No one believes the United States Congress is “legitimate”. As a group they are universally despised. This is not a novel circumstance – there hasn’t been a day since 1800 or so when a double-digit percentage of the population didn’t prefer a double-digit percentage of Congress erected on the trees conveniently planted mere yards away on the National Mall (their congressman is of course wonderful for helping them out with their VA pension and so on). Their approval rating is lower than that of HIV.
This is for a good reason. Notoriously corrupt and ineffectual, their primary role is channeling the grift that a $6.6 trillion federal budget can provide (not counting the Federal Reserve’s formally unlimited resources, which lack even the pretense of political control, or “compliance” mandates enforced on a putatively private sector) and taking, all things considered, a modest commission for their services. Pelosi gets top billing because of her relative lack of subtlety, but a plurality of the institution is on the take on various levels.
That merely accounts for the financial corruption – no one who has met a living, breathing legislator is under the misapprehension that they are a Big Man squeezing out their cut like Tony Soprano. Their take is for the most part the equivalent to a doorman’s Christmas tip – they keep things running smoothly, but everyone is aware they are ultimately disposable, which is why there is a marked lack of shock when it turns out they have self-destruct buttons embedded in their careers and are selected to begin with for pliability. Ultimately, they do as they are told or are replaced.
Encountering an angry mob, then, should be treated as a natural entailment of the position, like a mailman occasionally encountering a snarling dog. This is why they make the big bucks – serving as a physical locus of disdain so the people actually running the country don’t have to trouble themselves with the banalities of legislation. Also entailed in the position is hysterical cowardice and histrionic fantasizing about their role in a drama orchestrated for the benefit of the viewing public.
Thus we have the spectacle of an utter humiliation – where a ragtag group of unarmed, unorganized, angry, and mostly peaceful protesters with a completely inchoate agenda nonetheless displayed more spine than the avatars of national political power, who they sent scurrying, fart-masked, into rat tunnels to await instructions on when and how they should vote. The fact that it was a bunch of rope-line-respecting costumed yahoos made it that much more bitter. This wasn’t some Channing Tatum action movie with a crew of Spetsnaz mercs synchronizing their watches for the Big Job (at least on the protestor side). It wasn’t even the secret police waving guns in their face at 3AM (another occupational hazard that, statistically, twenty or so of them have to look forward to). Aside from the horror in the tunnel, a good portion of the footage could be set to Yakety Sax.
The two responses to this sort of humiliation tend to be to memory-hole it, or go full revanchism. Caesar’s conquest of Gaul was at least partially motivated by and rewarded because of the humiliation of their sack of Rome 350 years prior. Never again! Who’s vae victising now?! It’s clear what path Congress and the institutional left have chosen. The sanctity of the blessed temple of democracy is at stake! They trod their unwashed feed upon Dennis Hastert’s favorite wrestling mat! If the demonstrators are insufficiently threatening on their face, they must be inflated until the story becomes a temporary failing against a terrible danger rather than the beclowning of a widely hated institution.
You cannot reason your way out of this dynamic. Reason implies cunning, which merely heightens the jeopardy they pretend to be in, unless they crush the hated rubes. The danger is further exacerbated by the fact that the entire ordeal was spiritually, if not tactically, initiated by Trump, whose signature move was allowing his supporters to acknowledge how much they hated various slices of the governing elites by pointing out how much the elites hated them. Who else could inspire such a volume of men to assemble, let alone storm the capitol, let alone without him asking? What should happen if, next time, he asks? They could not possibly reconcile with such a threat.
Conversation is impossible. How then to respond?
The second best thing to revanchism is spite. The idea that Jan 6 was some kind of right-wing coup is ridiculous (the opposite not so much). The idea that such a response would have been richly deserved in response to the November 3 coup and <insert time period> of actively hostile governance is quite defensible – language of the unheard, and all that. If the left wants to claim as their enemy anyone who questions the honor of the Milwaukee election commission or the Ways and Means committee, the right should be happy to join hands on that basis.