So it’s come to this. Domestic terrorists running riot within the walls of Capitol Hill. Armed insurrectionists breaking into the home of American democracy in the name of a supposedly patriotic dogma built on falsities and hatred. A frighteningly high number of the insurrectionists came ready to fight in the name of President Trump. Rioters paraded around the offices of senior officials as if they were celebrating the spoils of war. For anybody invested in a world that is based in the rule of law, in democracy and in the will of the people, these scenes make you sick to the core.
Donald Trump’s inflammatory language has always fanned the flames of violence. His rhetoric can be tied to the 2017 Charlottesville car attack, which was followed by his weak condemnation of the attack that insisted that there were bad people on both sides. But this was the first time that Trump has directly initiated violence. It was he who encouraged his supporters to march on Washington D.C to take a stand at what they see as a false election. The simple truth unacknowledged by the rioters and by Trump himself is that you do not steal an election by winning it. Joe Biden won fairly and, in the end, by a comfortable margin. You steal it by staging an armed coup when the results are not what you had hoped for, and by forcing some of the highest officials in the land to either evacuate or take shelter. All because of one man’s unwavering sense of entitlement.
It is the sourest note on which Trump could end his presidency. Blood has been spilled and America turned on its head by the actions of a man who refuses to act in a way befitting of his role. While the militia broke down the doors of Congress, Trump took to his normal tactic of hiding behind his wall of tweets while refusing to condemn the rioters outright. It has been reported that the deployment of the Washington National Guard was ordered by Vice-President Mike Pence, not Trump himself. It truly is unprecedented; terrorists make their way inside the US Capitol, and the incumbent President of the United States does nothing to curb the mob’s violence.
There is a poisonous hypocrisy at the heart of Trump’s inaction. Last summer, when the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests took place across America, he warned in the sternest terms that anybody who damages federal property will be subject to the full force of the law.
Where were these stark warnings and promises of prosecution yesterday? Where was the same language condemning the insurrectionists as mobsters, rioters or vandals? Where was the armed-to-the-teeth police response that was sent out in anticipation of the largely peaceful BLM marches? The mentality that Trump has force fed America is that people of colour fighting against racial oppression and systematic injustice is more of a threat than terrorists flaunting firearms and laying waste to the Capitol Building. Perhaps the two situations cannot be directly compared, but Trump has nevertheless fueled a racist core of American society, something celebrated by people whose loyalty to him burns far brighter than their loyalty to the Republican party.
Incidentally, where do the Republicans go from here? There is genuine concern that Trump has stained the party, perhaps irreversibly. The Republicans pride themselves on being the party of law and order, of civility and due process. For a President to cast those principles aside is unthinkable for many party members. Trump has abandoned core Republican stances, and with it alienated most of the Republican party. Top allies like Mitch McConnell have distanced themselves from him, and Trump even managed to alienate his Vice-President after Pence told him that he could not overturn the election result. A small number of Republicans were standing by Trump before yesterday’s events. To do so now seems not only indefensible, but inadvisable if the Republicans are to hold real power again.
One such Republican who reversed their plans to vote against certifying Biden’s victory is Senator Kelly Loeffler. The certification and the riots coincided with a senate run-off vote in Georgia that would ultimately determine whether the Democrats or Republicans control both chambers of Congress during Biden’s first two years in office. Loeffler, one of the Republican candidates, was going to protest the result of November’s election – but then did not, citing the “abhorrent” scenes at the Capitol. Even one time allies – or, at least, sympathisers – of Trump are abandoning him. As it happens, the Republicans lost both run-offs, meaning the Democrats will control the White House, the Senate and the House for the first time in 12 years.
Rumours about what actions will be taken against Trump are already circulating. US Representative for Minnesota Ilhan Omar has already begun drafting new articles of impeachment against Trump. Even though he only has 13 days of rule left, some feel that Trump is too unpredictable and dangerous to leave in office for even a moment longer. It is not clear however whether a full impeachment could be processed in time. A quicker solution, one that only requires a majority of the Cabinet to agree, is to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from power immediately. Calls for Pence to start proceedings on this are growing louder by the hour.
Security at Biden’s upcoming inauguration is also likely to be tightened. The ceremony was always going to look different this year due to the global pandemic, but exactly what form it will now take is an open question. Given the ferocity with which the rioters broke into the Capitol, serious questions will be asked about the protection that Biden, Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris and other senior Democrats will be afforded.
Inaction, hypocrisy and ineptitude in office will be how Trump is remembered. He will be remembered as a President who split his own party’s loyalty and backed himself into a corner by refusing to accept that he lives in a democracy. The scenes at the Capitol yesterday were unforgivable, on the part of the domestic terrorists that held the Senate to political ransom, and on the part of the leader who refused to order them back in the strongest possible terms. It lays bare the size of the task Biden and the new Democrat administration have ahead of them; rioters were more prepared to turn violent than accept that their beloved candidate had lost. The current President has since promised an orderly transition of power, but after what happened on the steps of the Capitol many will struggle to believe him. What legacy Trump may have thought he was leaving behind is now ripped to shreds. He will forever be remembered as the President who stood by as armed militias stormed the home of American democracy. He will never be forgiven, and it is only a matter of time before the repercussions of this day make themselves known.
Words by James Hanton.
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