Democracy, Fake News, Human Rights, Populism, Radical extremism, Violence

The Observer view on Donald Trump’s assault on US democracy

Jan 11 2021

Observer Editorial

The president must be removed for inciting violence on the Capitol but Republicans also share blame for his toxic legacy

It’s easier to understand last week’s turmoil in Washington if it is viewed as the disastrous culmination of a five-year process of degradation that began when Donald Trump launched his bid for the presidency. The unreasoning mayhem, the divisive rhetoric, the destructive, delusional behaviour and the violence that engulfed Capitol Hill on Wednesday are hallmarks of the benighted Trump era. It was obvious that America’s long slide into ignominy must eventually end in tears. And so it has.

This dramatic implosion shamed the world’s leading democracy, shocked its friends and delighted its enemies. Perhaps it could have been avoided with better security. Yet in many ways, a final, highly symbolic collision between Trump’s ugly brand of populism and established power, embodied by Congress, was unavoidable. Trump lacks boundaries. He always goes too far – in his confrontational policies, his vilification of opponents and his dysfunctional relationships. His post-election breakdown, rooted in bruised ego and denial, led inevitably to meltdown.

Trump’s attack on Congress was an attack on America and all who hold its values dear. It was a desperate bid to cling to power by a weak, ignorant and selfish demagogue who has shown himself an enemy of democracy, a friend to tyrants and unfit to be president. When he belatedly realised, amid near-universal condemnation, that he had crossed a line, he caved and cravenly disowned his own supporters. After the meltdown, the climbdown. It was Trump’s last stand – and it failed miserably.

Trump should resign. Failing that, he should be removed from office by constitutional means. And failing that, he should be impeached, as leading Democrats propose. No matter that he has only 10 days left to serve. It’s vital that there be severe, swift and visible consequences for his unprecedented breach of trust. The idea that an American president, however detached from reality, could incite a violent rebellion against his own country’s government and go unpunished is intolerable.

Trump is to blame and must pay a price. But others must also take responsibility for the poisonous politics that led to the “Capitol coup”. Republican senators such as Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz should be ashamed of their role in facilitating Trump’s abuses, repeating his lies and conspiring with him to dupe millions of Americans. For five years, they and their allies normalised his aberrant behaviour and tolerated his assaults on democratic institutions. They, too, created the mob.

Even after Trump’s ragtag army had stormed the debating chamber, bringing proceedings to a temporary halt, 139 House Republicans and eight senators still stuck with Trump’s mendacious narrative and voted to overturn an election that was free and fair. This dishonouring of their constitutional duty, this arrogant disregard for the wishes of millions of voters, was almost as shocking as the riot itself.

The fact that some Republicans have since broken with Trump means little. The party as a whole now faces a reckoning. For years, it has gerrymandered congressional districts, enacted vote suppression measures and blocked electoral reforms. Republicans benefit unfairly from historical anachronisms that, for example, allocate as many senators to Wyoming, population 578,000, as to California, population 39.5 million.

The GOP has taken the presidency twice since 2000 after losing the popular vote. If Republicans truly value America’s democracy, as they say, they should stop undermining it for partisan advantage and help refortify and renew it. Most urgently, they should cooperate with president-elect Joe Biden in fighting the pandemic that Trump so badly mishandled. On the day all eyes were on the Capitol, 3,963 Americans died of Covid.

Trump’s disgrace and ensuing Republican disarray might be thought a gift to Biden. But Trump’s overall legacy is deeply toxic. As the wafer-thin margins in last week’s Georgia Senate run-offs showed once again, Biden inherits a chronically divided country split by race, ethnicity, gender, age, income and education.

Such divisions have always existed, but Trump deliberately exacerbated them. Biden’s primary task is to build back trust, in institutions, in politics and in American democracy itself – both at home and abroad, where confidence in US leadership has been badly shaken. He must show government can work for everyone, that nobody need feel disrespected, despised or left behind. Trump exploited, deceived and ultimately betrayed such people on Capitol Hill. If they are ignored again, there will be more mobs, more crises, more humiliations.

The immediate challenge is to prevent Trump doing more damage in his final days. Pentagon chiefs should heed the House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s appeal to use all “available precautions” to ensure a less than stable Trump does not do anything rash. The overdue decision by Twitter and Facebook to silence his lies, conspiracies and provocative rants is helpful. This dangerous man must be kept firmly in his box until inauguration day dawns.

Long after he has gone, Trump’s Capitol outrage will be remembered with a shudder and a shiver. With anger, pain and shame, the riot reflected all that went wrong under this most despicable of American leaders. Trump drove his country into a ditch. The country will recover. Trump never will.



Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley Should Be Disbarred, Over 5,700 Lawyers and Law Students Say

More than 5,700 lawyers and law students have signed a petition seeking the disbarring of Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley for what it calls their efforts to disenfranchise millions of American voters and overturn the results of a free and fair election. Cruz, a Texas Republican, and Hawley, a Missouri Republican, led the effort in the Senate to object to President-elect Joe Biden‘s wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania when Congress counted the states’ electoral votes last week.

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