Donald Trump and the US Capitol rioters are not a handful of extremists, vast numbers of Americans support them – Kenny MacAskill

Be under no illusion, the events on Capitol Hill last week were sinister. This was neither just a bit of fisticuffs nor over-exuberance by some “good ol’ southern boys”.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the US Capitol in Washington on Wednesday last week (Picture: Julio Cortez/AP)
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the US Capitol in Washington on Wednesday last week (Picture: Julio Cortez/AP)

Instead, it was highly organised and deeply threatening to American democracy. It was meant to be intimidatory and it certainly was. Not just with five lives lost but with the traducing of a democratic chamber that’s normally bristling with armed officers and protected in innumerable other ways.

It also didn’t come about by chance but was planned and coordinated – the absence, or collusion even of some security officials, confirmed that in my view.

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What happens in the USA affects the rest of the world and the deepening divide in the land, manifest in those pictures, is a threat to us all.

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The actions of those involved, including the outgoing President, need investigated and addressed. Whether Trump will once again be impeached I’m sceptical about, as time is short and his ability to delay is great.

Others though will face consequences and rightly so, as the contrast in treatment of recent Black Lives Matters protests is stark. It’s even historically so, when compared to past critical political moments such as the Democratic Convention in 1968, as anyone who’s watched the movie The Chicago Seven will know.

It’s been a tough start for Joe Biden and it’s not going to get any easier. The most worrying aspect of the Capitol Hill events was the significant support shown for it in opinion polls by Republicans.

Donald Trump and his kind speak for millions of Americans, even if much is lies, half-truths or frankly bonkers, says Kenny MacAskill (Picture: Getty Images)

Trump’s not a lone figure with support from only a handful of extremists. For sure some senior Republicans have at long last distanced themselves from him. But not all.

More worryingly 74 million people voted for him, knowing what he was like. He and his kind speak for them, even if much is lies, half-truths or frankly bonkers.

America’s split and it’s not going to come together quickly or easily. The ability of President Biden to heal the country is constrained by a very tight balance in Congress and curtailed by Covid’s economic devastation.

It’s actually a recipe for inaction, when action’s what’s needed. Even in the event of winning through the political labyrinth, the new President faces the challenge of a Supreme Court that’s going to have a right-wing majority for years to come.

More worryingly, the political divide reflects deep-rooted changes in attitudes and even culture that will take years, perhaps even a generation to work out.

I recall being in Texas with friends whose father had been campaign manager for “LBJ”, even visiting Lyndon Baines Johnson’s home, known as “The Texas White House”, that’s now a national park. It’s easy to forget that he was once a Texas Senator and the state the deepest blue. But not now, Trump won there comfortably.

The issues then were civil rights and education and, for all his faults, Johnson was solid on them. Now the divide’s deep but it’s guns, abortion and same-sex marriage that dominate. Change’ll come but neither soon nor easily.

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