After only a couple days after publishing on here my hope that politics might return to some sanity with the end of Donald Trump as United States President. Unfortunately, on the day his time came to an official end, it was realised my hopes were nothing more than wishful thinking.
In the United States, January 6th saw Congress meet to certify the Electoral College vote from Novembers election. Effectively, it would confirm Joe Biden as the victor and the end of Donald Trump’s presidency. There was also to run off in Georgia which saw the Democrats winning both battles and taking control of the Senate as well. With control of the Senate, Congress and the Presidency, this is a good opportunity for the incoming President to legislate as he wants.
What happened in Washington [feature image above from Duluth News Tribune] was unacceptable but should not have been any surprise with his insistence that there There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation’. Trump was never going to leave quietly and something like this was always going to be attempted but just how far it got is what should be both surprising and alarming.
The scenes from Washington DC were horrific as pro-Trump supporters storming the building and gaining entry. Congress needed to be evacuated as the building was put into lockdown as several got into the Chamber itself and one man took a seat in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Among them were members of right-wing group Proud Boys who Trump had told to standby in the first presidential debate, Q’Anon who seem to revere Trump as a saviour as well as other white supremacists and anti-semites (When there are pictures of individuals where ‘Camp Auschwitz hoodies and shirts claiming six million wasn’t enough, the presence of anti-semites is undeniable) escalating to the point that the National Guard had to be called in.
At least 82 arrests have been made including a man found with ‘11 homemade bombs, an assault rifle and a handgun in his truck parked two blocks from the Capitol‘. Five were killed including a police officer.
Let me call it for what it was. It was an attempted coup. The aim was to prevent the US democratic functions to do their job and certify the result of the election which Trump lost. Effectively, it was to thwart democracy. It was not a peaceful protest, absolutely not! Peaceful protest involves making a point, being heard, not storming a building. It was an attempted far-right coup and it is beyond any doubt now that Donald Trump is a fascist and has been promoting Fascism.
Who bears responsibility?
First and foremost, Donald Trump. This was the culmination of his divisive, nationalist rhetoric of four years which capitalised on some deep-rooted social injustices. His constantly dismissing anything against him as ‘fake news’ has not helped and then add into this fire, Trump repeated insistence that he won the election, it was rigged and the biggest con in history. These baseless claims have no reality in fact and have been repeated with limited challenge apart from Twitter fact-checking him.
His refusal to accept defeat allowed the growing feelings of hate and resentment to manifest itself in Washington as he addressed a gathering. Trump told them, ‘ It’s just a great honor to have this kind of crowd and to be before you and hundreds of thousands of American patriots who are committed to the honesty of our elections and the integrity of our glorious Republic. All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by a bold and radical left Democrats which is what they are doing and stolen by the fake news media. That is what they have done and what they are doing. We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.’
He closed his speech with, ‘So we are going to–we are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we are going to the Capitol, and we are going to try and give…our Republicans…going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to thank you all. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you all for being here. This is incredible.’
Leading this event, and given it appears there was no evidence of ‘Antifa’ involvement so they were all his own supporters, he bears responsibility for it getting out of hand.
Then came the events we saw unfold and after rousing them up, he had to tell them only too late to disperse. Even in doing so, he told them, ‘We have to have peace. So go home, we love you, you’re very special, you’ve seen what happens, you’ve seen the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home in peace‘. With some of these groups also calling for violence on inauguration day, it may clear that Trump has unleashed a beast that even he cannot control; that is of course if he really wants to control it.
To blame just the President is to do a grave injustice, not to him but to all who supported him and went along with it. Those who just stood by and went along with the Presidents narrative and not opposed the truth twisting are all complicit and should be held accountable. They all contributed and must have a period of reflection on that.
That means the majority of the Trump family, particularly those closest to him. Eric Trump was threatening to end the career of any republic who refused to support his father in Congress. Donald Jnr called for ‘total war’ in the wake of the election results while Ivanka urged voters to ‘fight for Trump’ in Georgia They all stoked up the tensions and the family were also filmed watching and celebrating before Trump addressed the crowd preceding the riot.
For the Republican party, this is a huge moment. Will they be defined by their ko-towing to Trump. That is a question all within the party will have to answer for apart fro his outspoken critics such as Mitt Romney who was the only Republican to vote in favour of impeachment last January. So, that means Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority who waited over a month before acknowledging Biden’s victory. That means Alabama Republican Mo Brooks who still considered objecting to the Electoral College vote. Mike Pence allowed the vote to go ahead and persevered with it after the events of this riot but he too peddled the lies pushed by Trump. In the end, he broke from Trump and stuck to his oath to the people as Vice President in allowing the vote to go ahead but they all sought to distance themselves from it.
After the events, McConnell spoke within the Congress chamber, ‘If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral’. He wasn’t the only one as several Republicans sought to distance themselves from what happened in Washington who along with the White House staff resigning in the wake of it, they were merely rats jumping off a sinking ship. However, they were all to varying degrees complicit
Let us talk about the US media too. The pro-trump section of the US media helped peddle his lies. I’m looking at Fox News here who followed the Trump line right up until it was clear that Biden had won in November. Their decision to do so, a clear sign the Murdoch press could not back Trump any further more conspiracies and it was other outlets such as NewsMax being ‘the only major news network to not call the election‘ along with other groups over social media.
The other question that needs to be asked is just how were they able to storm the Capitol in the first place? What happened to security?
In the summer when the US was experiencing Black Lives Matter protests, there was a much heavier presence in Washington then than on Wednesday. How else do you explain them being able to get into Capitol Hill other than an example of white priviledge mixed with right-wing leanings in the way of law enforcement?
Donald Trump wanted ‘Antifa’ declared a terrorist organisation in the summer. What about Q’Anon and the other groups involved in Washington? Tear gas was used in the streets so he could pose for a photo opportunity holding a bible in a church. The use of police force is not the same and it was not lost on Joe Biden either…
He is absolutely right. If it was not people Donald Trump supported or liked they would never have got as far. Police presence may well have been higher and if reports are accurate, several members of the police were also involved which is alarming. Trump did not make the call to bring the National Guard in. Vice President Mike Pence allegedly made that call.
That is another condition that has allowed this situation to escalate and as history shows allow the far-right to be emboldened. In Weimar Germany, for his role in organising the 1923 Munich Putsch Adolf Hitler was sentenced to jail for five years for treason where he worked on Mein Kempf. The Spartacists left-wing putsch four years earlier saw their leaders Karl Liebknect and Rosa Luxemburg executed in January 1919 on the sport for treason. They did not get the option of jail. The uneven attribution of power by the judiciary and police is what emboldens and helps enable the far-right.
That leads me to another worrying question and was discussed by John McDonnell on Peston; where will it end? Q’Anon and other groups are threatening more violence on inauguration day and the worry must be will someone inspired by Trump and his web of lies and misinformation, make an assassination attempt? You may accuse me of being dramatic but would you be surprised after seeing those scenes?
Now, sitting here in the UK on the other side of the Atlantic, you may well feel relatively secure that is happening over there and not here. It could never happen here. The United States is meant to be the beacon of Western Democracy. That image is slightly tainted now but If it can happen in the US, it can happen anywhere, including here.
Let us not forget that the far-right has been on the rise for years now and emboldened by the rhetoric of mainstream politicians. It was Britain First and other extreme right wing groups celebrating the Conservative victory in 2019. It has not been five years since Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in broad daylight by a far-right activist shouting ‘Britain First’ purely because she didn’t share his views. It was also just last summer that we saw protesters claiming to be defending the statues of Winston Churchill from the perceived threat of vandalism giving the Nazi salute.
That day, the BBC reported it as ‘raising their arms’ instead of calling it for what it was; the Nazi salute. The same could be said of their chief political editor Laura Kuenssberg who described the events in Washington as a ‘scuffle’. It was that ridiculous a comparison it was trending on Twitter.
A look at our print media will show we have some of the same influencers as the United States. The Murdoch family that own Fox News in the US, also run several high profile UK newspapers such as The Sun, The Times and the Daily Mail. Then, there are the Barclay brothers who own the Telegraph group and Lord Rothermere who owns the Daily Mail and Metro. The UK will also soon get another sense of US-style opinion led news networks through the soon to be launched GB News which is being fronted by former BBC frontman Andrew Neil.
I am putting it on record I respect Andrew Neil a lot and as an interviewer, watching on tv, I have seen none like him really grilling politicians but with so much of the established media in the country being controlled by so few people then the UK public is open to being manipulated in the same way as the US public has been in supporting Trump. Additionally, this soon to launch GB News with its US-style opinion led, it could not be coming to the UK at a worse time when the truth and exposing the politicians that govern us is needed more than ever.
Let us also look at our Government. We have a Conservative Party in government that got way too close with Donald Trump. Theresa May was the first world leader to visit Trump after his 2016 victory and extended the invitation of a state visit in 2018. Many Brexiteers within the Government wished for his reelection under the belief of what Jacob Rees Mogg wrote in The Times that he would be the ‘greatest ally‘ for Brexit Britain. The UK was also one of the last Governments to congratulate Joe Biden on his victory and so much were the bets hedged on Trump that they did a very bad job brushing over that fact in the image.
And not forgetting the Prime Minister; Boris Johnson thought Trump was deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize. That said, there are some questionable winners of the award in hindsight. However, let us not forget the nickname the president bestowed upon Johnson…’Britain Trump’.
In the past few years, the Conservatives have sought to undermine UK democracy and its institutions in the same way Trump has in the US. Boris Johnson sought to illegally prorogue parliament by misleading the queen in 2019 because he could not get what he wanted. After being defeated in the Supreme Court, the Conservatives then stood in the last election on a manifesto committing them to limit the powers of the court and pledging to look at ‘the relationship between the Government, Parliament and the courts; the functioning of the Royal Prerogative; the role of the House of Lords; and access to justice for ordinary people.‘
It is an executive power grab that has a disturbing Nixonian style ‘the elected leader can do whatever he or she likes and that must be legal’ sort of vibe but its position on page 48 of the manifesto had perhaps a darker implication; 48 was also the article number in the Weimer Constitution that the Nazis used to consolidate power.
Their stance is a threat to the credibility of UK democracy and institutions.
For Trump though, this is the end of the line. He has since conceded there will be a peaceful transition of power to Biden and will leave the presidency in disgrace. Congress is looking heavily into using the 25th amendment and if that fails and as the Republican look to resist, impeaching the president for a second time looks ever more likely. He is more than a lame duck and there may even be the use of Article 14 that would see him banned from running for office again. If that were to be applied to those in the family also culpable then it would rule the Trump family out of being a political dynasty…