14. Donald Trump’s sustained attack on the truth was so systematic to orient a crowd of political protesters to overturn government, in order to restore a sense of democratic transparency that the very apparatus of voting and elections had corrupted, devalued and rendered obscure, by taking power into their own hands. Trump seemed to usurp congressional authority to set the “Times, Places and Manner” of congressional elections, given that congress was not going to suspend the election–this didn’t happen even in the U.S. Civil War–the fears of electoral safety that FOX news stoked suggested a map, underlying the electoral map, where the risks of accurate voting were pronounced. But serious fears were inculcated, rooted in the fact, in part, that voting machines of private vendors–Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Dominion Voting Systems, Hart InterCivic, and others–provided vote tallies, both vulnerable to software attacks, and haunted by the fears of the lack of a paper trail, led rumors of a “glitch” created by “tabulation software,” voting software manufactured overseas, or blocks of votes that were assigned to one candidate–triggering real fears of a lack of voter transparency that tilted the margins away from a Republican victory from which the nation was already on edge.
Evidence of voter fraud had proliferated online, shortly after the election, in ways that were exploited by groups that encouraged crowds to congregate before the Capitol in Washington DC, to reverse the mechanics of representative government and to take things into their own hands. The assertion at the Capitol that Trump made that “voter rolls are crammed of non-citizens” and “tens of millions of people are allowed to go vote without identification,” identity, integrity, and residency were all made central to the election after the fact. In fact, many serious actions were taken to replace paperless voting machines since the 2016 election, and indeed to facilitate post-Election Day audits in order to preserve clarity in the election after fears of hacking and other tampering with ballots were generated in 2016. The actual reforms that allowed a process of audits and a paper trail of votes was in place for 2020, unlike in 2016, in many states in the nation–
–to better ensure the election, but the fears of alterations with ballots, ballot “tampering” and even the harvesting of ballots were planted in public discourse that may have encouraged the charges of lack of transparency in the election to be reversed: and the “fears” of voter security running from cybersecurity, to disinformation, ballot tampering, data breaches, and outright stealing data to threaten and intimidate voters by foreign powers jostled security in any critical infrastructure protecting the vote, as never before. The warnings of a contestation of votes and voting security raised fears of cybersecuriy and fair voting that primed the pump for a broad dissensus, leading Foreign Policy to frame alerts about election infrastructure which, if valid, contributed to the fears of compromised voting practices designed to undermine confidence in the results of elections, that served to electrify Trump base in ways we have not, perhaps, taken stock. “https://www.statista.com/chart/20316/ice-removals-by-country-of-citizenship/
–that undermined security in the eletion.
When the barbarians arrived at the gates of the Capitol, seeking to take control of Congress, did they seek as “protestors” to prevent the certification of electoral votes to restore a sense of security, or were they played to stage a coup?
The barbarians were not of migrants, this time, approaching the border, that animated their sense of urgency, but of a certification of the deep danger of an end to the Trump Presidency–even though President Trump had, equipped with with U.S. Border patrol statistics, traced national threats and states of emergency throughout four years of his Presidency, in the specter of invasion evoked by transnational threats. They assembled to call Congress to account, but perhaps echoed that primary point of reference of the invasion of barbarians, far more accurately than the maps of migrants approaching the border, as hordes from red states arrived at Washington, DC, determined to right the organs of representative government.
But if all maps depend on consensus–few migrants saw themselves as crossing a border that was a crime to cross–the Despite images of the Caravans we had watched as they arrived from Central America, determined to cross our national boundaries, these barbarians looked as if they were all white–a crowd celebrating, signing, and dancing as they wore red MAGA hats, scarves, and carried TRUMP 2020 signs and other campaign paraphernalia, and had arrived to conclude a campaign that had not gone as they had expected, while the collective mug shots of those guilty of “immigration crime suspects” that had popped up on billboards throughout the nation had effectively under-written the need for racial profiling.
Rather than crossing the fortified border at the edges of empire, this threat grew before and as if in opposition to the chambers of representative government occurred from a stage erected in previous days, but an event that was promoted since the electors had met in individual states to confirm popular votes for U.S. President. They had been alerted by the dangerous maps of a subversion of votes by electors or at the ballot box, specters of which had haunted viewers of FOX news, if not the Trump campaign, and reflect a deep insecurity of how the narrow race between voters could translate into a map of electoral consensus–if it ever could.
Real-time maps and tabulations were followed as the vote came in, long after election day, since 2016, when we first got used to the protracted tallying of votes, and the questions of multiple states’ electoral results, that only prepared for the concern not only of “battle-ground states” but the contestation of the vote in 2020.
As several states that were “still in play” and “what if” maps of the battleground states Trump needed to win to secure victory in 2020. As if egged on by the charges that corruption had disrupted this map, and interrupted the hopes for Trump 2020 many banners bore, charges of voter fraud, doctored ballots, and the ability to flip what was once a “magic screen” to show red states created a sense of the danger of making any predictions, as if unveiling the strength of Trump long underestimated, as if to dull the minds of a nation by a “very tight race” where “despite predictions” many challenges were being waged on the ground.
Why not stage a challenge to the certification of electors, to press the charges of challenges that seemed. The foregrounding on Fox of Trump’s deep opposition to ‘shutdowns’ that would hamper the economy, or cast the process of selection of a President lay in counting votes more than casting ballots. As pro-Trump attorneys launched a “stop the count” movement on November 5, was a “stop the steal far behind? As the Trump campaign continued over six and a half weeks to express confidence and predicting victory, asking how much the live counting of votes that showed a margin of 100,000 votes in Pennsylvania, then 14,000 in Georgia, or entertaining the possibility of one elector in Nebraska made the democratic process almost openly venal and ridiculously debased. Newsmaps almost invited viewers to color some stats as they might believe they fell, perhaps helped by the President’s questions about the security of voting security.
So why not debase democracy and restore a diret vision of process, unclouded by faulty tallies and unobserved vote counts? This crowd was crowd-sourced on social media, by hashtags like #StoptheSteal, Large crowds had begun to arrive before sunrise, occupying the rows of seats on the Mall. They seemed benign, but would set up a conflict between the power manifest in crowds and the allocation of representational government by states’ electors. The confrontation before the primary seat of representational government was arrived at by varied routes–busses organized to Washington DC, often by the same groups who had sponsored Rallies for Trump but the underlying map was a call for a new form of governance, interrupting smooth progress of transition of power that had been mapped out from Election Day in November to the meeting of electors in respective states on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to the certification of electors by a joint session of the U.S. Congress. This timed progression of an assembly of representative structures dedicated to mediate the popular vote was interrupted by a crowd that claimed the American flag, lest it be desecrated, as certification was interrupted by an alternative manner of government of acclamation by a crowd, eager to oppose the immediacy of its collective unruliness and deep conviction to the stately dome.
These were not the barbarians that had overwhelmed empires of the past.
The mobs were far from the caravans we were long told to be expecting from across the southwestern border, but they posed a far deeper national security threat, and lay in the electoral system. Those who arrived to rectify the vote arrived dressed the for part, displaying their patriotism. Some were in revolutionary or paramilitary garb; others who had attended of past Trump rallies wore election garb of the concluded 2020 campaign.
They were the new barbarians at the gate. We have since tried to imagine their arrival on distinct routes, as if to echoe the detail of the routes by which those barbarians had arrived from all Europe and Asia were detailed with elegance in post-Napoleonic Paris, where they must have been prepared with reassurance of a sense of some stability after the restoration of the July Monarchy, from a place of security before 1848 revolutions brought a new wave of urban uprisings across much of Europe from a large urban working class.
If these maps of the invasion of the Roman Empire by barbarians from outside Europe still may provide the dominant unconscious model for barbarian invasions. But if the crowd-sourced crowd of believers who congregated before the Capitol building arrived at a similar target, desperate to apply pressure to the U.S. Congress to fail to certify the winner of the 2020 election, they followed modern tools of destabilization, in order to forestall the feared shift of government to an era that would not secure the defense of the mythic “liberties” that the Trump campaign and separatist groups have claimed were under threat–even if in doing so, they may have aimed to prevent regime change that they magnified to the end of an epoch. Their attack sought to erode–or undermine–the very claims of representative government, if the range of tribes they represent has not been as clearly mapped as the Huns, Franks, Alans, Vandals, Visigoths, and Saxons, even if we may long be trying to untangle the web-based right wing origins of this call to action against government.
This was a crowd of believers, and was not a spontaneous crowd: it was truly crowd-sourced, sourced and summoned by sirens of social media. This consensus assembled from all America would not be an invasion, but would invade Washington, DC, to ensure not its destruction, but an alternative universe of electoral victory: the results would change the course of global history as consequentially as that ur-map of invasions, mapped in detail in a masterpiece of historical geography, that condensed barbarian invasions at the fall of the Roman Empire, collapsing many years in a moment of destruction. If hard to map with any comparable historical or analytic distance, they seemed to seek to awe us with their spontaneous presence, as they were seeking to impose a judgement on the process of the election, to take back the clock not to just the early hours of election night, when Donald J. Trump appeared from initial results to be in the lead, but to the height of his President, if not to the first inauguration.