January 6, 2021, was a momentous day, it is also a day that will live in infamy. The day started with historic electoral victories and ended with a mob sacking the Capitol of the world’s oldest democracy. After a decisive victory in the general election, Georgia voters gave Democrats control of the Senate, then came the insurrection call from the outgoing commander-and-chief.
Early Wednesday morning, it was already clear that Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock had defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Later that day, Democrat Jon Ossoff was declared the winner against Republican incumbent David Perdue. These important election results defended democracy and rejected Trump’s demagoguery. Republicans lost the Senate elections in Georgia despite outspending Democrats by tens of millions of dollars. What makes the loss even more significant is the fact that the peach state has not put a Democrat in the Senate for two decades. The message being sent to Donald Trump and the GOP is unmistakable. The result is a stunning rebuke of Trump’s false claim that he won Georgia and other states in the November general election. It is also a repudiation of Trump’s multiple attempts to subvert free and fair elections including a brazen, much-publicized phone call in which the commander-and-chief pressured Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the results.
Perhaps most importantly, Warnock makes history as the first black person ever to be elected to the Senate in Georgia. He is the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and he speaks from the same pulpit that was once presided over by civil rights legend Martin Luther King Jr.
The historical significance of this vote in the red state of Georgia cannot be overstated. Georgia’s rejection of Trump and the GOP suggests that the tides are turning in the U.S. To appreciate the scale of this seismic shift, we need to understand Georgia’s history. It is Georgia’s opposition to the abolition of slavery that triggered the Civil War. Georgia was home to the Confederate army’s military operations and even after they lost the war they defended a racist culture and institutionalized racism. Georgia also has the ignominious distinction of leading the nation in lynchings. Racially motivated violence continues in the state to the present day. Just last year, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, an unarmed 25 year old black man was shot to death by white men in Glynn County, Georgia.
Even before the events of January 6th, Republicans were already realizing that they had made a deal with the devil. Trump’s politics of racism, hate and division were becoming increasingly untenable. Republican commentator Scott Jennings made some poignant remarks on CNN hours before the insurrectionists descended on the Capitol. “The biggest question for Republicans right now is are we going to continue to devolve into a party that is consumed with the idea that we can overturn an election tomorrow which is an asinine idea, it is pure madness and it is going to be a stain on the presidency,” Jennings said.
In another attempt to subvert the democratic will of Americans, many Republican lawmakers backed the president’s doomed bid to hold on to power by announcing that they would refuse to certify the election results. This is yet another black mark on the shameful legacy of Trump’s Republican minions. It contributes to the litany of actions that put both Trump and the GOP on the wrong side of history. The results of the special election in Georgia further erode Trump’s influence and expose the cowardice of Republican lawmakers.
On Wednesday morning, Trump’s ability to play the role of a kingmaker was in serious doubt. By the time the sun had set it was clear that his influence over thinking people had all but evaporated. On the morning of January 6th, the outgoing president held a rally in Washington DC in which he called for an insurrection against a joint session of Congress. His goal was to stop lawmakers from certifying the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.
During his speech at the rally Trump, berated “fake news” and repeated his patently false claim that the election was “stolen”. He ginned up the crowd saying “America won’t take it anymore”. He also took shots at Republicans calling them “weak” and “pathetic” adding “we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don’t fight”. Then he uttered the words that will live in infamy: “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re gonna cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering, so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
They heeded his call and in the ensuing mayhem 4 people died, at least 14 officers were injured and 70 were arrested. During the sacking of the Capitol Trump published a video on his Twitter feed in which he told his supporters: “We love you. You are very special.” In response Twitter locked Trump’s account while Facebook and YouTube removed the video for inciting violence.
These are the terrible death throes of a malevolent presidency. It is not only that Trump has shattered a 220-year old tradition of peaceful transfer of power, or even the fact that this is the first time that the capital has been breached since it was burned by the British in 1814. The real tragedy here is that the insurrection occurred at the urging of a sitting U.S. president.
Trump’s goal may have been to delay certification, what he got was explosive blowback that led four of of his senior cabinet members and many of his most prominent supporters to desert him. While Trump describes his supporters as “patriots”, most Americans watched with horror as the mob incited by the president desecrated the venerable seat of America’s democracy. Former RNC Chair and Trump Chief-of-staff Rinse Priebus called the mob that stormed the Capitol “domestic terrorists”.
All around the world people reacted with shock as Trump’s mob laid siege to the Capitol. Even Trump sycophants in the Republican party felt forced to denounce the president. This includes election objectors like Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., who condemned the violent participants as “despicable”. In the understatement of the year, Trump apologist Rick Santorum called this “a bad day for Donald Trump” adding that the outgoing president was tearing the Republican party apart. “Do you want to sign this death pact?” Santorum asked rhetorically.
It is now more apparent than ever that Trump and his remaining supporters are living in an alternate reality beyond the reach of reason. Historian Douglas Brinkley said Trump is responsible for what he described as “organized insurrection.” He called it a “heinous moment” and a “day of sedition” for which Trump “will pay a high cost in history”. Brinkley suggested that it was time to invoke the 25th amendment and he is not alone. Brinkley was joined by Vermont’s Republican Governor Phil Scott, U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, as well as Democratic Representatives Ted Lieu and Charlie Crist. Most strikingly, some of Trump’s own cabinet called for the 25th Amendment or impeachment.
General Barry McCaffrey (ret.) shares the view that Trump should be removed. “This is a direct criminal action by the President of the United states to overturn an election,” McCaffrey told MSNBC . “There is no question that the President formed the mob. The President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob,” Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said, adding, “He lit the flame.” Republican Gov. Charlie Baker blamed Trump for the violence and in a statement, George W. Bush called the “insurrection” at the Capitol a “sickening and heartbreaking sight.” Bush uncharacteristically called out Trump and the GOP for their reckless behavior. He also spoke about the insurrectionists saying their “passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hope.”
Trump’s dangerous actions have prompted some Republican lawmakers to concede that the allegations of electoral fraud have been overblown. Many have accepted Biden as the next president of the United States. “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected and will become president and vice president of the United States on Jan. 20,” Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said. He also told Trump to “quit misleading” his supporters. Ex-Rep. Trey Gowdy compared what happened at the Capitol to a narco-state or banana republic.
High profile Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnel and Pat Toomey have joined others in publicly breaking with Trump. Graham said he was withdrawing his support for objections to the election results and he declared Biden the lawfully’ elected president. After the events in the Capitol Graham said, “count me out. I don’t buy this. Enough is enough. We’ve got to end it,” adding, “When it’s over, it is over. It is over.”
The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said January 6th is one of the “darkest days of recent American history,” adding it is a “stain on our country” that will “live forever in infamy” as the “final terrible indelible legacy of the 45th president”. George Washington University Law Professor and Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley said Trump’s legacy is “in tatters” and beyond repair. “I don’t think there’s ever been a lower moment for the presidency of the United States,” Turley said.
At his rally Trump talked about the election being “corrupt” and a “disgrace”. He said leaders should be ashamed of themselves adding that we should “never ever forget them”. Little did he realize that these are likely to be the kind of words that define him and his woe begotten presidency.
The irony is that Trump is the reason Biden won the general election, Trump is the reason that Democrats took control of the Senate and Trump is the reason that the Republican party is now in shambles. Republican lawmakers will be remembered as being his enablers. They will be remembered for advancing baseless allegations of electoral fraud and endorsing an attempted coup. As Graham prophetically predicted in 2015, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…and we will deserve it.” Turns out Graham was right.