The 'storming' of the U.S. Capital shook the very foundations of the American Dream, laying bare its high-browed claims of a mature and flourishing democracy, along with the long-nurtured notion as a role model for the globe. While a blowback from the Trump supporters was expected, but not of the magnitude which suddenly erupted, catching Washington by surprise.
Vice President Mike Pence won the universal accolade for his mature, tactful and politically-correct initiative in going ahead with the confirmation of Mr Biden, but he drew a line when the Democrats invoked the 25th Amendment to declare President Trump ‘incapable of executing the duties of his office.’
Even as Joe Biden's team geared up for taking control in the White House, the Democrat-controlled House of Representative was quick to initiate a record second impeachment article against President Trump.
In the early days after the ‘Capitol Assault’, there was mutiny in the ranks of the GOP. For years, Senators like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham had to concede meekly to Mr. Trump’s every whim and fancy, but now they too took a step back. Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump's former Chief of Staff, told CNBC, "I can't stay here, not after yesterday," before moving to Northern Ireland as an envoy.
With a strong showing in the elections, losing it by just a hair’s margin, Mr. Trump had a strong case for a re-run in 2024. Has the ‘Capitol Assault’ put paid to his plans and dreams or does he still stand in the reckoning as the Republican candidate for the Presidency four years hence?
While this whirlwind of activity makes for good drama, and even better prime time news, does it make for good parliament?
IMPEACHMENT VS PATIENCE
The last-minute rush to impeach President Trump failed to gain the support of the majority of dissident elements within the Republican Party, once the initial shock effect had worn off.
In the light of President Trump's unconventional ways of running his administration throughout his tenure, his response to the rioting on the Capitol Hill rioting was nothing so radical that it called for a second impeachment motion. In retrospect, all his previous actions did lead up to this point, particularly his refusal to denounce the white supremacist group, Proud Boys, during a presidential debate. Seeing that American democracy managed to survive four years of Mr. Trump right-wing incitement, was such an extreme response from the Democrats warranted?
There is an overriding desire in some quarters to punish Mr Trump not only for his alleged incitement of an already agitated constituency but also to perhaps scotch all his chances for a future re-run for the presidency.
The invoking of the 25th Amendment also appeared premature and ill-considered in view of the fact that Mr Trump did complete his tenure without in any way endangering his nation. There may be contrasting views on his performance, but then he is not the first occupant of this high office whose work has come under adverse comments during his tenancy or after his departure.
A sample study of 5,360 participants, done by Pew Research Centre on President Trump’s tenure, showed the lowest job approval of his presidency (29 per cent), and increasingly negative ratings for his post-election conduct. Between November and January, his 'fair to poor' rating showed an increase from 69 per cent to 76 per cent. However, 24 per cent of the respondents continue to consider Mr Trump blameless for the recent events. Understandably, President Biden fared much better for the same period with a 64 per cent positive opinion for his conduct.
SURVIVING THE INQUISITION
Now that he has left the White House, Mr. Trump's attention could turn to minimise the fallout from the impeachment vote on both his political and civilian career. New York’s Attorney General’s office continues to examine his tax records, including allegations of hush-money paid to countless women. His most immediate concern would be ensuring the loyalty of the Republicans in the Senate, to defeat a two-thirds majority vote which will mean impeachment for him.
He already faces financial pressure from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, threatening to cancel nearly $17 million in contracts with the Trump Organization. Stripe Inc., the payment processing company, said they would halt payment processing for his campaign. He has, however, managed to keep himself afloat with huge sums of money from his loyal supporters, and raised roughly $250 million since Election Day. It is being reported that more than $60 million have gone to the new political action committee he set up. This would provide him with financial space for his post-presidential ambitions.
PROSPECTS FOR THE GOP
It is yet unclear on whom the mantel of the leader of the Republican Party will rest. Many members have tried to distance themselves from Mr. Trump and his fan base, forgetting that they were the ones that won the party its votes. Mr. Pence could have been a contender, but his action in the Capitol on January 6 and not openly declaring the election a rigged one, has left him out of favour with his former boss. In any case, lost under Mr Trump’s huge shadow, he never did emerge as a potential contender.
Following the 2012 election loss, party Chairman Reince Priebus disseminated the assessment prepared by the Growth and Opportunity Project Task Force. The 2013 report predicted that the Republicans would continue to lose popular vote and support because “young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out” if the GOP did not become more inclusive.
Some party leaders now fret that they cannot win with Mr. Trump, and neither can they win without him. While far-right-wing voters have indicated that they would abandon the party if it turns on Mr. Trump, traditional Republicans will sour if it sticks by him. A fine balance, between facts (like diversity) and fiction (like the QAnon Conspiracy), would be required to allow the Republican Party to hold its own.