Trump and the ‘Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions’

Since our media have insisted that the previous standard for assaults on Washington, D.C. is the British burning late in the War of 1812, let us revisit that carnage. In his biography of the loser President James Madison, Richard Brookhiser describes the “Miltonic” destruction of public buildings, including the White House and Congress. “The White House was walls, the Capitol a shell.”

Judging by the gifts they bore, some in the January 6 mob may have intended to assassinate or kidnap the vice president and other members of Congress. These criminals should be taken literally and prosecuted accordingly. But it’s far more difficult to take seriously the mob as an expression and extension of Donald Trump.  

The Capitol Hill police demanded reinforcements days before the riots—which were denied multiple times by Congressional superiors. One D.C. police officer I know was furious at the incompetent leadership of his Capitol counterparts.

What happened on January 6 was less “Miltonic” than moronic. The mob was terrifying but it was a long way from “insurrection” or terrorism. They were more like supremely deplorable American tourists in an exotic foreign country, suggesting more pungent versions of the smelly masses Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used to deride. “Antifa at least has the good sense to wear masks. Right-wing protestors were taking selfies,” a colleague of mine observed

The animal skin man was no prophetic John the Baptist (may he have his head handed to him), the Nancy Pelosi office intruders were no British officers making, in Brookhiser’s guarded terms, “lewd jokes about being in Dolley [Madison’s] seat.” 

The Washington Post detailed the physical destruction—which, to my knowledge, the paper failed to do for the summer rioters who transformed downtown Washington, D.C. (if they did, I want to see the photos). Of course, the violent Congress ingress would not have occurred without the BLM’s summer of “mostly peaceful” riots and looting—which went largely uncondemned by the Left and certainly was not criticized by its leaders. 

Last week’s events were no “insurrection” either. If they were, they would still be going on in many other government buildings or many more would be dead. But there was not one recorded gunshot by a rioter. There were pipe bombs, but none exploded. The disturbing reports of threatened violence around the country and at the Inauguration must be met with stern justice. And the president’s slow reaction to the mayhem cannot escape rebuke.

But such law-and-order sternness is contrary to the reaction occasioned in the history of shootings and bombings involving Puerto Rican nationalists and assorted other terrorists. (Democratic presidents pardoned or commuted sentences of many of those involved in these episodes.) 

For example, Susan Rosenberg was charged with bombing the Capitol in 1983, and the U.S. National War College. President Clinton commuted her sentence to time served (16 years at that point). Among other left-wing pursuits, she now  raises money for Black Lives Matter. The disgraceful lack of prosecutions and convictions of domestic terrorists of the Left that we see today goes back to the 1970s and ’80s, as is well documented in Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage.   

This is not the time to quote Thomas Jefferson on the occasional need for rebellion—that is, rebellion on behalf of limited, constitutional government. As Steven Hayward advises, we need to reread Abraham Lincoln’s “Perpetuation Address.” Lincoln was echoing Aristotle in Book VI of his Politics, where he warns that perpetuating a nation is more difficult than founding one, and that unwritten laws are as important as the written ones. 

In America, that means the Declaration of Independence and divinity, “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” That’s why Lincoln embraced the odd, almost foreign phrase “political religion” to describe the commitment to law America requires. 

But our politicians today have rejected transcendent religion as a guide for our politics and exchanged it for racial identity.

The Hill riots expose the extent to which the Black Lives Matter movement is the nation’s most powerful political party. It will not be officially inaugurated on January 20, but it controls the public opinion that permits laws to be promulgated and passed. Among Biden’s earliest responses to the riot was to contrast the police treatment of white Trump supporters with what he imagined would be its treatment of George Floyd protestors.  

Is Biden so distant from reality that it doesn’t occur to him that the Hill police would bend the knee in supplication? Biden’s preposterous worldview explains his choices for vice president, secretary of defense, and his first Supreme Court nominee. He is putting into place the racial radicalism he preached in his campaign. 

Biden in early September demanded “racial equality, equity across the board,” noting, “[t]he country’s ready—and if they’re not, it doesn’t matter . . . .” The country, not least of all black Americans, will suffer for this self-serving arrogance.


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About Ken Masugi

Ken Masugi, Ph.D., is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. He has been a speechwriter for two cabinet members, and a special assistant for Clarence Thomas when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Masugi is co-author, editor, or co-editor of 10 books on American politics. He has taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he was Olin Distinguished Visiting Professor; James Madison College of Michigan State University; the Ashbrook Center of Ashland University; and Princeton University.

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. President Donald Trump walks toward reporters as he exits the White House to walk toward Marine One on the South Lawn on January 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Following last week's deadly pro-Trump riot on Capitol Hill, President Trump is making his first public appearance on Tuesday as he makes a trip to the border town of Alamo, Texas to view the partial construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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