Columnist Joe Gannon: Wednesday was about Georgia, not the clown posse insurrection

  • Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, in Washington. AP

Published: 1/8/2021 4:17:06 PM

The famous golfer, Arnold Palmer, when asked if he thought luck played a part in his triumphs, replied: “Yes, and the more I practice, the luckier I get.”

I’ve always thought America was an unlucky country — owing to our lack of strenuous practice at being a democracy. Bad luck was Lincoln’s assassination before he could set the tone for Reconstruction. Bad luck was M.L. King and Malcolm X getting assassinated in their prime — imagine if both had lived into their 80s! Bad luck was the 2000 election decided by a partisan Supreme Court. Had Bush v. Gore gone the other way we would never have invaded Iraq, destroyed that part of the world and handed it over to ISIS. A case of how our American bad luck can be the world’s bad luck.

I had fully expected the Georgia Senate races to go Republican. I am glad an old Trumper friend welched on our bet for the general election, it put me off further bets on Georgia!

And Georgia went blue because in Georgia they have been practicing hard enough for their luck (and ours) to turn. Stacey Abrams is the model for all of us who crave not a return to normal, which was so often anti-democratic these past 12 years — but a welcome to the new normal. The new normal where liberals get an election stolen through spurious voter roll purges, as Abrams did, and we come back stronger than ever and simply shift an entire state to blue through sheer effort, organization, mobilization and perhaps most importantly, the grit to alchemize a victory from an ignominious defeat!

The funny thing is a friend texted me Wednesday, “Can you believe this?” I answered back: “Who would’ve thought? Georgia goes blue!” Then he texted back: “Trump supporters storming Capitol.”

And I thought, OK, I saw that, but is that the big news? Was that the news we were going to remember? Or was it the headline: “Georgia’s Gift to #46: Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader.”

Not that the images were not infuriating, even if a little comic. As if some frat-boy revelers from a Comic-Con mated with extras from “Duck Dynasty.” When moving as a group these Trumpers are like a big-headed child — too naive to know better, too big not to be dangerous. This Big-Head child just kept stumbling forward to see how much the adults would let it get away with — and when no one really tried to stop them, they broke onto the Capitol and there were many sets of twisted knickers among the duly-elected representatives the people.

But Big Head just kept rolling and as they were nice and white no one actually tried shooting them to make them stop. So, on they went, taking self-incriminating selfies, and parading looted trophies to help local and federal authorities later identify them.

We have been seeing the coddling of white nationalists since — forever? But certainly since COVID. How many state capitols were so invaded by gun-toting knuckleheaded anti-maskers, as well as all those “white lives matter” nationalists? They had paid no penalty so far, and so — at the president’s invitation — they decided to stage a Keystone Cops Insurrection.

I do not mock the loss of life there, but we have been watching a lot of death. How many have we watched killed or brutalized as a result of the single most important event of 2020: The Black Lives Matter revolt of the summer?

But were we still shocked on Wednesday to discover that there is still gambling going on in the casino? America is nothing but a casino, we are not now, nor have we ever been, the freest or the fairest nation. Perhaps the largest self-governing nation, sure? But never best.

What happened in the capitol Wednesday was not an historical stain. It was yet another dark moment in the people’s house built by slaves, so there’s that.

My hope is that what happened in Georgia might be really historical. Georgia is the northernmost Deep South state. We do not know, but it is possible that Georgia marks the beginning of an historical shift. Because if Georgia is a blue beachhead then we might actually see the light at the end of a 40-year-long tunnel.

What will we remember in 2024? The “Clown Posse” or Georgia? And would we have preferred that Wednesday did not happen? In terms of how it will affect a President Biden’s ability to govern, Trump may have given the only gift he can — a reality check on what real chaos looks like. And while some 170 House Republicans still voted to challenge the election after the melee, the political ground has shifted enough that Biden might yet find enough light to get some governing done. For that is what we want: not an end to Trump but the resumption of good governance.

And what of Trump? When Twitter banned him he deleted all the offensive quotes and tweeted a video “decrying” the violence that he himself had instigated. Meaning, when scolded, he folded and did as he was told.

Because at the end of the day, that is all he wants or cares about: a platform to continue to feed his addiction to himself.

Now the task is for us to continue practicing democracy hard enough so that our luck changes permanently.

Joe Gannon, teacher and writer, lives in Easthampton. He can be reached at

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