The U.S presidential inauguration and Trump’s second impeachment

President Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration is taking place Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 12 p.m. 

The United States will officially begin a Biden administration, and close a chapter on what can be labelled as one of the most fiercely bipartisan periods in American history. 

Before looking at what comes next, it’s important to look back on a significant set of months in American history, beginning with the results of and response to a very close 2020 election. 

With Joe Biden receiving a total of 81,283,485 votes (51.4 per cent) and 306 electoral votes, and Donald Trump receiving a total of 74,223,744 votes (46.9 per cent) and 232 electoral votes, it came as a surprise to some — but not others — that the President refused to accept the results of the election, causing a turbulent wave of events since. 

Darren Mulloy, professor and chair of the department of History at Wilfrid Laurier University, believes that the response to the election has been “predictable.”

“[The 2020 election is] a replication of what Trump said in 2016 when he was running against Hillary Clinton, which was ‘if I lose … it’s rigged.’ In the run-up to this election, he told his supporters for months [that] ‘I will get a landslide [victory], and if I don’t, it’s been rigged’,” Mulloy said.

What has been more surprising, Mulloy notes, has been the response from senior Republican Party members. 

“Instead of saying immediately, after the election, ‘the election was fair, we were elected on the same slate, in the same system that you’re saying is unfair,’ they allowed it to go on,” Mulloy said.

“It tells you a lot about the desire for power with many political leaders and their shocking inability to defend both the institution and the norms of the system in which they function in. That was revealing.”

The storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was largely an attempt to protest and overturn the results of the election. While this was a consequential event, Mulloy believes it is important to separate the motivations of those who participated. 

“I think we recognize that it wasn’t one monolithic group…There are hardcore white supremacists who do not regard the United States government as legitimate, and haven’t since the mid-1970s, who were using the broader Trump supporters…to push their agenda of white revolution,” Mulloy said.

“[But] it was no surprise to me that this would happen in this way, and in terms of the kind of violent undercurrent of the extreme right of the United States — they’ve been looking for this kind of action for many years, they’ve been violent for many years.”

Regarding the overall response to the election during the insurrection event, Mulloy was clear.

“They were there to overturn a legitimate election. They did not accept that their [candidate] had lost. And if we look at it through the prism of race, which places do they think were illegitimate? Well, major urban, black centres, or states which [have] a majority black population,” Mulloy said. 

“I think we can call it insurrection on those grounds, and then we can call it insurrection because increasingly it seems to be there were people there looking to kidnap, kill [and] detain leading political figures.”

As for Trump’s level of involvement and participation in these kinds of events, such as the protest in Michigan surrounding stay-at-home orders and the plot to kidnap the Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer’s in May 2020, Mulloy believes Trump can be called “an accelerant” of these violent acts. 

“He’s emboldened this entire movement for four years … [and] establishment conservatives did nothing to tamper that down because they believed they would get political benefits from it. So those people have played a role in this [as well],” Mulloy said.

Regarding Trump’s second impeachment, Mulloy thinks that this decision represents a concerning issue about the nature of the American constitutional system.

“Do we really think that the system is working right if we’ve had two impeachments in four years, but no convictions? Once again, the fierce, partisan nature of the current American political system is preventing this fabled, much venerated constitutional system from doing what it’s supposed to do,” Mulloy said. 

“[But] it seems unlikely that [Trump] will even be convicted for his part in fomenting insurrection acts against the government because there isn’t the ability to get that two-thirds majority.”

“So it’s revealing how history has gotten us to this point, and also the extent to which if you have somebody who is willing to challenge historical norms and practices, how you can get away with it, and cause real damage,” he said. 

With President Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, Mulloy is concerned about a safe and effective transfer of power between administrations. 

“One would hope that the bureaucracy … are preparing for this transfer of power, the transfer of expertise to aid the Biden administration, but many of those institutions have been so hollowed out, or politicized or attacked by the Trump administration, that there seems to be real doubts about how effective [it will be],” Mulloy said.

“It seems like it’s going to take a lot longer for the Biden administration to move into full gear … the idea of having 25,000 National Guardsmen on the streets of Washington [DC] in order to have the largest ceremonial inauguration — that’s a striking illustration of where the United States is right now.”

Looking forward, Mulloy is hopeful that a Biden administration might bring a break to the constant spotlight that has been focused on American politics. 

“I’ve been paying close attention for four years, and I wish I didn’t have to pay close attention … I think having a period of ‘normality’, I [believe] people are desperate for that. It’s not as if people are really wanting to spend all their days thinking about, [and] being manipulated into thinking about as well,” Mulloy said. 

“[But] if you want to be a citizen of the world, you have to pay attention to what’s going on … and sometimes what you see is not very attractive, and it certainly hasn’t been attractive for the last four years in the United States.”

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