A year ago, a politician asked me who I thought would win the 2020 Presidential election. I said that it might come down to which side’s crazies acted out worst. For example, Black Lives Matter terrorism and rioting hurt Hillary in 2016, while the right-wing mass shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue in just before the 2018 election helped the Democrats.
As it turned out, I was wrong: the right behaved surprisingly well throughout 2020, with virtually no mass shootings or Mostly Peaceful Protests, while the anti-Trump side went nuts after Memorial Day. And Trump still lost.
Still, it was very close, with Trump coming within 34,000 votes of tying 269-269, which would have meant he’d win in a state-by-state vote in the House, assuming the inevitable anti-Trump violence didn’t lead to a coup. (Alternative timeline headline: “Despite the Tragic Lynching of Barron Trump, Yesterday’s Burning of the White House was Mostly Peaceful.”)
It’s not impossible that, despite the full court press to play down the mass leftist lawbreaking, Biden would have won easily without the George Floyd mourning process. On the other hand, I can’t see much in the way of local evidence for that. On one hand, the BLM riot a week before the election in Philadelphia might have helped Trump pick up his 2 points over 2016 there. But in Minnesota, where the Democrats got much retail burned to the ground, Trump fell by five points over 2016.
But my point is that Trump supporters had behaved throughout 2020 with vastly more respect for the law than anti-Trump elements.
So, Trump pushed his luck one last time, inviting a big crowd of Trump die-hards to Washington DC to serve as a cheering backdrop for his Power of Positive Thinking fantasy of a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington ending in which, after Congress has been enlightened about Benford’s Law, bellwether counties, and other such matters, a morally broken Joe Biden staggers in to announce he’d stolen the election, and Trump is re-elected by acclamation.
Now obviously, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington wasn’t going to happen. The Trump Reality Distortion field doesn’t extend that far.
But why did Trump’s Luck fail him so ignominiously as having part of his crowd that he foresaw as an applauding audience turn into the mob that forced its way into the Capitol?
For one reason, there’s a selection effect between Trump going to a Trump rally in the hinterlands and Trump calling one last rally in DC: when Trump goes to his supporters, they are the salt of the earth.
But when he calls for his supporters to come to him from all across the country, the cost of travel is selecting for more extremism. So he winds up with a crowd that consists of tens of thousands of law-abiding citizens, a few thousand adventurers who are up for taking selfies inside the Capitol, a few hundred street brawlers up for for a good old fight shoving and bashing their way in, and few dozen real crazies who might or might not have done some very bad things if they’d got their hands on political enemies.