First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

We'd like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick

More specifically, we'd like those who can afford to pay to start paying. What it comes down to is whether or not you value Daily Maverick. Think of us in terms of your daily cappuccino from your favourite coffee shop. It costs around R35. That’s R1,050 per month on frothy milk. Don’t get us wrong, we’re almost exclusively fuelled by coffee. BUT maybe R200 of that R1,050 could go to the journalism that’s fighting for the country?

We don’t dictate how much we’d like our readers to contribute. After all, how much you value our work is subjective (and frankly, every amount helps). At R200, you get it back in Uber Eats and ride vouchers every month, but that’s just a suggestion. A little less than a week’s worth of cappuccinos.

We can't survive on hope and our own determination. Our country is going to be considerably worse off if we don’t have a strong, sustainable news media. If you’re rejigging your budgets, and it comes to choosing between frothy milk and Daily Maverick, we hope you might reconsider that cappuccino.

We need your help. And we’re not ashamed to ask for it.

Our mission is to Defend Truth. Join Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Trump will be gone: Now begins the struggle to rebuild...

World

OP-ED

Trump will be gone: Now begins the struggle to rebuild US democracy

Supporters of US President Donald Trump stand by the door to the Senate chambers after they breached the US Capitol security in Washington on 6 January 2021. Protesters stormed the US Capitol where the Electoral College vote certification for President-elect Joe Biden took place. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Jim Lo Scalzo)

As the aftermath of the shocking events of 6 January sink in, the reality is that the institutions of government have survived the earthquake intact. Donald Trump, having overreached and bungled his last grab for power, will be gone from the White House in less than two weeks and the massive task of rebuilding the country will fall to Joe Biden and his team.

Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of an election that he lost have been shameless and incompetent. Thank the gods for that: one wonders whether a less buffoonish effort to overturn constitutional government might have succeeded.

The motley army of conspiracy nuts, cranks, braggarts, dead-enders and outright lunatics who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday was reminiscent of the AWB troopers who smashed their way into Kempton Park’s World Trade Centre in June 1993 with an armoured vehicle while the Codesa negotiators, including Cyril Ramaphosa, took cover under desks.

Both groups were deluded into believing that a storming of the Bastille moment of theatre could stop history in its tracks, but they were ridden over instead.

Unlike the AWB, the MAGA crowd were incited to launch their violent coup by a man who for the next few days remains President of the United States and still speaks for tens of millions of Americans who believe the lie that he was cheated out of the election.

The seriousness of the moment drove people to seek comfort in the words, of all people, of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who found Trump’s loyalty test to declare him the winner of the election a bridge too far.

McConnell said that if Congress chose to overrule the election and the courts “it would damage our republic forever… If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again.”

This is the same Mitch McConnell who has been responsible for some of the most damaging violations of democratic norms and has turned the Senate into an instrument of naked partisan power.

The Republican Party is now split between Trumpist fascists and run-of-the-mill conservatives. A vicious civil war in the party appears inevitable as Trump is not the kind of man to forgive or forget those, including his own Vice-President Mike Pence, who stabbed him in the back. The “revolution” is about to eat its children.

For now, Trump controls the base of the party, the majority of the 75-million who voted for him in November, and at least 140 congressmen, a smattering of senators and elected representatives throughout the country.

But the outcome is far from settled. The Republican Party is not a normal party that represents a specific ideology or even a set of values. The glue that holds it together is something deeper and more tribal in nature. Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy in the 1960s laid the basis for the Republican Party to become the movement of white identity politics.

The party has varied constituencies such as evangelical Christians, rich people who dislike taxes, corporations opposed to environmental regulation, militarists wrapping themselves in the flag and a range of special interest groups such as gun nuts. But its fundamental purpose is the pursuit of power which, as the country changes demographically and becomes more diverse, increasingly means minority rule. The rejection of democracy did not start with Trump.

In order to win elections, the party depends on the base — largely white working-class and rural people, many resentful of big cities, liberal politics, immigrants and black people — which has now been hijacked by Trump. It is this cohort that lost its mind when a black president, Barack Obama, was elected in 2008 and, spurred on by opportunists in the Republican Party, became a populist horde identifying as the “Tea Party”.

They and others have morphed into the Trump cult, attracted by the Dear Leader’s pungent racism, authoritarian charisma and incessant lies. If there is to be a civil war, the nature of the combat will more closely resemble a fight to the death between Dr Frankenstein and his monster. It is an open question whether there can be a Republican Party without Trump.

The victories of both Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the final act of the 2020 election, showed that Trump’s post-election tantrum drove middle-class suburban voters away from the Republican Party, but Warnock’s win was especially sweet.

As the aftermath of the shocking events of 6 January sink in, the reality is that the institutions of government have survived the earthquake intact. Donald Trump, having overreached and bungled his last grab for power, will be gone from the White House in less than two weeks and the massive task of rebuilding the country will fall to Joe Biden and his team.

But the struggle to overcome the deep inequities and the undemocratic features of American politics has just begun.

The electoral college system means that if only a few thousand votes in a handful states had gone to Trump instead, he would have been re-elected — even though Biden beat him by more than seven million votes.

The system in the Senate of allocating two seats per state irrespective of population means that Republican Wyoming, with 572,000 people, sends as many senators to Washington as Democratic California with 40 million people. The Democrats and Republicans have an equal number of seats in the Senate — 50 — even though 40 million more people elected Democratic senators than Republicans.

The Supreme Court, whose justices are selected by presidents, has a 6-3 rightwing majority even though the Democrats have won the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections. Both the House of Representatives and many State Houses have been gerrymandered to make it easier for Republicans to win more seats with fewer votes.

And if anyone doubts that the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer correctly pointed to racial prejudice that is structural in much of American society and especially in policing, consider what the security response would have been if the people invading the Capitol had been black rather than white.

The dramatic events of the day overshadowed a more significant development for the future of the country. The outcome of the special elections in Georgia on Tuesday gave Democrats unified control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives for the first time since 2011, albeit with thin margins. McConnell’s power to obstruct has been put on hold for now, which means that Biden’s appointments and much of his agenda will now be able to be enacted.

The achievement was thanks largely to Stacey Abrams, the head of Fair Fight, and hundreds of rights organisers in the state who fought voter suppression and mobilised ordinary citizens to restore some faith in the democracy that has been so maligned by the Trumpists.

The victories of both Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the final act of the 2020 election, showed that Trump’s post-election tantrum drove middle-class suburban voters away from the Republican Party, but Warnock’s win was especially sweet.

As the senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Martin Luther King Junior’s historic Freedom Church, Warnock won in a formerly deeply segregationist state. He was only the second black person (and the first Democrat) to win a Senate seat in any of the former slave states since Reconstruction in the 1870s.

Warnock is also the author of The Divided Mind of the Black Church, identifying himself with a church that is “shaped by the memory of the cross and the tragedy of human brokenness”. As Washington Post writer EJ Dionne pointed out, a fitting victory after a tragic year of suffering and brokenness. DM

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 5

  • A remarkable aspect following the insurrection at Capital hill, are the smarmy remarks of Lindsay Graham at a press briefing today… which included a gratuitous attack on all journalists. The irony of it all was the willingness of the journalists present…to ‘tolerate’ such insincere observations and not defend themselves more bluntly. That is the precise kind of groveling journalistic behavior that encourages opportunistic politicians like Graham to ‘get away’ with his patronising attitude ! Shame on the gutless journalists for not contesting or better still, confronting the real ‘beast in the room’! It is complicity with corrupt politicians.

  • The picture at the top of the story showing some of a group of Trumpian ruffians/thugs inside the rotunda on Capital hill, is very revealing. Many of them have beards and or mustaches as part of their persona/image. My query is … do they share some sort of affinity with certain ‘Muslim’ sects who also insist on wearing those bushy beards… or is it just sheer coincidence ?

  • Regrettably the biased tenor of your article clearly illustrates the serious problems the world faces in an era where 24 hour news is the norm and the news medium (which has an undeniable liberal slant) manufactures and stirs up controversy in order to provide that 24 hour coverage.
    A few examples of Republican action you cite with flagrant bias- every government , right, left or centrist are guilty of some degree of gerrymandering.
    -every US administration, Republican or Democrat will attempt to appoint Judges whose overall bent are perceived to be in line with that parties politics.
    CNN’s coverage of the fiasco of 6th January was laughable but for the fact that billions of people were watching it. Since when does the stupid actions of a few thousand irresponsible idiots amount to a “sedition” or an attempted “coup” and yet those terms were mentioned hundreds of times during their coverage.
    The world has changed dramatically in the last 5 years but there appears to be no in depth appreciation of the effects of these changes. The “elephant” in the room can be generally brought under the label of “political correctness” which has lots of merit but has got out of control. The reality is that the world has entered into an era of reverse “Mc Carthyism”, the era in the US in the late 40’s and early 50’s when any allegation that you were a Communist led to loss of employment, ostracism etc. Today there is effectively no freedom of speech or thought unless such thought is politically correct and if it is not then you are ostracized. We do not live in Utopia, we are not all Stepford wives or the husband equivalent and people are getting fed up with having political correctness force fed to them -hence the 75 million people who voted for Trump and the rise of extreme right wing parties around the world.

    • “Since when does the stupid actions of a few thousand irresponsible idiots amount to a “sedition” or an attempted “coup” and yet those terms were mentioned hundreds of times during their coverage”

      Because the DM censors must give the impression of political correctness…I guess….

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted