We couldn't help wondering what the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other right-wing militia groups are making of the images of pro-democracy violence, mostly from anti-democratic police, on the streets of Moscow.
The inside-out juxtaposition of images of thousands in the streets in an attempt to take down the Vladimir Putin government for jailing opponent Aleksei A. Navalny with the constant airing of Donald Trump-clad militants attacking the U.S. Capitol to overturn democratic elections is startling.
It makes you wonder whom our domestic extremists find heroic in Moscow – or in the streets of Belarus in recent weeks or Hong Kong in months-long protests before that. These images show ordinary Russian people willing to brave certain mass arrests and worse all for the chance to vote, to escape the iron grasp of dictatorial governments.
And yet, our own domestic protestors-turned-insurrectionists claim such personal fealty to a dictatorial Donald Trump that they stormed our Capitol in the name of throwing out election results that were counted, recounted, audited, court-reviewed and certified multiple times.
Indeed, weekend reports out of the FBI has deployed hundreds of agents who are explicitly noting that it was among groups like Proud Boys and Oath Keepers that there is evidence of actual planning and coordination leading to the Jan. 6 Insurrection attack.
Federal prosecutors have charged two Proud Boys leaders for conspiracy to obstruct law enforcement, and have indicated they are weighing more serious felony charges, including sedition, for a wide group. Moreover, while the FBI has followed right-wing extremism, The New York Times found that Trump's efforts to focus his administration on violence by leftist Antifa protesters diluted that effort.
The Jarring Images
We apparently now face the prospects of actual Capitol insurgents throwing up their hands to say that they were simply following Trump's inciting demands to pressure officials at all levels to keep him in office. Jacob Chansley—the notorious horned "QAnon Shaman" invading the Capitol—has asked to testify against Trump at his imminent impeachment trial, said the Daily Beast.
With sudden dismissal—and now replacement—of his impeachment trial legal team, we see Trump trying to turn away from the images of violence and wanting to argue anew that the election was stolen from him and that the proceedings are somehow unconstitutional even though the offenses and impeachment by the House of Representatives occurred during his days in office.
Trump appears as unrepentant today as he did in delaying the deployment of National Guard troops on Jan. 6 to defend democracy.
As president, Trump was hesitant to speak much about Hong Kong and Belarus. Clearly, while he has read a couple of statements about our own Insurrection attempt, he has not taken responsibility for any role that he and his obsession with election results have played.
Half of our country believes in the Trump cult. Obviously, a smaller number are willing to take up arms and go to the Capitol or statehouses and threaten lawmakers with kidnap or killing to promote Trump.
But let's be clear, none of this is about assuring the popular vote or anything but the enshrining of Trump as an unelected monarch willing to repeat a Big Lie enough to brainwash his voters into believing that Trump won the election.
Washington vs. Moscow
A big difference we're seeing on the streets of Moscow is that Putin would never have let the voting happen. He has shown instead that he would simply lock up his opponent (Where have we heard that one?) or poison them—with nary a critical word from Trump as the world's designated defender of democracy.
Another is that every Muscovite interviewed in American press reports is world-savvy and informed, an immediate difference with domestic militia members who have chosen to be brainwashed by propaganda.
There is no election pending in Russia now, and Putin has dispatched his most unforgiving troops across the city to beat and imprison those who rise against him.
So, I'm wondering: Do our right-wing militia members seeing those images from Moscow see any irony in their putative rule in trying to overturn democracy? Do they see themselves as the people in the street rising up against an authoritarian government—or the thugs in uniform seeking to defend the status quo?
Do they care about democracy at all?