The afternoon of January 6th, 2020 was set to be momentous from the jump. It was the day Congress was set to formally certify Joe Biden as the President of the United States, the final step in the long process from ballot box to inauguration. That also meant it was the last place for Trump to hold the line.
Starting months before the election, our President made baseless claims about mass voter fraud all around the country, stating that the entire election process was corrupt and lacked transparency.
As election day came, experts assured us the election was secure, and there was no fraud. Trump persisted. Votes were cast, and after days of waiting and uncertainty, Joe Biden got over the 270 electoral vote threshold and became president-elect. Trump persisted.
He spent months protesting in court, with several judges — including ones he appointed — throwing out his lawsuits due to the lack of evidence. He then moved to election boards, state legislatures, and governors, asking them to block the certification of the results. They refused, and every single state made their results official.
The last step, one meant to be purely ceremonial, was the certification of electoral votes in Congress. After the electors voted in their states, their votes had to be presented to Congress to officially determine the next President.
It’s been done for every single presidential election, going back nearly two and a half centuries, and has never been of note. But that was then, this is now.
I should’ve seen this coming, we all should’ve. The second we elected a reality TV star to office we should’ve expected that he wouldn’t have a quiet or graceful exit, yet we pushed the thought back in our minds. We thought that when the time came, he would step up and be an adult.
Even as he continued to contest the results of the election, we enabled him, we never thought anything would come of it. We knew in our heads what he was doing was dangerous, but we didn’t believe it deep down.
Then, the date of the certification came, and it all changed.
Trump’s last stand began as scripted. His small army of Republican congressmen and Senators stood up and objected to the electoral college votes, beginning with the certificate from Arizona. The objection was presented, receiving a standing ovation, then it was read to the Joint Session and the two chambers split to debate and vote.
As debate began, Democrats criticized it as undemocratic, immature, and a waste of time, while Republicans divided between regurgitating the President’s BS talking points or pushing back and recognizing how embarrassing the situation was.
After a few minutes of this, they began to hear noises from outside of their chambers. They turned and looked around, some contacting aides, then their presiding officers recessed to figure out what was going on.
Americans at home already knew: the Capitol was being attacked.
They turned on the TV that afternoon expecting the symbolic objections coupled with a protest planned by the President nearby. However, the protestors got unruly, and began charging the Capitol. They broke in and squared off with the police inside, who were overwhelmed and underprepared.
The police held the line as well as they could, but the protesters (now turned rioters) dug deeper and deeper into the heart of the building, eventually breaking into the House and Senate chambers.
The attack went on for hours. Members of Congress had to be evacuated to secure locations, where they made statements condemning the riots and calling on President Trump to do something.
And something he did. He released a 1 minute video statement on Twitter, telling the protesters to be peaceful and go home, immediately followed by saying that he loved them, and that their cause was just.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Trump pulled a Trump once again. He couldn’t stick to saying what needed to be said, he had to defend himself and his ego, and in the process gave the rioters the justification to continue with their attacks.
Eventually, the national guard was mobilized to the Capitol, and the mayor of Washington DC instated a 6 PM curfew to clear the rioters away.
After hours of chaos and uncertainty for Americans all across the country, the attack appeared to be coming to a close. The chambers were restored to order, and they began convening to certify the electoral votes once more.
With the dust beginning to clear, one thing became apparent: these attacks marked the end of the Age of Trump in America.
The fractured reality of America was, for the first time in living memory, shattered. We recognized one event that had occurred: the President had been a sore loser in his election, and through his actions drove thousands to commit a disgusting, cowardly act of violence.
As Republicans took the Senate floor, I fully expected them to continue to defend the President. Say “these aren’t Trumpists, they’re thugs”, or try to repeat the short-lived conspiracy theory that the attacks were actually being perpetrated by BLM and antifa. But they didn’t — they instead offered a true apology to the American people.
For the first time in Trump’s term, we saw Republicans grow a true backbone, condemning not just the riots, but Trump causing them. Hardly anyone tried to justify or spin them, and those who did were immediately castigated.
It was a surreal moment for me as a liberal. I’ve gotten used to blocking out Republicans, as they’ve only spewed Trumpist crap out of their mouths for the last four years with few exceptions. They’ve lacked independent thought or the ability to challenge the President — instead, they’ve served as his unwavering defenders.
But this is impossible to defend. With this attack, the line connecting Trump’s philosophies to the thousands who charged the Capitol steps became direct — it was his actions and words that spurred these people to violence, nothing more and nothing less. And Republicans finally recognized that.
It’s not just politicians distancing themselves from Trump either, it’s the average conservative. Every single Republican I’ve talked to, people who voted for Trump in 2020 and even canvassed for Trumpist members of Congress, have told me they’re withdrawing their support.
One said he no longer considered himself a Republican, but rather a conservative independent, because he was done being anywhere near Trump. Another said he would never vote for someone with the name Trump again, whether it was President Trump running for reelection in 2024, or his children Ivanka and Don Jr, both of whom are likely running for Senate in the future.
Most conservatives I’ve talked to have even said Trump-affiliated politicians, like Ron Desantis, are off the table to them.
Whether this is just a response to negative press or a true change of heart, time will tell. But the attacks on our Capitol have laid bare the kind of person our President is to those who’ve followed him for so long, and they’re changing from it.
This is not to say American politics will be fixed by this. This was one of the worst days in American history, and when we come out the other side, we will still live in a very divided America.
While Trump and Trumpism may be gone, the ideas that birthed it will remain.
His politics of racism and blatant classicism will stay, as will his attitude of “fight no matter what”. The core ideas of his ideology will remain in his supporters’ heads, and will continue to impact American politics for years to come.
We will still have much to work on in the post-Trump era, however the Capitol attacks have begun some of the work we would’ve otherwise still had to do.
It will lend credibility to Biden’s presidency, and even start it in a time of unity against hatred. It will hold opposition at bay, at least temporarily, and will give Biden the chance to project what his vision for a normal America is. Whether we accept it remains to be seen, however that’s a case we would’ve had to wait years for him to be able to make without this attack.
While January 6th was a dark day in America, we will get better from it. Our democracy bent but it never broke, and as we have after each assault against our nation, we will learn and grow from this. We will improve upon the mistakes we made before, and we come back fighting stronger than ever.