Before the post was removed by Twitter, Donald Trump called on his supporters to “Remember this day forever!” It will be difficult to forget.
I’d rather keep in my mind the hours after midnight in Washington DC when, under the cover of darkness – so often a time when seismic and shocking acts of “statehood” are committed by those without legitimacy – a constitution was upheld and did not buckle under the weight of falsehoods, conspiracy theories and calls to insurrection.
Mike Pence has a lot to answer for as an enabler of Trump, but to watch him announcing his own defeat (and that of the incumbent president) in a chamber that had to be evacuated hours previously caused me to exhale a sigh of relief. The statement from Trump about an orderly transfer of power (issued via the the Twitter feed of Trump’s social media director as his own account was still locked) was also somewhat calming.
Events at the US Capitol yesterday laid bare many things, not least that the president’s words do not only have an effect on a minority. The rioters were one element but members of the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to uphold an objection to the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
While rejected by a significant majority – six senators and 121 representatives objected to the results for Arizona; seven senators and 138 representatives for Pennsylvania, with all Democrats in opposition – minority leader Kevin McCarthy was among the House Republicans to vote to reject the two states’ results. For context, there are 211 Republicans in the House.
Then there is the snap polling done by YouGov of nearly 1,400 registered voters. While the vast majority of Democrats did not support the storming of the Capitol and blamed Donald Trump for inciting it, 45 per cent of Republicans said they “strongly or somewhat supported” the action taken and 53 per cent said Trump was “not at all” to blame. Thirty five per cent said Joe Biden should carry the can.
This is why more needs to be done. Another impeachment circus is the last thing we really need, not least because it will play into Trump’s favourite activity of “political” theatre and there likely wouldn’t be time to complete the process before Biden is inaugurated. The use of the 25th amendment to remove Trump would be quicker, and preferable but that would rely on some within Trump’s Cabinet – and Congress – demonstrating sounder judgement than they have up until now.
I was veering back and forth about whether any possible impeachment hearings or push for use of the 25th amendment would mark a good use of time and resources – particularly given the relative failure of previous proceedings to hamper Trump at the ballot box (Trump received the second most votes for a presidential candidate ever in 2020). But one sentence in Trump’s “orderly transition” statement stuck out: “While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
That, allied to the results of the snap polling (I know it is one “snapshot” but still) and the votes in Congress, highlights that we need the strongest repudiation of Trump’s presidency we can muster. Impeachment is likely to get struck down in the Senate (if it makes it that far) – but that is no reason not to try.
Trump will likely be back and support will be there for him, especially with the baseless idea, already doing the rounds in the Trumpverse, that the nebulous group and Trump bête noire, Antifa, were behind events at the US Capitol. That is all the more reason to get every repudiation of words and actions on record.
It may not make a difference at the ballot box – the right of the people is to choose who they want – but giving them all the information in the strongest and clearest fashion is important. As events at the US Capitol shows – words have meaning.
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