is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements.” We saw none of that on January 6th, but it’s become journalistic requirement to use either “coup” or “insurrection” in describing it:

The endless hyperventilating efforts to describe January 6th as a disaster on the order of Pearl Harbor or even 9/11 has been awesome to behold. Huffington Post nitwit S.V. Date even called it “1,000 percent worse” than 9/11, moving the decimal point over on the famous Team America joke*:

The panic inspired convulsions across politics and the media. Ted Cruz made a plea for mainstream recognition by denouncing 1/6 as a “violent terrorist attack” before cowering in retreat on Tucker Carlson Tonight, in the process pantsing himself with audiences in all directions. Meanwhile, podcaster Eric Lendrum, on the pro-Trump site American Greatness, devised the impressively crazy syllogism that because the mainstream caricature of Trump supporters is so incorrect, conservatives should therefore embrace it: “If their aim is to make January 6 their Reichstag Fire, then we should go forward celebrating the events of that day as our Storming of the Bastille.”

It was no heroic storming of the Bastille. January 6th was a massive LARP that got out of hand. Trump has been around long enough for us to know his pattern as a serial line-crosser. Like a comedian, he’s always trying out new material, and if he gets the right reaction, he comes back with a bigger delivery next time. January 6th was Trump dipping a toe in the lake of strongman politics. The reason it wasn’t worse is because Trump has also been constantly mislabeled as a HitlerStalin, or Pinochet. The man has no attention span, no interest in planning or strategy, and most importantly, no ability to maintain relationships with the type of people who do have those qualities (like Steve Bannon). Even if he wanted to overturn “democracy itself” — I don’t believe he does, but let’s say — Trump has proven over and over he lacks the qualities a politician would need to make that happen.

Which brings us back to Cheney. All those things Trump is rumored to be, Dick Cheney actually is. That’s why it’s so significant that he appeared on the floor of the House yesterday to be slobbered over by the Adam Schiffs and Nancy Pelosis of the world. Dick Cheney did more to destroy democracy in ten minutes of his Vice Presidency than Donald Trump did in four years.

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