Donald Trump had requested a “military-style” sendoff, “to the blare of a military band, with a red carpet and military honors… Even some sort of military flyover…”
Yet in his farewell appearance at Joint Base Andrews, the love and admiration that he has craved since day one of his tenure as president was scarce—really scarce. This despite the fact that days ago Trump had sent out mass invitations to his supporters, and even urged them to bring as many as five guests each. He was so desperate to swell the numbers of toadies attending his farewell that he even invited Anthony Scaramucci, the man whom he unceremoniously insulted and fired after only 10 days in July 2017, as White House Communications Director. Even more mind-blowing, Trump invited his former Chief of Staff John Kelly who had resigned in 2018 after a bitter parting and many insults exchanged.
In the end, all that Trump got was the 21-gun salute that is deemed to be the minimum that can be accorded a departing US president. The invitations were turned down by the load, even by his own Vice President Mike Pence, and now-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who until just a few days ago, when he finally publicly blamed Trump for the Capitol riot, had been one of his most slavish and shameless supporters.
Apparently, Trump likes traditions when they allow him to preen and swagger but not when they are meant to show respect to the Office of the President. Thus, he has boycotted the Inauguration ceremony for Joe Biden, has declined to leave “The Letter” that wishes the new president good luck, declined to give the incoming couple the White House tour and so on. Although, as we learned just today, he did leave “a note” at the last moment. Indeed, as we already know, he has escaped from Washington D.C. before the Inauguration to lick his wounds at Mar-a-Lago. All sour grapes; a man so insecure and bitter that he can’t stand to see a successor take his place.
Donald Trump stood at the podium at Joint Base Andrews bragging about his accomplishments, “citing the installation of conservative judges, creation of the space force, development of coronavirus vaccines and management of a robust pre-pandemic economy”.
I am perfectly willing to admit that he must have some accomplishments, even if in many cases these eventually occurred despite his efforts, not because of them, as his coterie pulled and pushed him this way and that, attempting to keep him from doing even more harm and damage on the national and international level.
Unfortunately though, Donald Trump’s “parting gift” to the American people is one that will keep on giving for the foreseeable future. Donald Trump has given birth to the domestic terrorism movement that has now taken on a life of its own. More than just a riot, the assault is being called an emerging “insurgency” by counterterrorism experts.
The armed criminal supporters–the “pied pipers of Trumpism– that stormed the Capitol and caused the death of five people in what can only be considered an attempted coup d’état, have not only changed the way that the long-established Inauguration ceremony can take place today, they have undermined the security of America and democracy, tomorrow and all the days to follow.
Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was formerly the head of Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and the commander of all U.S. and allied troops fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, has observed a parallel with the evolution of al-Qaida, “where a whole generation of angry Arab youth with very poor prospects followed a powerful leader who promised to take them back in time to a better place, and he led them to embrace an ideology that justified their violence. This is now happening in America.”
Trump’s propagation of the “Big Lie,” about the 2020 election, has also given rise to the “Stop the Steal” movement around which numerous groups are coalescing. Far-right groups that used to be disparate, such as The Three Percenters, The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Texas Freedom Force have now found a common cause and are acting in concert. So, whereas before they were defined by their differences, now it is by their commonality: hatred for the Left, love for Donald Trump, belief that the election was fraudulent and that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president.
Ali Soufan, a former FBI supervisory special agent and counterterrorism expert who led some of the highest-profile investigations of al-Qaida, has stated that in his estimation the right-wing movement in America is “already roughly where jihadi terrorists were in the 1980s and 1990s in terms of its development and increasing sophistication”. What’s more worrying is that “counterterrorism experts say a number of the white supremacist groups who took part in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol have reached out and formed linkages with white nationalist counterparts in Germany, Canada, Norway and Russia.” These experts warn that “what happened in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 was a beginning, not an end. In the minds of Trump’s hard-core supporters, it was the beginning of a revolution.” Indeed, the leaders of the Capitol insurgence are being hailed as heroes by Trump’s supporters.
On January 19 Donald Trump released a video in which he pledged to his supporters that “the movement we started is only just beginning” and he hints at the possibility of starting the “Patriot Party”. Given the history of his ideology and lack of a moral compass, I think we can all guess what kind of ideas that might promote.
So, Trump says he’s not going anywhere, he will be “watching and listening”, and this is probably true, but a lot also depends on how much oxygen the media is willing to give him. The other crucial question is: will the social platforms let him back in, and if not, then what alternatives will he find? Unfortunately, the radicalization of the right will continue as social platforms drive these people underground. What’s more, their exclusion fuels debates about censorship and the abrogation of civil rights to members of the political right. Sadly, as the right becomes more radicalized, the left will also follow suit, as the forces between action and reaction cannot be stemmed once set in motion.
In his Inauguration address, newly sworn-in President Joe Biden talks of universal love, unity and empathy. VP Harris, though inspiring and aspirational, speaks of being a role model and she is clearly meant to be the living symbol of a changing America where equality rules, but this is rhetoric. Biden repeatedly reminds us that he will love ALL the American people, even those who didn’t vote for him. All beautiful sentiments that we wish were true. But I think that the ship of brotherly love in America sailed a while ago. The nation is divided and nothing makes this clearer than the number of votes that Biden and Trump each received; it is a permanent record of that division. With 85 to 74 million, the nation is almost equally divided in half. We wish Biden and Harris well, but it’s obvious that we’re in for a rough ride.