Faced with the ignominy of being accused of inciting the mob, Donald Trump has been left with issuing a second statement, which condemns the assaulters (who he earlier referred to as “very special” people) and promising a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power (which he has fought shy of saying clearly until now). But the damage has been done and the only question that remains is how Trump will live out the ten or so remaining days in the White House.
The other event that was somewhat overshadowed was the victory registered by two Democrats in the run-offs in Georgia. With this, the Senate is tied evenly at 50-50, with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris having the casting vote. This is an extraordinary result for two reasons. First, Democrats have failed to win Georgia in run-offs since 1992 and second, Georgia has just elected its first Black Senator. Many Republicans are laying the blame for this loss, which went against all the odds, at the door of Donald Trump, blaming him for queering the pitch with his attempt to undermine the results of the elections and prevent the transition of power.
This raises the question – has America seen the last of Donald Trump? Given that even many of his staunch Republican loyalists have abandoned him now, it will be difficult for Trump to steer his way into making a political comeback. But the other big question before America today is that even if one assumes Trump vanishes into political oblivion, will the malign influence of Trumpism vanish with him? From all appearances, it may well not. There is no escaping the fact that a vast majority of Republican voters, in serious denial, are convinced that the election was ‘stolen’. Moreover, the party is also aware that there is a constituency for the kind of policies and the posturing that marked the Trump presidency.
On the face of it, the added control of the Senate should give Biden a free hand to enact his agenda. But a Senate that relies on a casting vote for a majority is still one that requires a policy of compromise and consensus and delicate negotiation. There is also the fact that America is not merely polarised between Republican and Democrat but also riven with deep and fractious intra-party divisions. Biden will need to keep the so-called ‘left wing’ of his party on board while not alienating more moderate voices, a difficult balancing act at the best of times. The future of American politics in the near term is likely to be shaped by whether the Republicans can reunite, and if so in what form, after spending some time in the political wilderness. It will also depend on how successful Biden is in healing the nation as well as the ideological fissures within his party.