On Wednesday 6 January, pro-Trumpers will attempt a mass demonstration in Washington to coincide with the formal vote in Congress to ratify the Electoral College decision from the presidential election.
A crowd of conspiracy theorists, fascists, and plain deluded have been encouraged to “Be there, will be wild”. Maybe some think they can storm Congress in the same way as right-wing terrorists invaded the Michigan State House last May.
A strong police presence will make such an attempt unlikely to succeed. But Republican members of Congress are still prepared to indulge Trump. They’ll admit in private there was no voter fraud, but some of them will be echoing the demonstrators and challenging the Electoral College count on 6 January.
In Britain departure of a head of government is mercifully speedy. The furniture van picks up the belongings of the defeated candidate the day after the election and they are whisked away to write their memoirs or do a lucrative US university lecture tour. American presidents are allowed three months before the handover.
When Lincoln won, it was even longer. In those days Presidents weren’t sworn in until March. Lincoln’s wait allowed slave-owning states to organise secession and start a civil war in defence of slavery. Trump’s last weeks may yet witness some outbreak of major civic strife, and possibly him starting a war with Iran.
In any case, the end of Trump’s term leaves a high body count, a country devastated by a Covid pandemic his behaviour did much to exacerbate. When I suggested the American death toll from Covid would be 350,000 on Biden taking office, that was sadly an underestimate. The figure is going to be over 400,000. The Civil War clocked up 600,000 dead. Expect Covid to claim more than that in the USA.
Trump’s bragging that he’s “working tirelessly” to provide Covid relief is yet another piece of bullshit. Apart from playing many rounds of golf since his defeat on 3 November, Trump has had only two preoccupations — seeking to overturn the result of the Presidential election and handing out corrupt pardons to criminal cronies.
His undemocratic efforts to thwart the electorate have gone to bizarre lengths even for him, as when he sought to appoint crazed conspiracy-theorist lawyer Sidney Powell as a Special Counsel to “investigate” baseless claims of widespread voting fraud. Powell suggested that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had manipulated computer algorithms to fix the vote, even though Chavez has been dead for seven years!
Powell proposed Trump invoke the Insurrection Act and seize voting machines. Michael Flynn, a recent recipient of a Trump get out of jail card supported this, suggesting Trump declare martial law. Such are the ideas circulating not on the fringes, but at the centre of the Trump movement.
Trump’s doling-out of corrupt pardons will continue in the final weeks. Apart from obvious candidates like Manafort, Flynn and Roger Stone, Trump has pardoned four killers who worked for Blackwater who committed a massacre of women and children in Iraq which has been compared to My Lai. Unlike the prisoners he’s had executed in Federal jails, none of them are black. And they all worked for long time Trump supporter Erik Prince, brother of Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos. So they got off.
The pardons once again raise the question of whether the Biden administration will allow Trump himself to escape prosecution. American history doesn’t offer a good track record here. Confederate leader Jefferson Davis served only two years in prison for leading a treasonous rebellion. Nixon got a pardon, despite his henchmen doing time.
There are ten counts of obstruction of justice Trump could be charged with, and pardons could come back to bite him on the backside if they are considered as bribes. Prosecution depends in large part on whether the new Attorney General has the will and determination for it. Republican senator Lindsay Graham has said that a Republican Senate majority will not approve any AG who is prepared to investigate Trump.
A lot hinges on the outcome of the run-off Senate elections taking place in Georgia on 5 January. A win for both Democrats there will give Biden control of the Senate. A defeat will stymie much of his program. The miserly Covid relief measures the Republicans have just passed, giving hard-up Americans a $600 check when Trump himself demagogically backed the Democrats’ call for $2000, shows how much working people will be under the financial cosh if the GOP continues to dominate.
In any case, a Biden administration, conformist and neoliberal from the start, will face relentless right-wing obstruction and denunciation over the coming years from a still-mobilised demagogic Trump movement.
A way through the current crisis is best found by the propagation of socialist solutions, despite reactionary propaganda that portrays “socialism” as an evil bogeyman.
Mass mobilisations around class, racial and gender equalities are the most reliable ways of doing this and finding a way out of the American carnage Trump has exacerbated.