Why no one should have been surprised

Trump speaking on a television screen on Coney Barrett
In Pennsylvania, supporters of President Donald Trump listen as Judge Amy Coney Barrett is announced as the White House’s pick for US Supreme Court. Trump was to hold a rally outside Harrisburg, Pa., on Saturday 9/26/20 (Pennsylvania Capital-Star | Stephen Caruso)

I was not surprised by the mob assault on the Capitol on January 6, nor should you have been, nor should the police have been.

I was horrified and outraged, but not surprised. Not in the least.

We have known, all of us, for years now, that Donald Trump has no respect for the truth, no respect for our democratic institutions, no ounce of dignity, no shred of decency and that he traffics in racism and incites violence.

We have known, all of us, for years now, that leading psychiatrists and psychologists diagnosed Trump as a sociopathic narcissist.

We have known, all of us, for years now, that leading scholars have warned about Trump and authoritarianism, even fascism.

We have known, all of us, for months now – because he told us! – that he would cry “fraud” if he lost.

We have known, all of us, for months now – because he told us! – that he wouldn’t pledge to have a peaceful transfer of power.

We have known, all of us, for weeks now – because he told us! – that he was calling for throngs of people to descend on Washington on the very day that Congress was set to count the electoral votes.

We have known, all of us, for weeks now – because he told us! — that he would stoop to anything to try to keep himself in power.

Here’s just one example: On Dec. 2, Donald Trump gave a psychotic, 46-minute address from the White House, which began: “This may be the most important speech of my life.” He was blunt and unmistakable about his intentions: “The results of the individual swing states must be overturned and overturned immediately. Some people say that’s far out. That’s too harsh. Well, does that mean we take a president, and we’ve just elected a president, where the votes were fraudulent? No, that means you have to turn over an election.”

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And so, why is anyone surprised that he brought his storm troopers to Washington on Jan. 6 and egged them on?

Why, for that matter, is anyone surprised that fascists act like fascists?

Despite all the warnings, the fundamental risk that Donald Trump and his followers have posed to our democracy was dangerously down-played – not just by his enablers, most of whom finally smelled the coffee (or was it the teargas?) by Jan. 6.

(Too late, Mitch McConnell! Too late, Lindsey Graham! Too late, Ron Johnson! Too late, Tucker Carlson! Way, way, way too late, Rupert Murdoch!)

But with a few notable exceptions, including Bernie Sanders, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Barton Gellman and Thomas Friedman, there was a tendency across the board to not obsess about Trump’s transgressions, especially after Nov. 3.

This was due to a number of converging sentiments: Sheer exhaustion with Trump’s act; the expectation that he’s going away on Jan. 20 no matter what (!), so let’s not give him any more attention or oxygen; the desire (prevalent among Democrats) to focus on the success of getting Joe Biden elected and to project the sense that “we got this.”

This was all naive and short-sighted.

And the country paid a high price for it on Jan. 6.