I have not written much about the events of last week. What more is there to say. There has been an outpouring of anger and explanation. But for the rest of the world looking in America has never looked weaker; its brand of democracy has never looked as fragile; its status diminished with little expectation of a rapid recovery.
On 6 January 2021 a mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol – it was a riot and a violent attack against the 117th United States Congress that left five people dead. All in an attempt to overturn Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
The Senate was able to resume that night amid the debris, damage and defilement. It did its duty clearing the way for Joe Biden’s 20th January inauguration.
The House Democrats with some Republican support were quick to draft a new article of impeachment that passed on January 13th. It accuses Mr. Trump of inciting an insurrection.
The final count was 232 to 197, with 10 members of the president’s party supporting his unprecedented second impeachment, making it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in US history.
President Trump tried to cling to power by overturning an election that he had unambiguously lost. He spread a big lie to convince his voters that the election was stolen from them. Having failed to force state officials to override the vote, he whipped up a violent mob and sent it to intimidate Congress into giving him what he wanted. And as his supporters ransacked the Capitol and threatened to hang the vice-president, Mr Trump looked on, ignoring lawmakers’ pleas for him to come to their aid.
In a democracy, no crime is higher and no misdemeanour more treasonous.
The Senate should make him the first American president in history to be convicted. It is unlikely. Conviction would require a 2/3 majority in the Senate requiring some 17 Republicans in their bitterly divided party to vote for a conviction.
Worse the Senate trial will not be held until after the Biden inauguration. It will be a major diversion for the new President.
The risk in trying Trump, and attempting to convict him, is that he becomes a martyr to his supporters.
It has been strange listening to pundits and reading commentaries that express shock and indignation. Where had they been when hundreds of people, some of them armed, stormed the Michigan state capitol building in April, objecting to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order?
Where were they when a young woman was killed during the August 2017 Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia – a neo-Nazi event that Donald Trump opined had good people on both sides.
Clearly no one had explained that the Proud Boys’ T-shirt insignia – 6MWE – means “Six Million [Jews] Weren’t Enough”?
What did they think he meant when Trump tweeted about the gathering planned for 6 January: “Be there. It will be wild.”
Some news media persisted in calling them “protesters” and “demonstrators”. The difference between protesters and terrorists is critical. Demonstrators are expressing their response to a policy, an event or a series of events – systemic racism, for example.
Terrorists plot violent mayhem; if it fails they try again and again until they succeed.
I have no problem with Americans being angry. They have plenty to protest about: massive income inequality, the epidemic of unemployment, the opioid and Covid pandemics, the sense of being excluded and forgotten that helps inspire xenophobia, racism, sexism and violence.
America has dumbed down; in its educational systems; in its media; in its public discourse. More than ever before people seem less able or willing to distinguish the truth from the lie, to process and evaluate the information we’re given, to confront the real issues rather than hide behind a calamitous leader.
These are the problems and the perils that the Biden-Harris administration will have to deal with, and which all the palliative talk about unity, reconciliation, and “working across the aisle” is not going to come remotely close to fixing.
Let’s be clear: the Biden-Harris administration has exactly four years to repair some large part of the damage that’s been done – a short time to begin a massive and necessary project. Otherwise, these violent groups will be back until they succeed.
I am fearful for the USA. And since the USA gives some balance to the rest of the World that fear goes well beyond US borders. Biden will be tested maybe like no leader before him.