History will not be able to forgive President Trump for violating the oath of his office of protecting the people and democracy of the United States. As he reaches almost the end of his road, he has resorted to inciting a shocking mob violence by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol while Congress was engaged inside the building in its constitutional duty of formalizing the results of the presidential election and a peaceful transfer of government. The whole world saw an act of massive ‘domestic terrorism’ at one of the greatest institutions of democracy. Its long-term repercussion can be very significant and will be very hard to overcome.
President Trump has been insisting on the falsehood for the last two months that the presidential election has been ‘stolen’. No one has been able to produce any credible evidence of any significant irregularities. The courts have rejected all of the more than 60 lawsuits, including one by the U.S. Supreme Court, that his supporters brought for lack of evidence. Even Attorney General William Barr, who had been his close ally, has unequivocally said there is no credible evidence of election fraud. Nevertheless, President Trump has continued his false narrative and took it the point of pressuring Republican Secretary of State of Georgia Brad Raffensperger over the phone to ‘find votes’ for him and overturn the election results. Trump has demanded the resignation of Georgia’s governor and secretary of state for not helping him to win the election. This is typically what a dictator does. Many prominent Republicans had warned that his falsehoods and negative campaign would hurt their candidates in the Georgia Senate run-off election, which is what happened. Trump’s falsehood has damaged the very heart of democracy called a ‘fair election’ and has shaken up many people’s confidence in it.
After dividing the country for the last four years, President Trump has now engaged in dividing the Republican Party into two parts through his irresponsible leadership – one that continues to support him for their personal political gains, and the other that understands the truth, does not believe him and does not want go along with him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several other Republican senators have finally come around and refused to challenge President-elect Biden’s election on false grounds. President Trump has put enormous pressure on Vice President Pence to unlawfully reverse the election results in the Senate confirmation process. The Republican leadership will now have the daunting task of getting the 74 million supporters who voted for President Trump to understand and believe the truth about the election.
Senator Mitt Romney, a very upright Republican, aptly said at the conclusion of his Senate speech – “The only way is to tell the voters the truth.” For democracy to function effectively, it is important to have a strong opposition party that provides a healthy ‘check and balance’. Weakening the Republican Party while the Democratic Party is taking control over all three co-equal parts of the government, i.e., the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, is not necessarily in the best interest of the country.
Trump had invited his supporters to come to Washington to stage massive protests on Jan. 6 which is when Congress comes together to formalize the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Trump addressed the massive crowd, many of them dressed in costumes similar to NFL games waving ‘Trump 2020’ and ‘MAGA’ banners and confederacy flags, and told them, “We are going to walk back to the Capitol…You never take back the country with weakness. You have to take the country back with strength.” The crowd cheered.
Trump’s consiglieri, Rudy Giuliani, told the crowd, “Let’s have trial by combat.” The crowd cheered even more. Donald Trump, Jr. told the crowd, “You are either a hero or a zero.” The enormous crowd became totally fired up and started heading towards the U.S. Capitol. We saw the vivid visuals of the vandalism that took place in one of the most solemn institutions of the great nation. President Trump called them ‘patriots’ and told them in a video message, “We love you.”
America will need much time and effort to erase the image projected to the world of this unfolding insurrection and restore its own reputation. This matters in the real world when the U.S. is engaged in tough negotiations with adversaries like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, etc., on critical issues like human rights, defense treaties, global climate or international trade. Their stance will be to remind the U.S. of its own deficiencies.
This event wasn’t totally unexpected. Ten of the former U.S. defense secretaries, some of them who were in Republican administrations including Trump’s own, expressed their concerns on an op-ed article of Washington Post earlier of continuing the false narrative of election fraud and warned against involving U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes that would take the country “into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory.”
The federal government as well as the D.C. police were well aware of the planned protest. Yet, police protection for the Capitol was dismally inadequate against the overwhelming onslaught brought on by the mob. Some pointed out that if these had been ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters, the police probably would be shooting. This timid reaction from the law enforcement will continue to perpetuate the narrative of having a ‘double-standard’ in America when it comes to law enforcement and criminal justice system.
Reactions to Trump’s action has been fairly swift. He has been banned from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter already. Democratic senators have called for the vice president to invoke the 25th Amendment with the support of half of the cabinet members of removing Trump from his office immediately on the grounds of “…inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” This amendment was enacted into law in the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There have been also calls for a speedy impeachment proceeding to remove him from office. The U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C., Michael Sherwin, a Trump appointee, has announced that they are investigating all ‘actors’ of the riot including President Trump. Some commentators have expressed concern that Trump has his fingers on the button that can trigger a nuclear bomb. There are still several days to go when President-elect Biden is sworn into office. Let us all hope this is his last horrific act. More importantly, let us hope that necessary reforms will be brought on to prevent such frightening transgression by the elected leaders.
(The author is an Indian American resident of Las Vegas, Nevada.)