Pro-Trump insurgents stormed the U.S. Senate. The joint session of Senators and Representatives which convened to ratify Biden’s election was suspended. The insurgents’ aim was to hunt down the Republicans who dared to oppose Trump’s demand to overturn the November 3 popular vote.
At the top of the list of targets was Mike Pence, the vice president who has always been loyal to his boss, even in his craziest moments. And Mitch McConnell, the leader of the senators, an old-fashioned politician, careful never to run against Trump’s frequent outbursts—but not this time. Hence their repudiation by MAGA, the Make America Great Again movement, Trump’s “party,” which, loyal to him alone, has always tried to steer the Grand Old Party according to his will—including through violent threats, as we saw on Tuesday.
All this took place on the same day when, in Georgia, the final attempt by Trump and his acolytes to keep their Senate majority failed, with the victory of both candidates of the Democratic Party in the two run-off elections. The vote brought the victory of a Black man raised in the tradition of Martin Luther King, and a mobilization of the African American electorate which proved to be decisive.
What we are seeing in Washington and Georgia are the two Americas of our time. The coming days will make what exactly happened more clear, as well as whether further dramatic developments might be possible, and in which direction.
In the meantime, the positive signs from the vote in Georgia should be emphasized, also because it marks the existence of a real barrier to the fascism imposed by Trump’s right wing in the clash between political forces. On November 3, the African American vote was decisive for the election of Joe Biden. On Tuesday, in Georgia, in the runoff for the election of the two Senators from the state, the same group was decisive in giving the Democrats control of the Senate (however precarious), which, when added to the Dem majority in the House of Representatives, will allow the new president to count on a friendly Congress.
The role African Americans have played will translate into more power, in more places that matter. That much is clear. But what happened in these two crucial rounds of elections has more than just contingent political consequences. It has historical value, and should be seen in the perspective of a majority of America being determined to put an end to the claim of a large part of the white population that they should hold the levers of power, with contempt towards minorities, especially those who on Tuesday were proudly represented by the Reverend Raphael Warnock, now elected Senator for the state of Martin Luther King and of his assistant, the Reverend Andrew Young, mayor of Atlanta in the ‘80s.
Symbolically, Warnock’s success is even more relevant, because, just like the vote in November, it is also the result of the great mobilization promoted and supported by the Black Lives Matter movement, a presence that has left a strong mark on the social and political scene of the last two years. Election Day and the vote in Georgia are thus the final point of a struggle with which Biden was able to enter into dialogue, also due to his choice of Kamala Harris at his side. It is a difficult path forward, which certainly has not ended the long American season of great tensions and deep wounds, but which undoubtedly allows the new president and the Democrats to counter the offensive by Trump and the powers that support him from a position of greater strength.
The offensive of the latter is one that retains the subversive traits that marked the outgoing administration, with the complicity of parts of the Republican Party. Indeed, it is exacerbating those subversive traits: an angry reaction to a defeat which took place thanks to the efforts of the hated minorities, and one which, in the eyes of the defeated president and his acolytes, also had the flavor of a rematch won by Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, on the same day as the Georgia results, one could also witness the extreme attempt of a group of Republican senators—led by a character worse than Trump himself, the Texan Ted Cruz—to subvert the election results during the joint session of the Senate and House dedicated to the ratification of the election of Joe Biden, while a crowd of followers gathered in Washington to listen to Trump rant about stolen elections and fraud and about his intention to “never give up” and “never concede.” Then, they headed to Congress and occupied the building, as if it were a coup d’état.
What does the refusal by Donald Trump and parts of his party to “concede” the victory of the Democrats mean? It won’t affect the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, but it does pave the way for an unprecedented situation, with Trump in the guise of a president who feels illegitimately deposed—and therefore not a “former” president at all—and is thus constantly intent on delegitimizing his successor and aiming to take back his seat.
He will do so by setting up his own “alternative” White House at his resort at Mar-a-Lago, from which he will incessantly fight against the actions of the Democratic president. The area of Mar-a-Lago and its surroundings is destined to become the nerve center of MAGA (Make America Great Again), the pro-Trump movement, and the ideologists, strategists, organizers and financiers of Trump’s revenge are already moving there.
The nightmare of having Trump “for life,” this fantasy-political horror that one could imagine as coming after the prospect of his re-election, has returned once again in the unprecedented scenario of the president who refuses to step aside. A bad movie that could haunt the administration about to take office, but could also end soon, and very badly, for the one who sees himself as its protagonist. On Tuesday, in Congress, one could see a Republican Party divided and in disarray.
It is a party that has always seen Trump as an intruder, but bowed to him out of convenience. A part of it still stands by him. But will the GOP still be loyal to him by the time of the next mid-term elections, two years from now, where they will be hoping for a comeback? The defeat he suffered in Georgia suggests that the conceit that he is the undisputed leader of the party only works for his close accomplices, who will inevitably end up on trial together with him.