It Was An Attempted Coup, or, You Have To See the Whole Picture

Sometimes you’re just too close to something to see it clearly. To see it for what it really is. It’s like you’ve got your face pressed to it, and all you can see is the small points. The things you want to see. ~Scott Snyder

Sometimes when you’re too close to something, it’s hard to see it for what it is.

At a trivia event I went to a few years back, we had to identify a photo. I was convinced it was an image of something in deep space. Another woman at my table said it was the ocean. Another said it was a flower.

It was a close-up photo of a blueberry.

Being too close to something can really change your perception.

Which was one of the first things I thought of when, over the weekend, throngs of supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro knocked over police barracaides and stormed the presidential palace and other government buildings.

They have refused to accept Bolsonaro’s defeat. They want him re-instated. They claimed that he encouraged their “protest.”

The images were eerily familiar.

And as I was processing that reality, Heather Cox Richardson tweeted something profound:

“And now that we’re watching it in another country, what does it look like to us?”

That hit me like a ton of bricks.

Our American exceptionalism has blinded a lot of people to the reality that thousands of people descended on Congress two years ago to try to stop the peaceful transition of power from one president to another because they had been hoodwinked into thinking the election was a fraud.

It was an attempted coup.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.

The Cline Center at the University of Illinois curates the world’s largest registry of coups, attempted coups, and coup conspiracies. And they recently classified the event: “Using the Cline Center’s Coup d’État Project definitions, the storming of the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 was an attempted coup d’état: an organized, illegal attempt to intervene in the presidential transition by displacing the power of the Congress to certify the election.”

In the next paragraphs they explain why that label is so important: “Coups and attempted coups are among the most politically consequential forms of destabilizing events tracked by the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research.”  (Read more of the Cline Center’s report here.)

But it’s as if the American public, and even our justice system, don’t believe something so consequential could happen here. Certainly not here. Other places have those problems. We help those countries. We aren’t the ones needing help...

The immediate reaction in Brazil was very different from ours. Unlike in the U.S., the Brazilian insurrectionists were summarily rounded up, cuffed, and loaded onto busses for transport to jail. Video and stills of busloads of Bolsonaro supporters went round the world.

Boundaries were immediately reinforced.

But here in the U.S., the crowd dispersed, but not because everyone was cuffed. Six people were arrested in the Capitol on January 6. Six. And yes – hundreds have been charged, as they should, and some of them will spend time in jail, as they should. But it’s been months of combing through evidence to figure out who was there and what they did and bring them to justice. Some of that work was even done by armchair cyber sleuths.

Because wholesale immediate arrests didn’t happen, people started claiming that no laws were actually broken by the insurrectionists and this was all political punishment. On Facebook, Diamond & Silk posted “Why was nobody arrested inside of the Capitol on January 6th if a crime was being committed?” It got over 42,000 interactions and 2,400 shares in less than a week.

Now, on January 6, law enforcement was engaged in hand-to-hand combat. I’m not criticizing them for not cuffing people fast enough when they were just trying to survive.

But I think we’re seeing the consequences of faster action not being taken.

If you keep letting people smash into guardrails without either reinforcing the guardrails or redirecting the people, eventually your guardrails collapse.

And it seems like that’s where we’re heading.

Two years later, not only have the ringleaders of January 6 not been held accountable, but the new Congress has just disbanded the January 6 committee and taken down their website. They’re actively downplaying an attempted coup (that some of them had more than a passing influence on) and making it harder for the public to find the information the January 6 committee revealed.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

And now it’s clear that not holding the ringleaders accountable has led those ringleaders to take their show on the road, so to speak. There’s plenty of overlap between Trump advisors and Bolsonaro’s, and the messaging showed it. Steve Bannon (who needs no introduction) has strongly suggested Brazil’s election was fraudulent, and Mike Lindell (the My Pillow Guy) has repeated the same lie.

And so now, here we are.

Two years after an attempted coup, with ringleaders ringleading all over the world, a Congress that wants to pretend it’s no big deal, and a big chunk of the country still unable or unwilling to see the reality of the situation.

And so far, whether it’s been award-winning news coverage, Congressional hearings, speeches, or protests – nothing has seemed to spur people in authority into decisive action. We need to have people enforce boundaries just as much as we need the boundaries themselves.

So I hope that the insurrection in Brazil – with all its similarities to January 6 – will bring the reality of the situation into focus, especially for people in authority.

It’s so hard to see things clearly when you’re pressed up so close against them.

Maybe this will help them create the distance they need to see the whole picture.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of January 10, 2023

Wednesday: Hear from Tom Bonier and Simon Rosenberg

Another hat tip to the incomparable Jessica Craven of Chop Wood Carry Water (head over to her substack and subscribe to her daily if you’re not already) for this one:

Force Multiplier is having their first community conversation of 2023 with Tom Bonier and Simon Rosenberg – who were very outspoken critics of the “Myth of the Red Wave” that overtook the media outlets in the fall.

The conversation will be tomorrow (Jan 11) from 7-8pm eastern. It’s called: “The Myth of the Red Wave + How it Shaped the Midterms. They’ll talk about how the red wave narrative took hold, why it was wrong, and how we can keep the same thing from happening in 2023-24.

Register HERE.

Thursday: Red Wine & Blue’s Media Rockstar Training

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a school board meeting or a rally for our rights – news stations, bloggers, and influencers are there. And you definitely want to make sure they hear what you have to say.

Trust me, the extremists in your town calling for books bans and an end to reproductive rights are making sure THEIR voices are heard by the media. We need to make sure that reasonable people, the majority – YOU – are heard loud and clear!

If the idea of contacting reporters and giving interviews gives you anxiety, this training is exactly what you need. 

Red Wine & Blue is going to give you super easy tips and tricks on how to connect with journalists and let your community know how you are changing the world, one suburb at a time! And once you’ve taken our training, you’ll have access to press releases, media contacts, and more to build the Red Wine & Blue network in your area. Register for the Thursday, 7:30pm event here.

THURSDAY: Indivisible LAUNCHED A New Guide!

From Indivisible: At Indivisible, a new Congress means it’s time for a new Indivisible Guide. Join us for the formal launch of Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Defeating MAGA, where we’ll break down just exactly how to activate on our new strategy in 2023, whether you live in a community that’s red, blue, or something in between.

Read the guide by clicking here.

And register for their virtual launch – which is at 8pm eastern on Thursday (unhelpful that it’s right around the same time as the Red Wine & Blue event, I know!) by clicking here.

Are One of These Members Your Congresscritter?

Jessica Craven of Chop Wood Carry Water (head here to subscribe to her daily, please!) posted this excellent reminder of the following Republican Congresscritters who are on shaky ground already because they won seats in districts that Biden carried in 2020.

These folks cannot afford to be super MAGA. I’ve already seen Don Bacon (of NE-2 – Omaha, the largest city in Nebraska) sticking his neck out there. So our efforts – both positive and negative – can be especially persuasive with these folks. Remember that with such a slim majority, Republicans can’t afford to lose many of these Republicans in key votes. We really can make a difference here.

So check out this list. If you don’t live in these districts, who do you know who does?

AZ-1 David Schweikert Biden margin 1.5

AZ-6 Juan Ciscomani Biden margin 0.1

CA-13 John Duarte Biden margin 10.9

CA-22 David Valadeo Biden Margin 13.0

CA-27 Mike Garcia Biden margin 12.4

CA-40 Young Kim Biden margin 1.9

CA-45 Michelle Steele Biden margin 6.1

NE-2 Don Bacon Biden margin 6.4

NJ-7 Tom Kean Biden margin 3.8

NY-1 Nick LaLota Biden margin 0.2

NY-3 George Santos Biden margin 8.2

NY-4 Anthony D’Esposito Biden margin 14.6

NY-17 Mike Lawler Biden margin 10.1

NY-19 Marc Molinaro Biden margin 4.6

NY-22 Brandon Williams Biden margin 7.4

OR-5 Lori Chavez-DeRemer Biden margin 8.8

PA-1 Brian Fitzpatrick Biden margin 4.6

VA-2 Jen Kiggans Biden margin 1.9

Whew! Go, You!

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

P.P.S: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

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