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7 January 2021updated 23 Jul 2021 12:16pm

A dark day for American democracy is a reminder that words have consequences

The violent scenes in Washington are the predictable consequence of Donald Trump's victory.

By Ailbhe Rea

Joe Biden’s presidential election victory was confirmed by the US Congress in the early hours of this morning, after the transfer of power was interrupted by a violent insurrection by Donald Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol building and forced lawmakers to temporarily abandon the certification. At least two explosive devices were identified and rendered safe by law enforcement, one protester was shot dead and three others died of “medical emergencies”, in events that have been variously described as an attempted coup and domestic terrorism, incited by the sitting president of the United States. 

[Hear more from Ailbhe on The New Statesman podcast]

Our Washington-based US editor, Emily Tamkin, has filed these reflections on why these scenes are the awful, logical end to Donald Trump’s presidency. When people try to tell you who they are, believe them. These events were not a surprise, but the terrible inevitability of a presidency that has stoked division and elided truth from the very beginning. It is the inevitable result of knowingly electing a man who admitted sexually assaulting women: “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” It is the logical endpoint of rule by a man who, beholding white supremacist violence at Charlottesville at the start of his presidency, said there were “very fine people on both sides”. It ends as it started: with Trump passively watching the news, a spectator to the violence he himself incited, equivocating on Twitter before his account was suspended, unwilling to condemn outright the people who love him.

[see also: Could the 25th amendment be used to remove Donald Trump from office?]

There are now serious calls from politicians and publications including the Washington Post for Trump to be removed from office before Inauguration Day through the 25th amendment, a prospect that remains unlikely, but it is testament to how dangerous the current president is that he isn’t deemed fit to run the country for what little is left of his term.   

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Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. Even while denying the result of the election, Trump (or, at least, a spokesperson for Trump) has conceded that there must be a peaceful transition of power. But yesterday was a dark day for democracy, and a warning that there can be no complacency about the gradual erosion of truth in so much of our politics and public debate. It was a reminder, if one was needed, that there is a link between words and actions. 

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