The raid of Congress by a crowd of Donald Trump supporters is the culmination of a tumultuous presidency that has deeply fractured the American political system.
PARIS — Elected four years ago with the promise to "Make America Great Again," U.S. President Donald Trump is ending his term of office in shame. History will remember the date of January 6 when America's democracy was threatened — and momentarily suspended — by a mob of extremist supporters whom the president had personally encouraged to march on Capitol Hill to prevent President-elect Joe Biden from being declared the winner of the 2020 election.
In this world of denial, it matters not that some 60 court decisions, including those at the level of the Supreme Court, have rejected appeals for annulment of the election. It matters not that the president himself called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2 and demanded to change the election result, claiming that he could not have been defeated by 11,779 votes, as the records show, because he knows that he won "probably by half a million votes."
The U.S. has reaped what its populist, demagogic and narcissistic president has sown for the last four years, aided and sometimes even encouraged by the Republican Party. The leaders who, at the beginning of his term, had supported him in the White House, the famous "adults in the room" whom we counted on to assuage him, have either thrown in the towel or have been dismissed, one after the other. Trump made no secret of his seditious intentions: He had consistently refused, even before the election took place, to commit to respecting the outcome of the vote if it was not in his favor. He had also voiced support for the extreme right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys, to whom he had asked to "stand back and stand by" during the first presidential debate in September 2020.
Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi during the electoral vote count — Photo: J. Scott Applewhite - Pool Via C/CNP via ZUMA Wire
These were the partisan groups that stormed Capitol Hill and invaded the Congressional building on Wednesday, effortlessly overtaking a surprisingly light police presence, just as members of Congress started to vote on the certification of the presidential election. The elected officials were promptly evacuated, and only able to resume following several hours of unprecedented chaos, after Trump finally encouraged his supporters to go home.
It will be up to President-elect Joe Biden to rebuild the deeply shaken democracy. He now has the means to do so, thanks to the crucial Senate victory for the two Georgia Democrats on Wednesday and the Congressional confirmation of the presidency. Democrats now hold the Senate, the White House, and the House of Representatives, and Biden has exemplified firm and lucid leadership amid the Trumpist attempt at insurrection.
Still, after Wednesday's trauma, many unknowns remain. What will become of the insurgency's leader, Donald Trump, who still has two more weeks in the White House and has been abandoned by even his own vice president? Must he be removed, even though he has finally agreed to make the transition? What will happen to the 121 Republican Congress members who, on Thursday morning, continued to reject the election result on the pretext of fraud? How will the 74 million people who voted for Trump react? Will the departing Republican majority learn its lessons from this disaster? The entire world waits for answers.