Capitol insurrection: American democracy is bruised and sore, so what happens next?

American democracy ran an Iron Man race. It finished bruised and sore, exhausted and a bit exhilarated.

It’s probably not a good idea to do it again soon.

But it is a good idea to ask some questions, some prosaic and some existential, about what happened, and what happens next.

Did Donald Trump finally go too far?

It’s early, but it would seem Mr Trump may have earned full pariah status with Thursday’s events.

With two weeks left in his presidency, the prevailing strategy had been to just endure his endless fictions about voter fraud.

But his incitement of supporters before the mob attack is indisputable, and was underlined repeatedly during the hours-long TV coverage of his supporters marauding through the Capitol.

His rapturous “We love you” video, intended to urge protesters home, only made things more shocking. It reminded me of Game of Thrones’ Ramsay Bolton talking to his dogs.

A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Getty

By evening, Trump-friendly media outlets like the New York Post laid blame for the riot at his feet.

He was locked off Twitter.

Once the Capitol was secured and Senate debate resumed, some once-supportive senators no longer had the stomach to challenge Mr Biden’s victory.

“A demagogue chose to spread falsehoods,” GOP Senator Pat Toomey said on the Senate floor.

This change of heart is not surprising, since supporting the challenge meant supporting the people who just rampaged through the Senate chamber. Not a good look.

Can Mr Trump face charges?

Unlikely, though there was a steady call for either impeachment or the invocation of the 25th amendment.

With only days left in his presidency, that seems highly unlikely.

But could he face some action after leaving office?

The issue of a “truth and reconciliation” committee to review the Trump years has been debated heatedly among the left.

Some were squeamish with the idea, wanting to move on. With yesterday’s events, it’s now a certainty that Congress will launch an investigation into Mr Trump’s role in the events, and he could face wider criminal investigations.

Will Donald Trump face charges? It’s unlikely. Photo: AAP

Where was security?

There were many questions about just how a building – last breached in 1812 when British troops laid siege to Washington – was left so unprotected.

It was well known that protesters were coming to town; the DC mayor had put the local National Guard on alert.

But it took approximately three hours for other police departments to help out the Capitol Police (a federal force that patrols US government property), and it took a phone call from Vice President Mike Pence – in lockdown in the Capitol – to get the National Guard to move.

With all eyes centred on the Senate vote, how could security have been so paltry?

Where was Mr Trump, and other federal law enforcement officials once the mob entered?

You can be sure the Washington Post and other papers will be preparing “tick-tocks” getting to the bottom of how this citadel was so easily breached.

Who are these ‘insurrectionists’? Noble minutemen of Revolutionary era yore these were not – unless freedom fighters now carry selfie sticks.

Video inside the Capitol included shots of crowbar-wielding, punch-throwing young men, but there was just as many senior citizens wandering around like giddy tourists in MAGA hats.

Perhaps it was because they looked like their parents and brothers that cops – both at the outset and by late afternoon – seemed unusually tender towards a bunch of trespassers vandalising a venerated space.

One couldn’t help wondering how the police would have responded if Black Lives Matter protesters had stormed the building.

Only last summer, cops and troops teargassed peaceful protesters so Mr Trump could take his photo at a nearby church.

Not surprisingly, some Fox News commentators were speculating “Antifa” provocateurs were behind the disturbance. Like voter fraud, they had no evidence, but didn’t care.

What happens next?

It seems hard to remember now, but the day began with news that Democrats had won both seats in the Georgia Senate race, thus taking control of both houses of Congress.

This razor-thin majority, combined with the revulsion about the violence, gives President-elect Joe Biden some real momentum heading into the inauguration.

Pandering to Mr Trump’s base is synonymous with enabling thugs. Photo: Getty

The riot cannot help but mute Republicans for at least a few months.

They will fear being seen as a disloyal opposition if they push back too hard, and will hold their tongues until the fever settles. That could be a real opportunity for Mr Biden.

What happens to the Republicans?

Suddenly, pandering to Mr Trump’s base is synonymous with enabling thugs. Is that a viable campaign strategy for Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley?

What looked merely craven now looks sinister – at least for the short term.

The expected open warfare in the GOP will only get worse, with the combined hit of the riot and the Georgia Senate loss forcing a deep and bitter reckoning.

Larry Hackett is the former editor-in-chief of People magazine, and a contributor to the US morning television news program Good Morning America

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