In the end, we survived him. As I write this entry, there are less than 24 hours before Trump is scheduled to leave the White House and Washington D.C. for good. Like Twitter and Facebook, the microphones and TV cameras will no longer transmit his offenses, insults, brutalities, threats, and most of all, his lies. It’s over. “Fuck Trump,” actor Robert De Niro said a couple of times when the 45th President of the United States was in power.
I don’t think that a president has ever been insulted in a similar way in the history of this country. Some presidents have been murdered, and Nixon resigned because puritan America could not tolerate his unfair Machiavellian use of power. If Nixon had said what Trump said — offending the entire population of women by saying that power allows men to grab any pussy — he would have never gotten elected. Never. Trump did, and this, to my mind, was the beginning of the American decline that occurred over the next four years. On day one of the Trump government, the country was inundated by Women’s March protestors. It was the most beautiful, emotional, and overwhelming demonstration I have ever participated in. It was silent, but so crowded that one could only move together in the sea of women, who told the man in the White House that he would never have their body or their vote. That was perhaps the last act of a civilized, peaceful, and proud statement that later on in Trump’s bad government transformed into polarization and confrontation. As I said, Trump should have never, ever been allowed to run the country, with his brutal mobster manners. And yet he was elected because Hillary Clinton was the wrong candidate. A big part of America could no longer stand the presence of the Clinton and Bush dynasties.
So the majority of the voters went for a macho, someone who knew how to distribute the punches. It was a gang vote. It was a vote against liberal America. It was a white vote that became more racist with every week. It was a vote against Barack Obama, whose presence in the White House disturbed the white majority. Obama not only polarized America but also bothered Moscow and Beijing, and left behind the African American History Museum, documenting how White America and the world had made a fortune by enslaving African people and exploiting them.
All this escalated to Trump’s last days in office. After the defeat in November elections, Trump transformed thousands of his lies into one Big Lie that embodied the craziest conspiracy theories. For months, he falsely claimed that the presidential election had been stolen from him due to widespread voter fraud. Scores of congressional Republicans supported the President’s baseless claims, as well as his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election by agreeing to challenge Congress’ certification of the results.
That’s when a mob of the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol in a vicious clash that resulted in the deaths of at least five people, and which prompted security concerns across Capitol Hill and D.C. and led to Trump’s second impeachment, a first in American history.
If you care and want to indulge in trying to figure out exactly what happened on January 6 when thousands of rioters stormed the Capitol as Congress was about to confirm Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, you should look at the material that ProPublica and The New Yorker gathered.
History does not offer us a simple monolithic or one-dimensional insight this time. There is no doubt that Trump sent his loyal troops to the Capitol to destroy democracy and create the conditions necessary to impose martial law. The whole excursion of thousands of Trump loyalists, and some elite mercenaries that were sent to storm the undefended Congress could have ended up in a total bloodbath, with Congress members killed by extremists. But as you may deduct from the video footage, the reconstructions of this historical, all American march on the Winter Palace (Bolshevik revolution in 1917) was avoided because the majority of people who stormed the place were stunned by what they saw in the Capitol. There was admiration for the place, the Rotunda, art and decoration made the invaders pause. All this was their house! It was this moment that stopped them from destruction and burning. When the police and National Guard arrived hours later, they had an easy job. And the winners are now saying it could have gone much much worse.
When, on Sunday, I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue to see all the security measures that had been taken in preparation for the Inauguration, I was impressed by how seriously the events of January 6th had been perceived. The capital of the United States has become the polygon of military exercises with the presence of 25,000 National Guard. FBI agents and the Secret Service are controlling access to the whole perimeter of the protected Federal Triangle, where most government buildings are located. On each side of the axis are the two most important ones — the White House on the west side of Pennsylvania Avenue and the Capitol on the other east side. They are both sealed off, inaccessible to the public, but there is one difference. There are no soldiers on the grounds of the White House, all of the troops are positioned behind the 8 foot tall metal fences with razor wires around the Capitol. The fence runs around the entire perimeter of the huge Capitol complex. The layout and positioning of the forces in the context of this military occupation are showing that the highest legislative body in the country is defending itself from executive power, the President, that is, Donald J. Trump. I never saw or experienced a similar sensation in my life.
How is it possible? Well, here’s the lesson of democracy: As Congress could not remove the President (hostile towards the law and democratic institutions) with the 25th amendment — the incapacity of governing– and the impeachment process has been postponed by Republicans in the Senate who are loyal to Trump, a massive, military defense is the only thing Congress can do right now. The paradox is that Congress can only do it because it has to secure the inauguration of the new President. If this was not the case, the presence of the National Guard on the federal territory — the Capitol — coul only be approved by the sitting President. As we saw, this was not the case on January 6, when Trump hesitated for hours before he called in the National Guard, as he watched the destruction of the Capitol on TV.
We should remember two more historical factors that have made an impact on the current political climate in America. In 2008, Obama defeated John McCain because the latter had no clue how to tackle the economy after the crash of the financial markets. This time, last November, COVID19 defeated Trump. Without the pandemic, Joe Biden would have never won the election. Trump tried to manipulate the pandemic to his own benefit — he claimed the virus was a conspiracy against his government –a terrible mistake. He confronted the virus maskless, denied the existence of danger, invoked miracles, and neglected and opposed science. Trump is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans and should be indicted for crimes against humanity. The 400,000 thousand Americans who have died because of Covid are less than the 74 million Americans who will vote for me, Trump reasoned, convinced that these numbers alone would justify his Big Lie. How could I lose the election if I got so many votes, 8 million more than in 2016? Trump asked.
Indeed, a big lie — denying that he lost the election, without any fraud, as many courts and recounts demonstrated. With Trump gone, a big part of the American electorate that was deceived by Trump will be left behind. They will no longer have a voice and yet they will no doubt be an important part of the story that is starting today. But first of all, Biden will have to face the challenge of a pandemic and win over the virus. Hopefully he will bring some fresh oxygen to this tortured country.