The mob was the measure of popular sovereignty that Trump sought to incite from the crowd as they moved to the U.S. Capitol. Although the very doctrine of citizens’ arrests are an inheritance of a police forces became the norm, and any need for citizen’s arrest dissipated, the notion was championed among militia groups that gained increasing presence at Stop the Steal rallies over previous months, creating a myth of the ability to restore justice and right wrongs that may have animated many members of the crowd, and validated their intrusion on certification of electoral votes. But the breaching of the U.S. Capitol perimeter by mobs as angry and violent as those President Trump predicted would unleash a wave of violent crime across cities entered the Capitol building, set to deface and desecrate the halls of government. Reacting to the assertion of a “continuation” of power before the election had occurred, the threat to a Trump Presidency would be defended in ways that channeled the open violence against immigrants and reduction of migrants’ liberties that Trump had sanctioned, all but explicitly inviting the White House perimeter to be breached in the name of patriotism. As President Trump insisted that he would never concede, and then shifted to he lit more than a spark, affirming his tie to the assembled crowd he invited to the White House, directing them to the United States Capitol, heading down Constitution Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall, moving across far fewer barriers, barricades and fencing and streamed into the Capitol grounds. The direction of the crowd to the U.S. Capitol seemed triggered by the mention of Mike Pence’s decision to not interfere with the electors’ certification–which even if he explained he lacked authority to do, gave new identity to this Trump rally, as the project to Save America seems to have appeared with new clarity, creating the moment of “discharge” at which it gained new purpose to storm the Capitol, as Congress deviated from overturning the election’s results.
While Longfellow had prayed for stability beset by fears of the ability of the Republic to not be buffeted by internal disagreements, as its future was uncertain, there was a heady moment of farce, as if the instructive recitation of the patriotic poem in his closing statement embodied the trial as a moment of national Sturm und Drang, and not a defense of the outgoing President’s betrayal of his Oath of Office. The destructive mob that entered the U.S. Capitol were not only entirely white, but the “poet Longfellow” Schoen referenced with awe embodied a poetics of whiteness as if this resolved the crisis of leadership when the President assured his crowd that their voices would not be silenced; a poet of Whiteness that enlisted the ancient epic image of the ship of state in a poetics of Anglo-Saxon nation-making, if the original declamation of dactyls in stately pentameters perhaps once inspired tears in public declamation in mid-nineteenth cenntury Boston. When Schoen flatly declaimed poetry in closing argument punctuated by overwrought emotion, was a bizarre performance of patriotism, he seemed to be urging Republican senators keep faith and check fears, as if to ignore that the President had invited the separatist cries of white supremacists and second amendment defenders that have roiled the nation in online baiting to enter the U.S. Capitol costumed in confederate garb. The inability to sustain faith in the face of separatist memes of false patriotism claimed entitlement of Free Speech, but asked one to mask or ignore the degree to which confidence in government was further destabilized by the illusion of national unity.
If President Trump had indeed urged that the crowd assembled on January 6, 2021 before the Ellipse should march “peacefully and patriotically,” as Martin Van Der Veer reminded the senators during Trump’s second impeachment trial, to make the case that the former President did not incite violence in any way, the meme of “peaceful secession” was strong and alive in online forums, where the image of a “Peaceful Red State Secession” was in fact nourished on Facebook, and, among other Trump memes, provided an image of the “Sovereign States of America” that was argued “could preserve liberty and traditional American values” that might be a slug for Longfellow’s poetry, as much as Second Amendment rights, white supremacy, or a Trump Presidency.
Longfellow had transposed a classical and pre-revolutionary image of nation in epic form, but the attempt at enlisting his verse to distract from the separatist divides that had inspired many of the rioters and had widely circulated on the internet The invasion of the Capitol grounds was tantamount to civil war. Online promotion of the “virtues of balkanization” spread the gospel of secession in previous years as an “inevitable fracturing of the United States,” adapting the partisan share of voting percentages as fated to accelerate and might as well be accelerated, deployed again around questions of reopening the economy in the age of coronavirus as a moment of crisis, if its faux precision assumed many other forms, from the rights accorded undocumented immigrants as products of a blue-red dichotomy that incubated online in threads and clips that prophesied impending establishment of martial law and fragmentation of the union after electoral chaos and the disqualification of popular candidates.
Were any of the rioters present wearing the merch that had been hawked online to promote the need for a new vision of America?
They were certainly wearing shirts expecting a “Civil War” to break out that day, possibly confirming the “distributed network of extremists” Robert Evans argues had been planning the taking of the Capitol for months.