The Secret Service hustled Vice President Pence out of the Senate chamber before rioters, chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” burst in. If they had tried to grab Pence, the Secret Service would have had to — by law — shoot them. That could have produced a dozen or more deaths.

The outnumbered Capitol Police officer who politely attempted to stop the vandalizers in the Senate chamber has been ridiculed as weak and timorous. The vandals, rifling senators’ desks, ignored him. Should he have shot them? Including the fur-and-horns guy who occupied Pence’s rostrum? It would have escalated into major violence. It was good that he didn’t shoot.

The seditious riot at the Capitol is commonly said to have taken five lives. But the three crowd participants who died were seriously ill — heart, stroke and drug addiction — whose families begged them to not go. So two deaths is more accurate: the Capitol Police officer beaten to death and the Trump-QAnon woman shot breaking into the Speaker’s Lobby, where many representatives hid. How many would the mob have killed? It could have been far worse.

Many observers agree that a much bigger force — including the National Guard — around the Capitol would have prevented the mob from surging up the steps and smashing open the building. Obsessed with the negative “optics” of massive force, congressional security officials hesitated until it was too late.

This raises the question of how much force should be used to stop civil insurrection. Most would prefer force at the lower end of the violence spectrum — nightsticks and tear gas. But the mob, knowing that, would push on. In fact, they did.

Given President Biden’s flawless inauguration, the 25,000 National Guardsmen assigned to protect D.C. was overkill. That’s almost as many as we have troops in Korea (28,500). But perhaps that massive presence is precisely what kept domestic terrorists away. Threats to state capitols evaporated in the face of strong dissuasion. The Proud Boys, boogaloo bois, Oath Keepers, QAnon and others may not be as powerful as feared.

My real grounds for cautious optimism have to do with the faces we see on television: an amazing number of nonwhites and Hispanics, not only at the Biden inaugural but named for his administration. We are finally getting a federal government that looks like America.

Blacks took the lead in defeating Trump, especially Black women. Georgia’s two new Democratic senators wouldn’t be there if not for Stacey Abrams. Black voters, even in the deep South, now determine many elections. Unfortunately, this is precisely what motivates White supremacists.

Equally interesting are the number of Indian-descended Americans, including new Vice President Kamala Harris. They seem to have come out of nowhere. Unnoticed for years, most were born in this country of Indian graduate-student parents. They speak unaccented American English.

Notice how many doctors interviewed on television, many of them in high positions in top medical schools, are Indian-American. With the pandemic, they have become the go-to TV explainers — many of them women — for advice and accurate warnings of the coronavirus spread. (COVID deaths passed 400,000 and will hit half a million next month. We’ll be lucky if they don’t break 1 million.)

How did this happen? I can only guess that Indian intellectuals give their children the brains and motivation to become medical doctors. We used to think that “tiger moms” were Chinese-Americans. Better expand that category. Further, I suspect, more Indian MDs are willing to accept teaching positions in American hospitals, which probably pay less than private practice.

America’s march to racial equality comes in spurts, each of them stubbornly reversed. The Klan and elected Democrats in the 1870s snuffed out the Black advances of Reconstruction. Oppresion and lynching reigned until Black migration northward altered the racial mix in several cities. The armed forces were rigidly segregated during both world wars. This changed only when President Truman desegregated the military in 1948, but it is still not complete.

The ball really got rolling with the 1954 Brown decision against school segregation. This helped feed the 1955–’56 Montgomery bus boycott, led by Rev. Martin Luther King. This helped push through federal court cases and the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, since vitiated by gerrymandering and a Supreme Court decision. Notice how much change is the product of federal laws and court rulings.

President Johnson admitted that his 1964 and 1965 acts would cost the Democrats the South for a generation. It was two generations. Nixon won in 1968 with a “Southern strategy” that created a voting bloc of disgruntled Whites, who are with us to this day.

LBJ’s courageous initiatives against racism made him arguably the most progressive U.S. president. Then he flung it all away in Vietnam. What we saw at the Biden inauguration was the nation finally getting back on the tracks it jumped off of in 1968. Will it stay there?