Trump’s Coup Attempt: A Not So Thin Red Line




The assault on the Capitol exhausted the patience of traditional Republicans. Trump and the actions of his base will weigh the party down for years.

American politics are a strange animal. One can’t find a similar governmental system that is both complex and simple anywhere else. Nowhere else has such massive power resided within a structure that, for the past two centuries, restrained its most radical actors so much that they appear moderate. This makes it difficult to explain Wednesday’s events at the Capitol building. It is also difficult to avoid the term “coup attempt.” This is what it was: A departing president asked his supporters to stop his successor from taking office. Donald Trump asked his base to “fight.” That is what they did, literally.

The events were both unusual and sobering. For most of his term, Trump seemed to be an unconventional and polarizing president, often embroiled in scandal. Yet, he did not appear to be a real threat to the American political system. While the president himself enjoyed conspiracy theories, the idea that he would not leave office peacefully sounded like a liberal conspiracy theory. But it turned out to be true.

The Republican Drama Became Tragedy

Trump will not pay this tab. Those who wish to see him behind bars will likely be disappointed; any prosecution will be delayed for years before there is a verdict. It is also possible that Joe Biden could pardon Trump, not out of any personal admiration, but out of a desire to save the republic. Because Trump proved that the United States is divided. Deeply and incurably divided.

The country will send the tab to the GOP. Trump’s Congressional loyalists (whose numbers have diminished since Jan. 6) will now have to explain not just why they support an untraditional president. They will have to rationalize their embrace of a post-Jan. 6 Trump; someone who tried to stop the lawful and peaceful transfer of power. Hardcore Trumpists like Lindsey Graham had second thoughts. “Count me out, enough is enough,” he said. The 13 senators who planned to contest Biden’s victory shrunk to six. Mike Pence, who spent the last four years trying to balance his fealty to Trump against mainstream Republican values, decided to follow the Constitution and certify Biden’s victory.

But this was not enough. For five years, the Republican Party has revolved around a single leader, an unconventional outsider who never saw himself as a member of the party, yet brought the GOP much needed new voters. A winning candidate who, at least for two years, gave them unified control of both chambers of Congress and the presidency. They held the White House and the Senate for four. After Jan. 20, the GOP will be a minority in both branches of Congress, having lost the presidency as well. Republicans will spend its time as an opposition party, not trying to plot a way back to power, but attempting to prevent becoming known as the coup party.

The Fall of the American Empire

Right before the Make America Great Again supporters marched on Congress, they were addressed by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. “This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” the younger Trump said. He’s right. Congressional Republicans have no choice but to make a clean break with Trump, yet a break will cost them millions of votes that sustained their party and its candidates, not for ideological reasons, but in the name of the president.

There is a red line, finally. And it’s not a thin one; it became visible the moment the election outcome was rejected. At the beginning, though, Trump and his supporters acted within the law. After the counting, the recounting, and the lawsuits concluded, and Trump still refused to concede, his lies amplified by a significant number of senators and member of Congress, it turned out that the liberals’ fear that Trump would never concede and relinquish power was not a conspiracy.

Everyone will suffer. Democrats may receive a boost and say “we told you so,” but the true victim is the American republic. Biden can’t be happy that a significant part of the country will always see him as an illegitimately-elected president, so much so that they were willing to risk their lives to defile the Capitol in order to stop him.

American politics has always looked like a TV drama, not the evening news. Now it looks like the fall of the Roman Empire; live on Twitter with video, sound and running commentary.

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