The democracy of the United States as we know it no longer exists. Its final point was an insurrection, a revolt in the heart of Washington, an outburst of people storming the Capitol, smashing windows, invading the building and the democratic system, disrupting the final act of the institution-building process.
The delegitimization of the elections has turned violent. As it already was, in every possible way, with the sole remaining red line being physical aggression. Yesterday, on Capitol Hill, that line was crossed. Today, as dawn came, the United States was not the same as before.
“Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election.” It was just shy of 3 p.m. when Mitch McConnell uttered the words that marked the final nail in the coffin for Donald Trump. There would be no coup in Congress, the ratification of the election results would not be stopped, and Joe Biden would be declared the winner.
Outside, in front of the White House, a few thousand people were shouting in the cold and brandishing signs. They were the surviving Trumpist troops rushed to Pennsylvania Avenue to fight the last battle. McConnell has been a loyal Trump defender for four years, but even he has a limit. Like Vice President Mike Pence before him, the Senate Majority Leader rejected Trump’s calls to ignore the allegedly “irregular” vote results and order a re-vote in some states, or assert the authority to discard the electors that were chosen as a result of the vote and replace them with ones appointed by Pence himself.
But the Trumpist troops didn’t like this, and the unimaginable happened. Shortly after McConnell’s words, hundreds broke away from the rally and ran up the steps of the Capitol, managed to get to the great colonnade that surrounds the entrance of the building, smashed a window and penetrated the great entrance, among the marble and bronze statues of the Founding Fathers. Shouting, with red caps on their heads and cell phones in their hands, they went up and down stairs, some taking selfies at the desks of the country’s leaders, holding handmade signs saying “We will not stop.”
Officers tackled them with batons. Guns were drawn, while the protesters appeared unarmed. Tear gas was fired on the street, the joint session of Congress was interrupted and the mayor of Washington D.C. ordered a curfew from 6 p.m.: little more than three hours were left to empty the streets of the capital.
Previously, during the morning, Trump had convened a rally in a park near the White House and called on his VP Mike Pence to have the “courage” to block Biden’s victory. “We will never concede,” he’d said. “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.” And he had encouraged people to take their anger to the steps of the Capitol, under the slogan “Stop the steal,” which is a call to arms.
Mike Pence ended up being escorted out of the chamber by armed personnel and evacuated from the building through a security passage. Members of Congress were handed gas masks and asked to shelter in their offices.
In Georgia, a handful of Trump supporters laid siege to the Georgia Congress building: police had to evacuate Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the man whom Trump had asked to somehow “find” the 11,800 votes he was short of.
Meanwhile, Trump tweeted an attack against Pence for his lack of “courage,” and only long afterwards he tweeted to ask the protesters to be peaceful—but not to leave the scene.
The president remained firm with his stance of attempting to delegitimize the vote, and he has to be: his company is drowning in debt, uncollected due solely to the office he still holds, and his immediate future is set to include investigations (half a dozen of which have already started) and possible jail time. Before leaving office, he could grant himself a presidential pardon, or be pardoned by Pence. There is talk of a military Boeing 757 ready to take him out of the country on February 19, the day before Biden’s inauguration—perhaps to Scotland, where he has a golf course.
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