RED Publishing, 252 pages
History is being rewritten. The scribes this time around are Republicans; their subject is the January 6 insurrection. Unfortunately for the GOP, this won't fly. In order to successfully rewrite recent history, the apparatchiks in charge need totalitarian control of their country. We learned this from Stalin. The GOP has nowhere near total control of the U.S., and as far as the media is concerned, all it's got is the laughable Fox News. And controlling all media is crucial to any attempt to rewrite recent events.
So, like the January 6 capitol riot itself, this latest attempt to pretend it didn't happen is botched from the get-go. Trump wanted a coup, but with the little reason left him apparently perceived that declaring martial law wouldn't fly. Similarly, GOP history revisionists promote the narrative that the January 6 storming of the capitol was nothing unusual, when every American with a brain knows, and clearly remembers, it was an attempted putsch that would have terminated a democracy already on life-support.
The logical solution here was a bipartisan commission on the January 6 uprising. But due to no doubt Trump-inspired GOP obstruction, such a move was DOA. Now Biden is reportedly considering a presidential commission. But there exist other avenues to truth. According to congressional scholar Norm Ornstein, interviewed in the Washington Post, Biden and the Dems should have the justice department empanel a group to recommend for or against prosecutorial action. Even better, as far as I can see, would be a special prosecutor; though don't expect anything nearly that aggressive from any Biden appointee. The advantage here of either a committee or a prosecutor is justice department subpoena power.
The subpoenas of a mere congressional committee are much more easily disregarded, as we learned during Trump-time. And we want people like House minority leader Kevin McCarthy to testify, under oath and threat of perjury, about his January 6 phone conversation with Trump. You know, the one in which Trump reportedly said of the rioters, "well Kevin, I guess they're a lot more upset about the election than you are." Trump, needless to say, did not volunteer to call off the mob.
It would also be nice to have representative Lauren Boebert and a few others of her QAnon-sympathizing ilk testify under oath and threat of perjury about their text messages to or from the rioters, as they stormed the capitol. Early reports said Boebert was in communication with them. Is this true? If so, with whom? And what exactly were the contents of those messages? Did they reveal the locations of targeted congresspeople? I'm sure her colleagues, and indeed much of the nation, would like to know.
Alternatively, according to Ornstein, Pelosi could cobble together a select committee. Ornstein prefers the justice department approach, but why not both? A select committee would not have to have an even number of members from both parties. It could have a slim majority of Dems, Ornstein says. The problem is that McCarthy "is going to do whatever he can, first, to block a committee, and second, to stack it with members designed to turn it into a farce."
But from my perch in the peanut gallery, it seems that if we had Pelosi's select committee in the House and a justice department empaneled committee of inquiry, or a special prosecutor, the chances of getting convincing results double. A select committee with public hearings would plant Dems in front of the cameras as firmly as Republicans were during the Benghazi hysteria. A special prosecutor with discretion to go public could provide a riveting show trial, though for that don't count on attorney general Merrick Garland, whose underlings defend Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos. Of course, the GOP will fight any of this tooth and nail, just as it's already floating the idiot claim that January 6 was mere tourism. The goal here for Dems should be to Stop the Whitewash. Preferably before fanatics like pardoned felon, general Michael Flynn attempt a coup.
Who can forget TV images of louts crashing into the capitol? No one with a functioning memory. But the GOP seems pretty sure it can lie its way into a reality rewrite for its amnesiac base. Why not? After all, this is the party of QAnon, the party whose anointed propaganda arms – Fox News and Newsmax – reported the boldfaced lie that antifa and Black Lives Matter instigated the attempted January 6 coup. Nope. It was Trump himself who did that, along with his henchman Giuliani, shrieking about "trial by combat." Not a single antifa or BLM soul was in sight that afternoon, though there certainly was a bare-chested weirdo sporting fur and horns and plenty of other flakes destroying and stealing federal property and mugging for selfies, all of whom self-identified as Trump supporters. "I'm here because this is where my president wants me to be," said one rioter.
All this mayhem flooded back to me vividly recently, as I read the words, fictionally put into the mouth of a rightwing former CIA operative: "Undermining governments and elections can take time. Perhaps the point is not to Stop the Steal this election, but to prepare for the next one." This reactionary is one of many who populate American Fascism, Gary Engler's new mystery about a right-wing attempt to minimize the damage caused by the January 6 failed overthrow. The hero, journalist Waylon Choy, writes about the far right, leading him to conclude: "So Stop the Steal could be all about demonstrating to the military, the police, the rich and the powerful how easy it would be to claim the election of someone they didn't like, say a Bernie Sanders or another candidate who might challenge capitalism, was invalid. And enough people would believe them that they'd get away with it."
American Fascism posits the Trump presidency as a turning point. The book does not delve into the lugubrious possibility that the Biden years are Weimar redux, because it doesn't need to. It's obvious. Instead, this mystery zooms in on a right-wing conspiracy to get a reactionary, or even an outright fascist, elected in 2024. In this, the book matches reality.
Because in fact, there is a right-wing plot afoot – it's called voter suppression, a looming shadow over 30 states corruptly gerrymandered to have unbudgeable GOP legislative majorities. And this scheme, already hatched, is being carried out by several of those legislatures, along with Republican governors and U.S. congressmen, to steal the next election for Trump or his anointed successor. More likely his successor. A side benefit is the handy excuse to overturn any unlikely progressive Democratic win at any future date. The bogus Stop the Steal is, serendipitously, a bomb waiting to explode, should any leftist ever come within striking distance of the presidency.
I doubt this is Trump's aim as he bellows the grotesque fib that he, not Joe Biden, won the last election. I suspect, rather, that what is on display here is a massively damaged masculine ego. That's not to say the shadow government isn't drawing its own conclusions, and that those conclusions may spell doom for any future, genuine left electoral victory. But as this novel observes – Trump only cares about what's good for Trump. Also, he may very well have hypnotized himself into believing his tornado of lies.
After all, with Trump it's hard to say which is stranger, truth or fiction.