On the long walk back to my office, I tried to figure out the culpability of the protesters who were supporting the rioters and insurrectionists. Did it matter that they thought they were defending the Constitution? Did it matter that they thought the election was stolen and that a socialist coup was underway?
These weren’t, after all, people who said, “We lost the election, but we want our side to retain power.” They believed truth and the Constitution were on their side. That forced them to turn, progressively, against Georgia’s Republican statewide officials, Fox News, most Republican senators, and, today, against Pence. “He’s Judas Iscariot,” one man from Pennsylvania told me.
And then, today, their belief forced them to decide the Capitol Police were the enemy. “Don’t back the blue until they back you!” one man screamed over a bullhorn. “Traitors!” the rioters screamed at the police protecting the Capitol.
At the very least, we can see a profound failure of prudence here. And that’s not a small moral failure. When you realize you are on the side of violent insurrectionists and arrayed against law enforcement and ideologically aligned media and politicians, you ought to second-guess your conviction that there is a vast conspiracy against you.
But any accounting of blame for today should focus ultimately on Donald Trump.