Searching for Star Wars after a national tragedy
"What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists?"
America was attacked on January 6th, 2021 from within. A sitting president fulfilled his many years of promising to not concede a lost election and did so by sicking his fringe supporters on Congress. My podcast which I’ve hosted since 2016, Beltway Banthas, is a Star Wars and politics podcast, but sometimes Star Wars is hard to find in the moments when history is being written on TV. In this episode, I decided to convene a panel to share their thoughts and feelings just a day after an insurrection at the Capitol building. But don’t worry, in the course of this venting session, we find hope. Because if Star Wars is about one thing, it’s about the enduring power of hope.
Not only face down and conquer darkness…but to build new and worthy things in its place. I hope you enjoy the podcast!
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By: Albert Gustafson
The Galactic Republic died with thunderous applause in the Grand Convocation Chamber, the ancient, hallowed halls of galactic democracy. On January 6th a piece of American democracy died in its august legislative chambers, too, with shouts and crashes and gunfire. But where George Lucas’s Galactic Senate throttled the Galactic Republic, our own Congress seemed more like spectators at their own event.
Of course, the whole drama of the day was built up on whether Congress would certify the Electoral College’s verdict of a Biden victory in the 2020 election, but there was never really much question that they would fulfill their duties. For all the opportunities Congress had to act over the last decade—whether to check presidential power or initiate an independent legislative agenda—this basically ceremonial piece of the electoral process was never going to be their big moment of defiance.
Yes, there would be spectacle: Senators Cruz and Hawley and Toomey would get to make impassioned speeches, a little something to put on cable news. But in the end, the electors would be certified, and Biden would be president. Congress is on autopilot.
Yet, as if in obedience to his base function, President Trump intervened to boost the TV ratings. Not only did he bring in the most colorful clowns in his Q-Anon circus, but the president’s fan club of neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates burst into the capitol, destroying property and disrupting the election process. All in all, a great day for the networks. After the police sent the Nazis home, Congress filed back in to cast their votes. A few of the Nazi-enablers still did their segments about stolen elections and other fictions. Most lost their nerve.
Now, Congress, the first branch of our representative republic, would “discharge their duty under the Constitution and for our nation,” certifying Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. Now, Congress would reassert rule of law and remove the president whose reckless lies drove his supporters like stampeding cattle through the very halls of Congress.
Instead, after certifying the electors, the Congress packed up and went home. There were tweets and think pieces and TV spots “calling for impeachment,” but there was no Congress around to do the impeaching. Instead, Congress would resume session after Inauguration Day when a new president would be there to tell them what to do.
Whereas Sheev Palpatine’s coronation as Emperor was a moment of majoritarian ecstasy, the death of American representative democracy happened while Congress shuffled in and out of the capitol, droning about removing the president and swearing vengeance on its enemies. Donald Trump did not get to stay president at the end of the day, but Congress died anyway. Donald Trump did not personally attain dictatorial powers through the January 6 Insurrection, but the office of the presidency did.
It took less than 24 hours for impeachment calls to turn to calls for the president’s cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment. Really? The last check against the president is his employees, the cabinet? Mas Amedda is going to ask Emperor Palpatine to step down?
There will be no thunderous applause at the death of American democracy. The Houses of Congress are already dead. There will be no one to applaud….
This is a community contribution from political writer, Albert Gustafson. To pitch your own idea to Politicize Me, email me directly: email@example.com