Coup or uprising? Trump undermined democracy. His followers have tasted blood.
In all other circumstances it would have been a solemn ceremony under the dome of the Capitol in Washington. The US Congress would have confirmed the decision of the Electoral College and US voters and given Joe Biden’s election to the White House its blessing. Despite the tremendous game after election day, the Congress ultimately had a clear result. Biden won with 51.3 percent. He got 7 million more votes than Donald Trump. The Electoral College has clearly spoken out in favor of Biden with 306 against 232 voters.
Instead, the US, seeing itself as a shining example of democracy, has had one of the blackest days in its history. Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the sanctuary of their republic. Running under Trump, Tea Party and Confederate flags, with loud US hoots and yelling injuria against all who oppose the outgoing President, ran up the steps into the building. Overpowered the police. Broke into the two chambers. The elected representatives pushed under desks, behind partitions and in gas masks. And prevented any progress in parliamentary work.
Was it a coup? Maybe. Neither the military nor the police have openly sided with the strikers. But the outgoing president personally conveyed to them that they were doing the right thing. “Fight!” He called to them before they made their way to the Capitol. And: “We’re going to the congress.”
Many of his supporters were en route on Pennsylvania Avenue convinced that Trump was marching with them in person to Congress. Only after hours of silence did Trump speak up. In a half-hearted video in the late afternoon he asked his followers to go home. But at the same time, he poured fresh oil on the fire by repeating his lie that the elections had been “stolen”.
The loser Trump has incited and prepared the storm on the Capitol in the past two months with inflammatory words. By insisting on fabricated electoral fraud and fabricated manipulation, he has undermined trust not only in recent elections, but also in democracy itself and in its institutions and in its ceremonies and central locations.
An unforgivable act by the police
But precisely because of this, the storming of the US Congress would not have been inevitable. The police – especially the one in Washington, one of the cities with the highest density of police in the world – has often proven that they are capable of controlling much larger crowds. On other occasions, she is able to lead away thousands of arrested persons and / or vacate places with tear gas in seconds.
On Wednesday it was clear that Trump’s supporters who came to the capital were ready to attack. Neither she nor her hero had made a secret of it. It is unforgivable that the police were not prepared for this.
Was it a riot? In any case. Congress will – albeit belatedly – confirm the election of Joe Biden as the next US president. But the bad news is that these strikers tasted blood on Wednesday. Trump and his spineless and unscrupulous supporters in the Republican Party have made them feel like they are doing “the right thing”. Their penetration into Congress and the resulting immediate collapse of democratic work gave them the impression of their own power.
The weaknesses of US democracy and its institutions have become evident in many ways over the past four years. But this Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, showed that the US has become a country that has moved dangerously far in the direction of what Trump has called shithole countries.