Donald Trump–the instigator in chief. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons.
Two tectonic events occurred in the United States on January 6, 2021, and historians will record these events as a watershed moment in American history.
The first one, getting all the media attention and deservedly so is about a day that “will live in infamy”. I am referring to the assault on Capitol Hill by Trump’s Stormtroopers just as Congress was meeting in a special session to certify the results of the general elections and declare Joe Biden president and Kamala Harris vice president, a rather routine and ceremonial protocol.
President Trump has been persistently and consistently spreading the lie that the election was stolen from him, and that he won by a landslide and the system was rigged against him. As Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels observed, “If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes accepted as a truth.”
This lie about a supposed election victory stolen from him was coming from the president week after week, meanwhile, as of today, 365,000 Americans have died from the COVID 19 pandemic, and 21.7 million infected during Trump’s watch. No similar tweets about the urgency of combating the pandemic from the commander in chief.
Trump’s white supremacist followers believed him despite court after court rejecting his false claims of electoral fraud. Republican officials in swing states were coming under intense pressure to nullify the results of the election. “Stop the steal,” became the battle cry of Trump’s supporters. What’s alarming is that more than a third of Americans believed his lies. More than 100 Republican members of Congress and more than a dozen Republican senators agreed to oppose certification Biden’s victory, prior to the failed coup attempt by the mob incited by Trump on Wednesday.
Whether these elected officials believed him or acted out of cowardice or opportunism is beside the point. What if the majority of Republican Trump enablers in both houses of Congress had gone along with this charade? U.S. democracy would have been dealt a death blow. The remaining days of his presidency could be very challenging and perilous as this wounded would-be Mussolini may incite some domestic chaos or military adventure overseas, or declare a state emergency in the interest of some purported “national security” and assume dictatorial powers. That is why invoking the 25th amendment or failing that, impeachment proceeding, becomes important.
The white supremacist mob that was summoned to Washington D.C. by Trump and came by the tens of thousands was addressed by the president himself, exhorting them to march to the Capitol and not to show “weaknesses.” The mob heard their leader loud and clear and moved to the Capitol. They forced open the doors and broke windows to gain entry into the inner sanctum where both the house and senate were in session.
The elected representatives had to be whisked away to safety, leaving the domestic terrorists to roam freely in the house and senate floors where the laws of the land are made. There were reports of possible bombs near the Republican and Democratic offices. There was discovery of cache of arms in a van. Five people are reported dead; a woman from the mob, a police officer, and three people who had “medical” conditions.
The law enforcement agents treated the insurrectionists with kid gloves. The contrast with the brutal manner in which police treated Black Lives Matter (BLM) marchers—peacefully protesting after George Floyd’s murder—was not lost on the TV audience.
The other event which otherwise would have been the major story of the day was the Georgia senatorial elections. It was consequential because the results now give control of the Senate to the Democrats. Reporters and pundits saw it in Red and Blue context. What I saw in the results of this election was the future. This is one of the reddest of the red states, where the K.K.K. is still alive. The Republican senatorial candidate Kelly Loeffler was seen posing with leader of the clan, Chester Doles, during the campaign. The new Georgia sent an unmistakable message by electing a Jew, Jon Ossoff, and a Black man, Rev. Raphael Warnock. This outcome is a white supremacist’s worst nightmare.
Two narratives of America on a collision course came to a head on the same day. One narrative is those who would try to turn the clock back as white power and privilege are being challenged by the new America. The second narrative is forward looking, a celebration of racial and cultural diversity—and willing to address systemic racism and openly acknowledging white privilege, and seeking to redress the historic wrong that would include reparations.
What happened in Capitol Hill may the last gasp of the old order even as the new progressive all-inclusive America is being born in Georgia.
Mohammed A. Nurhussein MD, is a retired physician.