US President Donald Trump was able to give yet another speech claiming that the presidential election was riddled with fraud and stolen from him. He told throngs of his supporters assembled in front of the White House that he loved them, and they shouted back that they loved him, too.
He asked them to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol so they could give Republican legislators certifying the election “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” And they marched.
When the Trumpistas reached the Capitol, they breached police lines and swarmed the building, eventually breaking windows, occupying offices, parading through hallways and storming the floor of the Senate.
As the “Save America” rally Trump hosted Wednesday erupted, prompting guns to be drawn inside the Capitol, leaving a woman shot dead and offering a searing image of democracy under assault, the president watched the insurrection unfold on a White House TV.
(Update: Police say four people died as Trump supporters occupied the Capitol. One woman was shot by the U.S. Capitol police as a mob tried to break through a barricaded door, and three died in medical emergencies: Source AP)
He didn’t initially ask the seditionists to leave the Capitol. “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country,” he tweeted amid the ferocity. “No violence!”
Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who was one of the leaders in a push Wednesday to scar, if not stop, the certification of the presidential election, was fulminating about voting fraud on the Senate floor just as rioters began stalking the Capitol.
Claiming that he was “not arguing for setting aside the result of this election,” he nonetheless said that voters’ concerns that the election might be rigged should be “taken seriously.”
Suspicious because of lies and myths
This is all too precious. Like another Republican, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Cruz is trying to say he respects the election’s results, but only up to a point. And if voters have doubts about whether the election was fraudulent, it’s a simple matter of respect to investigate their concerns.
What this leaves out is that Republican voters are suspicious because of the lies and myths. They’re calling for investigations of a problem they “- not Republican voters “- invented.
Examples of some of the more unvarnished enabling was on display at the “Save America” rally itself.
“These guys better fight for Trump” Donald Trump Jr. told attendees. Later, as violence ensued, Trump Jr. tweeted, “This is wrong and not who we are,” he tweeted.
Rudy Giuliani, former law enforcement official said, “Over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked, the ballots that are fraudulent, and if we’re wrong, we will be made fools of.”. “But if we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let’s have trial by combat!”
Trump's final presidential act
But the entire affair was Trump’s show, from beginning to end. At the end of the day, when he finally tweeted a video calling on rioters to abandon the Capitol, he couldn’t stop himself from continuing to smear the election as fraudulent.
A reminder is buried in there that the damage on the country might stay with us. It’s not inevitable, though, that the Pandora’s Box Trump inherited and so gleefully opened will remain a permanent fixture.
The Georgia runoff election demonstrates that other choices are still possible. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a glimmer of hope that the president’s most unyielding enablers might recognise the damage that he’s done and change course.
“Self-government, my colleagues, requires a shared commitment to the truth,” McConnell said as he told senators that he planned to vote in favour of certifying the election, a vote he called the most significant of his career.
Timothy L. O’Brien is a senior columnist