The Donald Trump–incited terrorist assault on the US Capitol appears to be a death spasm of the Trump presidency. But this attack may well be a signal that Trumpism will remain a destructive and divisive force within American politics long after Trump leaves the White House this month.
The insurrectionist raid on Congress, as it was counting the electoral votes, seemed a blow for Trump, a deadly provocation that backfired on him. In the aftermath of this putsch, several Republican senators withdrew their support for objections to the electoral vote certification.
The certification was still delayed due to the two objections that did proceed, but the postponement of the inevitable finalé—Vice President Mike Pence declaring Joe Biden the victor—was shorter in length than Trump wanted. His chief henchman, Rudy Giuliani, had pushed senators to file objections so he could gain more time to continue his baseless legal shenanigans to overturn the election results.
He had no chance of undoing the election. Still, the attack on the Capitol was counterproductive for Trump and Giuliani’s ridiculous efforts, as it further delegitimized their subversive endeavor. Following this violent convulsion, Trump’s last stand looked even uglier and more dangerous. At a rally prior to the riot, Trump and Giuliani had riled up the mob before directing it toward Capitol Hill, and this move ended up undermining their own plot.
Moreover, the attack and Trump’s pathetic response—in a video message asking for calm he told the marauders they were right to believe his false claim of a stolen election and that “we love you”—finally convinced several past and present Trump enablers it was time to leap from his crazy train. Former Attorney General Bill Barr, Sen.
Lindsey Graham, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Melania Trump’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham, and others resigned or denounced Trump. News reports noted that people within Trump’s inner circle were considering deploying the 25th Amendment to remove him from office in these final days of his presidency.
John Kelly, one of Trump’s former White House chiefs of staff, said he would support that. Michael Chertoff, who was secretary of homeland security in the Bush-Cheney administration, called for the same. In an emotional speech, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of Trump’s chief handmaids, decried Trump’s baseless challenge of the 2020 election and warned Trump’s actions were threatening to throw American democracy into “a death spiral.”