WHAT Donald J Trump truly stands for was made abundantly clear last week, with a fortnight to run in his presidency, and it certainly wasn’t democracy. It was himself, and him alone, as he showed his true colours and incited a mob to storm the bastion of US democracy, Capitol building, while a joint session of Congress was conducting the largely-ceremonial formal counting of the electoral college votes.
Questions have to be answered by the US authorities about how easily the unruly mob managed to get into the Capitol building, endangering the lives of elected representatives and staff, and causing criminal damage in the very heart of the country’s democratic institutions. Five people died during the invasion – a policeman, a woman shot dead by police and three others, seemingly, from medical conditions, while 52 people were arrested.
Even when several leading Republican Party representatives called on Trump to go on television to urge the mob to disperse, he persisted with his baseless claims of electoral fraud – which have been shot down in some 62 court cases since the election – before telling them that he loved them, but that it was time to go home. He continued to attack his Vice-President Mike Pence and Republican Party leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell on social media for co-operating with the lawful process of counting the electoral college votes; Twitter and Facebook temporarily suspended his accounts.
McConnell had supported Trump’s right to challenge the election result, but acknowledged in the Senate that ‘the voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken. If we overrule them all, it would damage our republic forever ... If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again.’
McConnell went on to spell out some further home truths: ‘We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes ... with separate facts and separate realities ... with nothing in common except hostility toward each another and mistrust for the few national institutions that we still share.’
Kudos also to Mike Pence, who was put in a very difficult situation by the outgoing president, but resisted his attempts to prevent the vice-president from officially certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election by 306 electoral college votes to Trump’s 232. Distancing himself in this way from Trump by upholding the lawful democratic process will boost Pence’s future political career – that is if he has the stomach for it!
Even prior to his rabble-rousing incitement, Trump had been found out badly in a phone call he made to Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged him and other election officials to overturn the presidential election results in his favour. Another abuse of power, but one which backfired when a recording of the call was made public.
Then came the senate election re-runs in Georgia in which both seats went to the Democratic Party candidates to even up the number of seats with the Republican Party and effectively gives the Democrats control of the Senate as vice-president-elect Kamala Harris will have the casting vote. As the Democrats already are in the majority in the House of Representatives, they now control Congress, removing impediments to incoming president Joe Biden’s legislative programme.
2016 was Trump’s first time being elected to a public office of any type and, instead of embracing the opportunity to – as he said – ‘Make America great again,’ he did the polar opposite and discredited its institutions, unravelled hard-won international treaties and relationships, and reduced the office of the presidency to a personal fiefdom in which he hired and fired like some of the mini-dictators he consorted with internationally. Americans were impressed that the economy improved during his tenure, but his mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic overshadowed that positive.
There is no doubt that he did untold damage – the full extent of which may not yet be known – and that the office of President of the United States of America will be well rid of him for now. However, the question remains: Is this really the end of the Trump era, will he lose interest in politics now that he is handing over the centre stage or will he attempt to seek election again in 2024?
Certainly, after the storming of the Capitol building by the unruly mob of his supporters, the Republican Party will be seriously concerned about having the likes of Trump as their public face and will surely be seeking to look beyond him for a less-divisive candidate for the next presidential election.