Election 2020 Mike Siegel

We Have Our Call to Arms

These are the lessons progressives can take from the Trump insurrection and the Georgia victories.

By Mike Siegel / Original to ScheerPost

On January 6, White nationalists sacked the U.S. Capitol at the command of our treasonous President. The same President who on Election Day in November won Texas easily — while dragging multiple Congressional Republicans to victory.

There are countless lessons to learn from the Trump insurrection, as well as from the legendary Georgia Senate victories of Rev. Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

But for those of us working in Texas, dedicated to changing the political foundations of this state, we have our call to arms.

Without hesitation, we must take on both White nationalism and economic injustice.

The people who defiled the House and Senate include self-described Nazis and neo-Confederates. These are not people we can negotiate with — they are planning for our murder. We must defeat them. And we must defeat their allies, like the Capitol Police who let them in.

We will need a rare, diverse, powerful coalition to take on White supremacy, here in Texas and across the nation.

And at the same time, we must weaken the Trump coalition by addressing the failure of the American economy.

One beautiful lesson from the victories of soon-to-be Senators Warnock and Ossoff is they won by using clear and direct progressive messaging.

“We’ll give you $2,000” helped two Democrats win a statewide special election in Georgia. And this progressive economic messaging is not only good politics. It is essential to saving any aspiration we have for American democracy.

The seditious racists who invaded the Capitol are the tip of the spear of the Trump coalition.  They don’t make it into the building without a much broader base of Republicans behind them.

But if Democrats can build a stronger working class coalition, we can isolate the most hateful and reactionary elements of the Trump insurrection. The Ku Klux Klan was crushed in this country after a sustained movement including public pressure, legislation, and civil lawsuits for damages. We need a similar effort to defeat the White hate groups that today are celebrating their ability to disrupt the transition of power of the most powerful nation in the world.

As a candidate for Congress, I spent the 2020 primary debating with moderates about whether we should have universal healthcare or something less, a Green New Deal or something less. Then I spent the 2020 general election debating with consultants about the very same thing.

But we aren’t going to save our democracy with garbled messages and equivocation. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff taught us — when Democrats say “we’ll give you $2,000,” and Republicans say “here’s $600,” Democrats win.

And if that’s true in Georgia, it’s true in Texas.

The difference between Wednesday morning and Wednesday evening, however, was that this isn’t just a conversation about electoral strategy. If it wasn’t clear before, it’s very clear now.

This is a conversation about life and death. The Trump insurrection is inspired by Confederates who wish a return to chattel slavery. By Nazis who sport logos saying “6 million was not enough.” By “Blue Lives Matter” cops who could have killed members of Congress by letting an armed mob into the building while a presidential election was being finalized.

Our ability to attract a small fraction of Republicans to the Democratic side could be the difference between a continuation of America’s experiment with democracy, or something far worse.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and dig in. Let’s build the organizations we need to reach every community across this State. Let’s unite across race, class, religion, and geography. Let’s talk directly to the people and make sure everyone knows the choice we have to make.

Our very lives are at stake.

Mike Siegel
Mike Siegel

Mike Siegel is a civil rights lawyer based in Austin, Texas. He was the Democratic nominee for Congress in the Texas 10th Congressional District in 2018 and 2020.

8 comments

  1. [Comments are now turned on for this article. Apologies for the oversight.]

    Comment from Larry:

    I was hoping to comment on Mike Siegel’s essay today and found no opportunity to do so. I am presenting my comment here: I love Mike Siegel and the life he’s led putting himself in the service of others. I’m glad so clearly good a human being has made his way to a position of power. I fear, though, that for all the very good intentions he expresses he’s internalized too much of what’s keeping us all from getting to a better place as a nation and a civilization and a race. When he seems proudly to call us “the most powerful nation in the world” I can’t help hearing the ring of the same nationalism that gets ours and so many other countries into so much ugly trouble. When he blames the white nationalists for defiling the House and the Senate he seems less than mindful of the very glaring truth that those two bodies have been defiling themselves since long before a pair of dirty boots got rested on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. When he says people like these insurrectionists can’t be negotiated with he seems a little too conveniently to be overlooking how far we haven’t gotten in negotiating with all the neoliberal congresspeople who march unimpeded every working day to their seats on one or the other side of the aisle in the House and the Senate they’ve been defiling for so long. When Mike warns of the threats the insurrectionists pose to democracy it’s like he thinks we still have a democracy no matter how well it’s been documented that the people the congresspeople are said to represent have no statistically significant power to influence the lawmaking thanks to the corporate forces orchestrating all this defiling of the House and the Senate. Making this one-day instance of open seditiousness out to be the mother of all calls to arms makes me wonder if enough thought will go into figuring out why so many awful textbook calls to arms before it were answered so meagerly as to forestall our arrival at this latest call to arms hardly at all. I agree that “There are countless lessons to learn from the Trump insurrection” and I hope one of them that gets learned is that oafish and open acts of insurrection are not by far the only forms of undermining our society that lessons can be learned from.

  2. I suspect the “norms” of society will be broken with increasing frequency, and ugliness, as time goes on. There’s a kind of Versailles complex to the wealthy and professional classes: i.e. “society has been good to me, this rage doesn’t make any sense”. If you are a benefactor of a system that exploits and ignores the wellbeing of half its citizens, is it really any surprise that rage is a response?

  3. This article is disingenuous and provides justification for all manner of dangerous repression including legislation, introduced by the lunatic Schiff (HR4192) which Biden is now pushing, which is so broad as to make illegal all manner of protest that might damage precious property, and even planning for it, a domestic terrorist crime! If implemented, sooner rather than later self-defence of black and poor communities agains cop, Klan and fascist terror will be prosecuted also as a federal domestic terrorism ‘crime’.

    Let’s never forget that it was Biden who was instrumental in the 2014 Ukraine coup that installed fascists into power and who has just appointed his partner in that crime, Victoria Nuland, to his cabinet. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if some of the fascistic white supremacists who led the occupation of the ‘sacred’ Capitol weren’t also trained by the very same fascists that Biden and Nuland installed in Ukraine. You just can’t make this stuff up.

    And of course the unaccountable tech giants, who need to be expropriated without compensation forthwith, are censoring left and right with avengeance, and it will end up being exclusively against the left. Biden and his cabal no doubt are itching to formalise that censorship arrangement legislatively, so that the US government’s and NATO’s creature the Atlantic Council can get back to its business as usual justifying regime-changing coups around the world. And the disgusting Guardian has already begun the next stage of the online censorship campaign, with a piece recently advocating clamping down on dissenting, ‘toxic’ podcasts(!)

    The writer also makes this outrageous claim: “The Ku Klux Klan was crushed in this country after a sustained movement including public pressure, legislation, and civil lawsuits for damages.” Amazing. The Klan has never been crushed, is still active and growing, and can only be crushed physically, not by ‘legislation’ or other ‘peaceful, legal’ nostrums. Fascism never has been ‘crushed’ other than physically, but never by the capitalist state that doesn’t hesitate to use fascists as an auxiliary to the cops when needed. But the Democrats will make sure their domestic terrorism legislation is broad enough to apply rigorously, ‘even-handedly’ of course, to any elementary self-defence used against real domestic terror, fascist and Klan terror. And let’s not forget for a moment ubiquitous cop terror.

    But to call that slapstick farce a ‘coup’ is pearl-clutching of the highest order. Where was their declaration of governmental takeover? Why they could have adapted text from Guaido whose own coup attempt received gushing support from all Democrats. Was there a ‘manifesto’? Was the painted creature dressed in animal skins and a buffalo-horned helmet their Adolf Hitler? Where was their support from high-ranking state actors, from the military for example? Where was their Ludendorf, or even a ‘potential’ Smedley Butler? Other than venting justified grievances about widespread electoral fraud that no-one wants to acknowledge and wanting to prevent the ceremonial confirmation of the deeply undemocratic Electoral College vote, what was their actual ‘program’? This was no March on Rome or Beer Hall Putsch by disciplined fascist contingents. Get a grip.

    But all this language of ‘insurrection’, ‘terrorism’, ‘coup’ is just dangerous and disingenuous, and ultimately has but one purpose: to further strengthen all repressive arms of the capitalist state to defend and further entrench a bloody, parasitic and psychopathic ruling class facing the greatest social and economic crisis in its history.

    Hopefully mass uprisings against all the cruel abuse the US ruling class has for decades inflicted on America’s working people, and which has only fuelled a righteous fury and rage, will make the ‘Washington coup’ look like a children’s picnic.

    1. Regardless of the goofiness of the actual assault, when one of the two parties argues for months that the election was stolen, hoping that a right-wing Supreme Court will aid a reversal, and the outgoing president calls his followers to come to the capital and right this travesty using “strength” and does not prosecute conspiracy to violence or prevent a physical attack by an armed mob, and has spokespeople like Gen. Flynn calling for the imposition of martial law … how are we to see this as not an ATTEMPTED coup. No doubt, Trump could not organize a coup to take over a paper bag, yet he has been effective enough to completely take over the party apparatus…and can you not even see a spec of possibility in his delusions that some combination of mini-Mussolinis in his party and the evengelical American infiltration of the armed forces, with some quisling Supreme Court decision, could lead to an actual soft coup of the type so popular in the world where presidents stay on and on and on?

      There is a brand of leftist that is so sure of its interpretation of the facts based on connecting dots that are logical that it can’t accept that history is often partly made by those who suspend logic altogether, including cultists, fanatics and the outright insane.

      1. Sorry to be connecting dots, but…

        First on electoral fraud. This is widespread but highly unlikely to have swung the election away from Trump to Biden. It’s not just the right wing who’ve been victims of voting machine vote flipping. Tim Canova, a left Democrat, who opposed the vile Debbie Wasserman-Schultze in Florida, was the victim of real-time vote flipping which saw his winning vote all of a sudden plunge to 5%, moreover across all demographics, a distribution with such a low statistical probability of occurring as to be virtually impossible. But more generally, the voting machines are proprietory black-box software that no-one has any faith in.

        And that’s the point: the Trumpers can always claim ‘we wus robbed’ without fear of contradiction because all voters are refused access to the machines to examine the machine logs to show that there was no vote flipping. Until that’s addressed, potential or actual electoral fraud will always remain an issue.

        Your example of Flynn is disingenuous given that he called for martial law ~18 December around electoral fraud, but didn’t raise a peep, let alone renew his martial law call, in relation to the latest farce in Washington.

        Here is a more balanced, eye-witness account of the so-called attempted ‘coup’, not from Trumpers but leftists:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yeh38gESh6Q

        In this, they make the following pertinent points (and I hate Trump as much if not more than they do):
        1. Trump’s speech at the Ellipse didn’t urge any violence, but was edited for broadcast to give the impression of him doing so. It was cut just when he said ‘we must fight’, and what was cut was him then saying that the march and protest be peaceful.
        2. The crowd at the Ellipse hadn’t arrived at the Capitol by the time the occupation was commencing.
        3. The fascistic elements, who may have been armed (and there doesn’t appear to be evidence of that), were allowed access, and of course everyone has seen footage of the cops allowing protestors in.
        4. Given the behaviour of the cops, there’s an argument that this was a ‘psyop’ to enable passing of pre-drafted legislation of 05 January to impeach those members not accepting the electoral result.

        But the real danger is the bill from Schiff that clamps down on rights to protest. This Patriot Act 2.0 will now likely sail through as well, and represents the real coup, using the Washington slapstick as pretext.

        Hypothetically, if a mass of angry striking workers converged on the Capitol, let’s say in response to a house speaker or senate leader justifying the cop murder of a beloved strike leader, and the protesting strikers managed to breach the Capitol’s ramparts and ran riot inside desecrating the ‘sacred’ seat of power, would there be talk of a ‘coup’? What if the workers’ leaders also led and urged on the action — would that make it a ‘coup’? Given the present crisis, this scenario may not be so hypothetical, but in that circumstance it’s extremely difficult to imagine the progressive ‘left’ labelling such an action a ‘coup’. Any unauthorised mass occupation of the Capitol, ‘the peoples’ house’, might as well be labelled an attempted ‘coup’. Or a wink-wink ‘unauthorised’ one like the Capitol farce.

        I’m happy to be convinced otherwise, but your points aren’t persuasive. Kyle Kulinski coined a term for this event: ‘diet coup’. But those attempting to make a coup, ‘diet’ or otherwise, must at least have some intent or pretence, deluded or otherwise, of taking power. It’s got nothing to do with their mental capacity or mental health or state of delusion. It’s all to do with the intent of the leaders and also the extent that those they lead also support the intention. There’s no evidence of intent, and certainly none in the Trump ingenues in tow, to conduct a ‘coup’, ie a grab for state power.

        But it can be guaranteed that this event will serve a marvellous pretext for Patriot Act 2.0 and, with a few courageous exceptions, all the so-called progressive ‘left’ has once again been suckered into going along with increasing levels of censorship, repression and erosion of civil and democratic rights.

      2. I write these comments too fast and so perhaps I was unclear: I did not see the rally/mob violence as a coup attempt. I saw Trump and the Republicans who have hitched their wagon closest to him pushing to see how close they could get to a soft coup through disinformation, bogus lawsuits, shifting the frame (i.e., normalizing challenging voting on this level, the idea of court- and legislature-flipping elections, martial law even being discussed) and so on.

        What is obvious is that a mob taking over the Capitol for a few hours is not a coup. But Trump was clearly stress-testing the system and this could be useful for his ilk in the future. The Republicans openly admit they do not think they can win elections without voter suppression, so why should we think they are not open to soft coups?

        Finally, I will say you overreach when you say, “There’s no evidence of intent, and certainly none in the Trump ingenues in tow, to conduct a ‘coup’, ie a grab for state power.” Clearly, whether it was likely to happen or not, all of the lawsuits and “steal the vote” campaigning was definitely an attempt to overturn an election which was clearly lost by Trump using any means possible — coups are not only fought with guns, they combine any number of power lever available to block the will of the voters and transfer or sharing of power.

  4. Actually I believe Glenn Greenwald’s take on the “Insurrection”/ “peaceful protest” is the only sane rational view:
    https://greenwald.substack.com/p/violence-in-the-capitol-dangers-in-67f
    Trump is gone. He and the RUSSIANS!!! are the imaginary Bogeymen needed to prop up our establishment Police State (what happened to the Muslim “terrorists”? I miss them.) The US is the only dangerous country globally and is now focusing on (and inventing) Domestic Terrorism. Apropos for Biden after his War on Drugs and his Patriot Act.
    Trump is a jackass, but he has as much right as any politician to question an Election when he loses. (Maybe why AMLO appeared sympathetic to Trump?) There were over 40 affadavits (signed under penalty of perjury) describing voting irregularities. This happens in every Election; it is part of the Game our pundits love so much (like knocking the Green candidates off the ballots in many states). It is why we don’t count the votes the same day, and why we don’t allow the UN to monitor our Elections. Probably doesn’t matter, and most people are happy to see Trump gone.
    But to the author’s point that Trump’s coat-tails pulled so many GOP legislatures into office in Texas, doesn’t he wonder why Biden had no coat-tails in the battleground states? Either the Democratic brand is so toxic, that the loathsome GOP is preferable? Or just ballot stuffing?
    McConnell’s refusal to give $2000 to the 200 million Americans whose money ran out end of July almost surely secured the wins of Warnock and Ossoff. These two Democrats $124+ million and $138+ million in donations, mostly from out of state, dwarfed their GOP opponents’ $92+ million and $89+ million, just showing where our nation’s priorities are.

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