The world on Wednesday saw two very different pictures of American democracy. In Georgia, Democrats won two runoff elections for senate, giving Democrats control over Congress and the opportunity to reshape the electoral map. In Washington, D.C., a joint session of Congress that scores of congressional Republicans intended to use to steal Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory was halted suddenly after Trump supporters — egged on by the outgoing president — stormed the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to seek shelter as an armed showdown erupted outside.
The contrasts between a country moving forward and a political party imploding could not have been more stark. In Georgia, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Tuesday’s special election for an unexpired term for a U.S. Senate seat. Warnock will become the first Black senator in Georgia history. The son of a cotton picker, and a senior pastor at the Atlanta church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Warnock rode to victory on a confluence of factors, from a surge in Black turnout and a repudiation of Trump to a new southern strategy that sought unity rather than division. In a second Georgia senate race, Democrat Jon Ossoff defeated Republican David Perdue. The outcomes strengthen Biden’s hand as he prepares to take office Jan. 20. They also embolden Democrats throughout the Deep South by turning reliably-Republican Georgia into a battleground state.
The Republicans’ attempt to nullify Biden’s victory was a breathtaking assault on democracy. That Trump’s most ardent congressional sycophants would line up behind a man who cost them the presidency and now the senate was too much for even Sen. Mitch McConnell and some other party leaders. Yet beaten at the ballot box and laughed out of court, some Republicans seized a last-ditch attempt Wednesday to block certification of Biden’s key state victories. But that ugly episode was taken over by a pro-Trump mob that breached the Capitol grounds and rushed the building, forcing the evacuation of Vice President Mike Pence. A woman was shot to death inside the Capitol after it was overrun, the building was put on lockdown and the entire D.C. National Guard activated. Local authorities ordered a 6 p.m. curfew to help regain order.
As unbelievable and horrifying as it was to see the Capitol under siege, is anyone really surprised that the closing days of Donald Trump’s presidency brought such chaos? Trump browbeat the vice president this week, publicly demanding he misuse his ceremonial role in overseeing the certification process to steal the election for Trump. After Pence made clear Wednesday morning he would do no such thing, Trump appeared at a rally just outside the White House and implored his supporters to march on the Capitol. He later trashed the vice president on Twitter, saying “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”
There is no shortage of enablers complicit in the danger that Trump continues to pose, whether it’s longtime attention hounds like Ted Cruz or Matt Gaetz or the Tampa Bay area’s newest member of Congress, Republican Rep. Scott Franklin. Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol showed how far some Trump supporters are willing to go to block a lawful and peaceful transfer of power. It’s fitting that a president with a treasonous sense of entitlement is hailed in his waning days in a spasm of mob rule. What will take longer to reconcile is the image of Americans storming their own seat of government, forcing their own representatives to cower in fear. That’s a legacy the modern Republican Party has to answer to.
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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news