Trump’s violent supporters broke barricades, overwhelmed the police and rampaged through offices of Congressmen and senators as the lawmakers were hurriedly escorted to safer buildings. The stately halls of the Capitol were suddenly a crime-scene with Trump supporters stealing what they could, including a podium.
Some carried the Confederate flag, a symbol of slavery and White supremacy. But their “revolution” died after a few hours of chaos and violence. They failed in their objective of forcing the US Congress to overturn the 2020 election results. The Congress confirmed Joe Biden’s victory 3.45 a.m. Washington time on Thursday, 21 hours after the start of proceedings that in normal times take a little more than an hour. Biden will be inaugurated as president on January 20 as per schedule.
At least 11 Republican senators were planning to raise objections to the certification process but after the storming of the building in which they would do the job, several corrected course. In the end, a few objected perfunctorily to the electoral vote counts of Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Country’s Image Tarnished
Institutions worked and the democratic process prevailed but the country’s image is certainly and horribly tarnished. It will take robust rebuilding and focused outreach by both parties to come back to normal.
The slow-burning but sure-to-explode insurrection was incited by none other than the man in charge of keeping the country and its institutions safe. The marauders doing Trump’s bidding saw themselves as “revolutionaries” ready to take back the “People’s House” to “stop the steal”– a chant about the alleged “stealing”of the election. Trump has continued to claim the election was “stolen” from him and that widespread voter fraud prevented his victory. Even on Wednesday when hundreds of lawmakers and president-elect Biden urged him to call back his supporters, he dithered and gave a mixed message.
Republicans, who have largely stayed mum or heaped sycophantic praise on Trump, were finally furious. “There’s no question that the president formed the mob. The president incited the mob,” Liz Cheney, a Republican Congresswoman and daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, said on Fox News. “He lit the flame.”
A shocked nation watched the mayhem on television as world leaders, some out of schadenfreude and others out of genuine concern, emphasised that democratic process must continue and the people’s verdict in last year’s election must be honoured.
The police were inexplicably inefficient in protecting the Capitol building and preventing the entry despite ample warnings that protesters were coming to Washington DC on January 6 to disrupt the certification of election by the US Congress. It was clear that a step which in the past was routine in the long American presidential election process became Trump’s “last stand” to undermine and overturn the results.
He wasn’t able to but he did manage to leave behind “American carnage” — a term he used in 2017 at his inauguration to describe what had gone before him. At least four people died during the mayhem, 52 people were arrested and a number of guns were seized.
Calls to remove Trump from office even though he has only a few days left in the White House grew overnight as more Republicans abandoned him. It must be noted that Trump’s excesses have been enabled, encouraged and even emulated by many senators over the last four years. But the assault on Capitol Hill has encouraged a few Republicans to advocate invoking the 25th amendment, declaring Trump unfit to discharge his duties. It would require Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the joint session of Congress when Trump extremists broke in, and a majority of the cabinet to vote to remove the president. Reports say preliminary discussions have begun on taking the unprecedented step. The US Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, have also called for Trump’s removal. Biden, the next president, noted that democracy is fragile and its institutions are good only as long as the people believe in them.