By Perry Diaz
In three days, three events occurred that changed the political landscape of the U.S. for the next two or four years, or perhaps, for decades to come. On January 5, the state of Georgia – long a Republican bastion – elected two Democrats to replace two Republican senators. Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to fill their Senate seats. The two new senators will take their oath between January 15 and January 22, 2021 upon certification of their elections by the State of Georgia.
When that happens, the Senate’s 100 seats will be divided evenly, 50 Democrats — which includes two independents, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Maine Sen. Angus King, who caucus with the Democrats — and 50 Republicans. It would then require Vice President Kamala Harris acting as Senate President to be the tie-breaker in the event that the Senate is split in half when voting on a legislative bill. Because the Democrats will have a numerical majority of one vote, the majority floor leader will go to a Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is currently the minority floor leader. And what will happen to the current majority floor leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell? Well, he has to step down and take the place of minority floor leader, basically a powerless position. That would be big fall for McConnell who had for so long held up the passage of legislative bills that Democrats have filed, which is more than 400 bills since 2016 when Trump took over the presidency. Now it’s Schumer who will have the same power that McConnell had.
Warnock makes history as the first Black senator to ever represent the state. He’s just the 11th Black senator in history. He’s also the first Black Democratic senator from the South since Reconstruction and only the second overall. (South Carolina’s Tim Scott, a Republican, is the other.)
Prior to the joint session, Trump called Vice-President Mike Pence, who was going to preside as Senate President during the joint session on January 6 for the purpose of counting the Electoral College votes. The president pressured him to make sure that the votes counted would favor him instead of Biden. But Pence told Trump that only lawmakers could decide whether to accept or reject the Electoral College votes won by Biden. Trump told Pence that he could change the votes, which is false. Trump in a tweet rebuked Pence, saying: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.
Siege of Congress
On January 6, Trump standing behind a podium in front of his supporters, who gathered on Capitol Hill, exhorted them to march to the Capitol Building. In the ensuing hours, the chanting mob – which had grown to thousands — attacked the Capitol and managed to gain entry while the security police merely watched them go inside the building. As it turned out, it became an attempted coup d’etat or was it pre-planned all along? I believe it has always been planned to take over the Legislature, and with the Executive Branch already in the hands of Trump, the take over of the government would be a fait accompli. The mob chanted “Hang Mike Pence!”
Trump claimed that he deployed the National Guard “immediately,” which was a lie; the National Guard did not arrive until past 5:00 PM. Officers were filmed taking selfies with rioters and appearing to help them move back barricades and open doors. It was evident then that the Capitol Police was in cahoots with the rioters. They even directed them to the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
While the rioters were entering the building, Pence adjourned the joint session, which was in the midst of counting the Electoral College votes. Pence was rushed out of the building. Senate aides were able to grab the boxes containing the Electoral College certificates as lawmakers evacuated the building. The lawmakers scrambled out of the building, running for dear life. The rioters had a heyday ransacking the lawmakers’ offices as the security officers watched the carnage, some of which were seen shaking hands with the rioters.
The National Guard eventually arrived in several buses at sundown. But it was too late. The damage was done. During the siege, security forces discovered a truck near the Capitol containing bombs and other explosives. Evidently, the attempted coup failed.
Electoral College votes
At past 11:00 PM, the joint session resumed with the counting. By 3:35 AM, the counting was completed and Pence read the results, which was 306 for Biden and 232 for Trump. Pence then declared Joe Biden elected as president and Kamala Harris as vice president. It’s the culmination of a series of events that almost stopped the counting process.
I must say that Pence did a great job in certifying the electoral votes. There were apprehensions that he would block or change votes in the states that were challenged by “objectors” led by Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Josh Hawley, both Republicans.
The following day, Trump conceded the 2020 election and called for “healing and reconciliation,” which reminded me of when Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s newly elected president in 1994, formed a commission to bring together the people – blacks and whites together – under a post-apartheid government. Well, President Trump, after what you have done for the past four years dividing the American people, you don’t have any legitimate claim to lead the healing and reconciling the people and the country. You’re way past midnight, sir. The mob that you unleashed resulted in the death of five Americans and dozens of injured. It was heinous and despicable to say the least.
But true to his self-serving style, he said he was “outraged” by it. And he has the nerve to say, “The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol had defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay.” Huh?
Well, Mr. President, do you realize that it was you who instigated the insurrection? It was you who commanded your supporters to lay siege on the Capitol? You should take the blame for the five Americans who died. You should take responsibility for the damage to the Capitol and surrounding property. And you should apologize to the American people for bringing shame on the U.S. government in the face of world condemnation for a dastardly act of self-destruction. Shame on you, Mr. President.
And finally, Trump conceded, “a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”
Then came the social media’s reaction to Trump’s assault on the Capitol. Facebook and Instagram took steps of banning Trump indefinitely. On Friday, Twitter followed suit by permanently banning Trump from using its platform.
With these social media going dark on Trump, he’s now left with nothing to tell the whole world what’s in his mind, which basically can be classified as “garbage.” Like they said, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
What follows next would determine Trump’s political future. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she would file a privileged resolution in the House of Representatives to impeach Trump for “Incitement of Insurrection.”
Pelosi said that Trump could go either by resignation, invocation of the 25th Amendment or by impeachment. Since Trump refused to resign, the 25th Amendment is viable only if Vice-President Pence and at least half of the Cabinet members would agree to remove Trump. However, Pence balked at invoking the 25th Amendment, which leaves Pelosi with impeachment as last resort.
Pelosi has circulated the draft of the impeachment resolution and was able to get 180 co-sponsors. Pelosi plans to file the resolution on January 11 and would put a vote on it on January 13, where it is expected to pass.
The big challenge is in the Senate where 2/3 of those present are required to pass it. That means 67 senators are required if all 100 senators are present. The question is: Can the Democrats convince their Republican counterparts to vote for impeachment?
While Trump’s impeachment would not affect the political landscape at the moment, it has far-reaching implications in the future of Trump after he leaves office. For one thing, if Trump were impeached, he would be disqualified from running for office in the future. He wouldn’t even qualify to run for dog catcher. He would also lose a lot of perks including secret service protection.
However, if he resigns, he’s eligible to run for president in 2024. If I were Trump, I would resign. He could then devote the next four years to rebuilding his base. It would also be the honorable thing to do, that is, if he knows what “honorable” means.
At the end of the day, the question that lingers in my mind is: Should Trump be impeached even after his term ends on January 20?