After the election
If January 6th taught us anything, it’s that democracy is fragile. That, within the hands of the wrong people and with the right sort of encouragement, it’s at risk of being smashed to smithereens. That day saw the US Capitol building broken into. Thousands of supporters from all across the US descended upon Washington D.C. to wreak havoc as Congress was certifying Biden’s victory back on November 7th.
Noam Chomsky, who appeared briefly on the launch of the Peace and Justice Project yesterday, had this to say about the situation in the United States:
“In a few days, the most powerful country in the world will be free of a malevolent force, that for four dreaded years has been dedicated to destroying the environment that sustains life and to dismantling the arms control regime constructed over 60 years which offered protection from tragedy. That opens opportunities to save ourselves.”
Chomsky is right. The end of the Trump presidency will come as a fresh of breath air to the millions of Americans who showed the world that another future is possible. But he also gave us stark warnings about the ongoing climate emergency and the threat of nuclear war. That if we are to save ourselves from species suicide, we must act now.
Biden’s vision for America is in contrast to the outgoing president. Speeches from over the days of the election up until this point have focused on the message of unity. That Americans, left right and centre need to do what they’ve always done: come together as a nation, listen to one another, respect one another and most importantly “to put the rhetoric of the last few years behind us, to lower the temperature, to see each other again”.
In the aftermath of the election, the liturgist determination from Trump began the work of trying to overcome the result through more than 60 court cases. Every single court case was shut down, citing a lack of feasible and credible evidence to the claims laid out.
On social media, things went from bad to worse for Trump, as his claims of election fraud, an end to democracy and a betrayal of the Constitution angered many on his side. The tech giants began to take notice of this, signalling an end to Trump’s social media after the events of January 6th, all of which are understood to have been planned well in advance.
But social media also teamed up with independent fact checkers in order to try and prevent rolls and rolls of misinformation from pouring out onto the feeds. Fact checkers found no evidence of Antifa being present at the Capitol on the 6th. Antifa is a well known name amongst Americans, but are really just a series of small independent groups dedicated to the practice of anti-fascism.
What fact checkers did find, was that claims of Antifa being present were being circulated because of things like tattoos on people’s skin. It’s no wonder then that American fact checkers debunked all these claims within days of the rumours circulating on social media. Fact checkers are an important part of democracy and because they are run independently, they are free of political bias. They are becoming an increasingly important tool to utilise in the digital age.
In response to Trump’s social media bans, Trump supporters took to the social media platform Parler, which is a platform that claims to be dedicated to the free speech of every single person. But concerns grew as it soon emerged that the messages people were sharing on Parler were incredibly dangerous and all of them suggested advocacy of violence within America’s political foundations and institutions.
Now, on the week of the inauguration, there are more National Guard soldiers inside Washington than in Iraq, Iran and Syria combined. That the military has been deployed to their country’s own capital city because of a threat of domestic terrorism shows just how divided the United States has become under the last four years of Trump’s presidency.
Parler was taken off the Google and Apple play markets, after Amazon dropped their host credentials with the platform. Not so long after, Parler was back online after it emerged that Epik, a Korean host site known for hosting neo Nazi, and far right platforms had taken over hosting.
A week after the attempted far right coup at the Capitol, Nancy Pelosi signed the article of impeachment for a second time. Fact checkers across the web have debunked claims surrounding his impeachment, including comparisons of Trump’s impeachment to the impeachments of Richard Nixon (after which he resigned) and Andrew Johnson. At this point, Trump had broken connections with Vice President Mike Pence, and it was Pence which read out the certified Biden electoral college result.
Senator Mitch McConnell who is the current Majority Leader, but will soon be Minority Leader thanks to Stacey Abrams efforts in the swing state of Georgia to elect two Democratic Senators, will be responsible for resuming the Senate on January 19th. The Senate will likely vote on two Bills surrounding the impeachment: firstly the vote to convict Trump which must pass by a two thirds majority, and secondly, a vote to ban Trump from re-running for the office of the United States, which only needs a simple majority.
It is important to understand that the conviction vote and the anticipated ban on re-running are not the same. A simple majority means a majority over 50, and with Democrats controlling the Senate, this vote could likely pass. So even if Trump were convicted of federal crimes surrounding insurrection, this vote would ensure he might never be allowed to re-run for office again. It is understood that up to 20 Republican Senators have suggested they will likely vote to convict Trump. Finally, the second vote is dependent on if the first vote passes the Senate.
17 Republican votes will be needed to fully convict Trump. Mitch McConnell has said that he is open to this vote going ahead.
The second thing to understand is that these votes won’t happen on the 19th, right as the Senate resumes business. The last trial in the Senate lasted 21 days, and trials before that lasted even longer. The Senate will also be in session just as Biden comes into office, with much of the workload expected to be focused on the coronavirus situation in the United States and the need for an economic recovery.
And then as his second impeachment passed in the House, Trump broke the silence yet again. Reading from a scripted teleprompt, he finally condemned the violence of the Capitol on the 6th, and said that, “no supporter of mine could ever endorse violence”. However, the second part of his script revealed his continued disdain for the shutdown of free speech online. And no where in the speech suggested that he’d lost the election, or that he was responsible for inciting the violence.
This is the week of the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States. But things are of course slightly different this time round due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It is known that Trump will leave the White House on the morning of the 20th.
He will be flown by Marine One out of Washington, instead of attending Biden’s inauguration, breaking the tradition of an outgoing President’s peaceful transfer of power. A tradition which marks this peaceful transition involves the use of what’s called a nuclear football. A nuclear football refers to the president’s ‘satchel’ but it is really just a small briefcase containing contents which the President can use to authorise a nuclear attack.
Trump’s early planned departure makes logistics difficult surrounding this tradition. Instead it is expected that both Trump and Biden be handed a nuclear football each. Trump will take his with him when he departs, after which the contents of his football will become inactive at noon. The football belonging to Biden will then become the next official nuclear football.
The National Monument and Mall are closed to tourists on the 20th. The FBI has warned against the threat of more domestic attacks at the inauguration, which explains the heavy armed presence of National Guard soldiers. However, Biden has said he is prepared to take the oath of office outside as normal.
Around noon, the oath of office takes place as the President and Vice President are sworn into the office. The oath is defined by Article II, Section I, Clause 8 of the US Constitution. Every President must swear by this oath during the duration of their presidency:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”
While the inauguration is not expected to be physically attended by many Americans due to the ongoing pandemic, it is expected that it will be televised nationwide and perhaps even globally and become a TV event to remember in 2021. The UK can expect to watch Biden take the oath of office at approximately 5pm GMT with the ceremony due to proceed at 4:30pm GMT.
At the Lincoln Memorial Pool on Tuesday 19th January, a lighting ceremony is expected to take place to honour the lives of people lost to COVID-19.