By the time Donald Trump leaves office on January 20, assuming he lasts that long, he will depart the White House as the most despised US president in more than a century. The appalling scenes at the Capitol on Wednesday epitomised his time in office, shocking western leaders let alone the US population.
Tweeting on what happened, PM Jacinda Adern said:
“Like so many others, I’ve been watching what’s happening in the United States. I share the sentiment of friends in the US – what is happening is wrong.
“Democracy – the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob. Our thoughts are with everyone who is as devastated as we are by the events of today. I have no doubt democracy will prevail.”
Calls grow by the hour for Trump to be impeached or removed from office. The Constitution’s 25th Amendment provide for the vice-president, the Cabinet or others to march on the White House and demand a president’s departure. Republican Party vultures are pecking away at the carcass of the Trump administration.
Historians rate Wednesday’s insurrection as the worst since August 1814, when the British sacked the Capitol and burned the White House. Armed rioters smashed their way in, parading through sacred halls, fought with a vastly outnumbered Capitol police and desecrating both chambers of Congress.
Among the tens of thousands circling the Capitol was a hardened core of white supremacists and so-called militias, dressed for battle in combat gear and hard hats, some waving Confederate flags. After the law moved them on, pipe bombs and an armoury of Molotov cocktail were discovered.
Authorities should have seen it coming. On the morning of January 6, defined by the US Constitution as the day the Congress affirms the deliberations of the Electoral College, Trump unleashed another barrage of lies and obscene claims to a crowd of supporters, bussed in for the day.
As the violence raged on, he tweeted the mob to go home safely, but said how much he loved them, and that they should continue the fight, before Twitter shut down his account, at first for 12 hours, then indefinitely.
Trump implored the crowd to join him and march on the Capitol. But he wasn’t up to marching, and as they set off, he climbed aboard his armoured limousine to return to the White House and watch events on tv surrounded by an ever-diminishing circle of adherents
He raged at vice-president Mike Pence, who gallantly decided to follow the Constitution, and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, who also decided that Trump had lost the election and told the Senate to so too. McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao, transportation secretary, a Cabinet-level post, resigned in protest at the violence.
Other lesser lights in the Administration began to pile out as the week drew on.
What went wrong and what does this mean for the US body politic and the political parties?
First, the authorities greatly misjudged likely events. The loose police cordon was swept aside in minutes. Contrast this with the Black Lives Matter protest in early June where peaceful protestors were driven off with tear gas and battens by a phalanx of police, National Guardsmen and law agencies drawn in from as far away as Texas.
Senators and Representatives are calling for blood as the Capitol is generally secured behind barriers, countless metal and weapons detectors and bag searches. Images of Congressmen and women, plus senators, cowering behind benches guarded by Secret Service agents, guns drawn, have quickly become ingrained in political memory.
Second, the riot has shaken Washington DC to the core. Numbers of Trump supporters in the Senate and the House dwindle by the hour and those remaining now blame left wing supporters for taking over a peaceful demonstration.
The riots sent convulsions through the Republican Party. Traditionalists think this will see the end of Trump and the party return to normal standards and values of old. Others see a Trump revival.
Some 70 million citizens voted for him. Of these, some 50% are hard-nosed Trumpers. Can he, as threatened, take the core of the party with him once out of office? This might be more challenging if Twitter sustains its ban, depriving of the oxygen of publicity.
Trump continues to argue he lost his “landslide election victory” only because of voter fraud and manipulation, but without a shed of evidence to convince the 62 individual court cases taken by his rag-tag lawyers.
So-called “evidence” of voter misconduct has been circulating throughout the right-wing media. Some has even appeared in New Zealand.
In Georgia, state authorities did discover – after three recounts and checks – two cases of fraud. In one, a man voted in the name of a dead woman. Problem was, he voted for Trump.
In less than two weeks hence, at midday on January 20, Joseph Biden Junior will take the oath of office and become the 46th president. Donald Trump will subside into history, proving, by his appalling record and disdain for the norms of government and presidential conventions, how pointless it is to elect a narcissist president without at least some experience and record of public office.