What should have been just a routine process to certify Joe Biden’s win in the US presidential elections quickly devolved into violence yesterday.
To refresh your memory… Donald Trump is STILL the president of the US. He was due to relinquish power on 20 January but until yesterday continued insisting, with no proof, that his November defeat was fraudulent. No court has found this to be true, and most have thrown out the dozens of cases brought by Trump’s team for lack of evidence.
Undermining citizens’ faith in their electoral system is the stuff civil war is made of. Trump addressed thousands of supporters in Washington DC, saying “we will never concede”, just before Congress met to finalise his defeat.
Hours later, an angry mob wearing pro-Trump paraphenelia stormed the Capitol – the US’s rough equivalent of our parliament. Offices were vandalised, art looted and police attacked. One woman was shot dead and three others later died. (Many noted police treated the white protestors far more gently than they did those from the Black Lives Matter movement.)
But the house reconvened later to certify Biden’s win. Trump has finally conceded there will be an orderly transition, albeit while still insisting the election was fraudulent. Twitter has locked his account.
This didn’t happen in a vacuum. Trump tried to pressurise his deputy, Mike Pence, who chaired the certification proceedings, to somehow disqualify votes from certain states who voted for Biden. Pence refused – his first act of defiance, citing loyalty to the constitution.
Trump also tried bullying officials in swing state Georgia to “find” him the missing votes to assure his victory. They were Republican, but also chose loyalty to their constitution over a party or person.
He even tried the trick of dictators the world over: stacking the military with loyalists.
The upheaval unfolded on a day when Democrats also managed to win effective control of the Senate, meaning Biden won’t be completely obstructed in passing bills.
It shows that while Trump nearly brought one of the world’s oldest democracies to its knees, he couldn’t quite break it. It’s a relief in an age where democratic norms are under attack, and dangerous demagogues seem to flourish.
This editorial was originally published in The Wrap here.
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