With less than two weeks remaining in his presidency, Donald Trump remains a threat to American democracy. What happened on Wednesday, with his rabid followers storming the Capitol, vandalising offices, smashing windows and occupying the vice-presidential chair in the Senate, is a shame America will not live down any time soon. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senator poised to be the next majority leader in the Senate, as a result of his party's two victories in Georgia, spoke for everyone in America and around the world: January 6, 2021, he said, would remain a day of infamy forever in the way December 7, 1941 --- when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour --- has been a day of infamy.
In the few days remaining before Joe Biden is sworn in as America's 46th President, Trump will be a looming danger. A man who has had no qualms in egging on his band of hooligans and thugs, domestic terrorists as some have called them, into scaling the walls of the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the results of the November election, yet poses a danger because he has his finger on the nuclear button. And this is where the matter of the 25th amendment to the US constitution arises. The Vice President and a majority of the cabinet, should they feel the President is in no position to exercise his powers in responsible manner, can remove him under the amendment. But if the President refuses to leave, it will be for Congress to step in. A two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate will be required to validate his removal.
In these last few days and considering the notoriety of his supporters in Congress, such a removal of Trump from office will be a difficult proposition. And yet the fact that some members of his cabinet have been discussing the possibility in light of Wednesday's violence is important. That takes one to the question of what should be done about Donald Trump after January 20. There are a whole lot of cases, financial in nature, which are stacked against Trump. But now it will only be proper for the new administration to take all those steps which will lead to his prosecution under the law. The charges against him are grave. He has refused to accept his electoral defeat and has since November been fomenting a state of disorder in the country. He has openly asked Georgia state officials to change the results of the election. He has pressured Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results, despite knowing that the Vice President has no such authority. In the event, on Wednesday, Pence conducted himself with dignity and in full loyalty to the constitution. On Wednesday, Trump caused sedition and attempted to force lawmakers, through his goon squads, to ensure his continued grip on power.
The Biden administration, indeed the Justice Department, can institute charges of sedition against Trump and his political camp followers, men like Rudy Giuliani and Ted Cruz, over the incidents which left American political institutions gravely undermined on Wednesday. Of course, Trump has now promised an orderly transition on January 20, but at the same time has continued to spew his lies. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have suspended his accounts. But does he feel any shame? The answer is obvious: he does not, which is why the full force of the law needs to be applied to him once he leaves office. Joe Biden and his administration will be required to ensure that Donald Trump is publicly censured, legally penalised, condemned to oblivion and historically excoriated, in the way Joe McCarthy was in the 1950s, in the way Germany's Nazis were at the end of World War Two.
The riots on Wednesday, while revealing Trump at his worst, brought out some of the best in American politics. Joe Biden's intervention, even as those domestic terrorists wreaked havoc in Washington, was a defining moment. There was the presidential, every bit, in his demeanour. Even Mitch McConnell, a Trump loyalist for the past four years, rose to the occasion in defence of democracy. Chuck Schumer and Mitt Romney revived faith in the ability of America's institutions to rise above such deplorables, to use Hillary Clinton's phrase, as Donald Trump and his cabal have been. Lindsey Graham took a step back, one he should have taken long ago, but it was just as well. Mike Pence, for that very first time in these four years, was clearly worthy of respect in the way he conducted himself.
And those who, despite the rioters roaming the halls and passages and offices of the Capitol unchecked, have kept up their lies, to solidify the lies of Donald Trump, on Wednesday clearly mutated into sinister representations of the bad dream America has been in these past four years. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and their fellow conspiracy theorists will not live down their shame. Shameless men in history have been in plenty. They have been embarrassments for their nations, for the world and for their descendants. Cruz and all those Republicans who have flouted norms and the law and decency in their crude desire to keep Trump happy do not have to be in the centre of American politics any longer. They will be remembered for the villainy they consorted with and promoted and in the end became.
Wednesday was a dark day. It was, more importantly, a day when Americans knew of the full extent of the insanity and evil inherent in the mind of a President who has laid them low, who has endangered the world, who has brought the hallowed office of the presidency low.
Yet, conversely, it was a day for a rebirth of democracy, for Americans to listen to Abraham Lincoln again --- that government of the people, by the people, for the people will not perish from the earth.
Syed Badrul Ahsan is a senior journalist and writer. [email protected]