By Mike Gaughan
On the afternoon of Wednesday 6th January, American democracy began to splinter. The peaceful transition of power – that tenet of democratic life – was ruptured, as violent pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol, halting the certification of electoral college votes.
Transfixed to our television screens, the world watched in horror as hordes of rioters swarmed Capitol Police, streaming into the complex. Chants of “Stop the Steal!” echoed as the insurrectionists stalked the corridors of Congress.
An emergency alert rang out: “Due to security threat inside: immediately move inside your office, take emergency equipment, lock the doors, take shelter.” American democracy was under attack. With the extremists quickly ascending toward the House and Senate, Capitol Police scrambled to lock all available entrances.
Lawmakers, gripping gas masks, took cover and remarkably, the Senate was sealed with just seconds to spare.
In an image that reverberated around the world in minutes, Capitol Police were pictured barricading the doors to the House chamber, guns aimed steadily at the cracked windowpanes. In a haunting video shot from the House gallery, Rep. Lisa Rochester prayed over her colleagues as the armed standoff continued below.
On the other side of the chamber, marauders shattered glass adjacent to the Speaker’s Lobby. As Ashli Babbitt, 35, hoisted her way through the broken window, she was shot dead. In total, five people lost their lives, including one Capitol Police officer.
The delayed police response bares a marked contrast to those tactics used to crush Black Lives Matter protests this summer. In June, plastic bullets and tear gas rained down on peaceful protesters at Lafayette Square, Washington D.C. The police response to Wednesday’s acts of domestic terrorism pale in comparison.
Worse still, on the day both Raphael Warnock, a black preacher, and Jon Ossoff, a Jewish man, were confirmed as Georgia’s Senators, extremists proudly waved Confederate flags inside the halls of Congress, their white entitlement palpable as they raged against the perceived fading of white identity in the United States.
“This is OUR house!”, they screamed. This desecration and vandalism of the Capitol was far from spontaneous, for this siege has been in the making for years. Four to be exact.
From the moment he stepped into the Oval Office, Donald Trump has stoked division, platformed white supremacy, lied, incited violence, peddled conspiracies and undermined American democracy. Far from spontaneous, Wednesday’s insurrection was inevitable. In the coming days and weeks, you will hear Republican lawmakers and right-wing media commentator’s distance themselves from Wednesday’s insurrection.
Indeed, when the certification of electoral college votes continued, Republican lawmakers stood before the nation and decried this assault on the seat of American democracy. Like Victor Frankenstein, Republican’s beheld their monstrous creation as it sieged the Capitol, and they disowned it.
Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley stood in Congress and feigned outrage at the attack, masquerading as patriots while continuing their efforts to overturn the will of the people and thus sought to garner future support from hard-line Trump supporters.
Doing this, they chose conspiracy over truth, political point-scoring over moral duty and mob rule over democracy. Yet, 145 of their Republican colleagues in the House and Senate also voted to overturn the election results. If this is an indication of anything, it is that Trumpism will surely outlast Trump.
Others, like rats fleeing a sinking ship, distanced themselves from President Trump. “It’s been one helluva’ ride”, joked South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham when certification resumed, but “enough is enough”. Yet for Graham and many other Republicans, Trump’s term has been a political ride they have occupied for their own success. They will likely survive this reckoning. Yet the winner of the rat-race is still a rat.
The following political fallout has been massive. Waves of resignations have followed, including from Trump’s own cabinet. Permanently banned from Twitter, Trump’s favourite means of communication has been severed. His own Vice President has seemingly distanced himself, announcing Saturday that, unlike his boss, he will attend Biden’s inauguration. Meanwhile, Democrats again find themselves moving forward with impeachment, charging a sitting President with incitement of insurrection.
The President finds himself isolated and alone, leaving office not as a President of law and order, but of anarchy and insurrection. Yet, ultimately, he was not alone. From those talking heads in conservative media, slavishly bound to Trump, to those in Congress who sacrificed morality and decency for political clout, they are all co-conspirators. Disavowing him now, days before he leaves office, is too little too late. When the history books are written, I hope their authors remember as much.
Image: Blink O’fanaye via Flickr