In a desperate last-gasp attempt to hold on to power, President Donald Trump rallied his die-hard supporters Wednesday on the National Mall and urged them to march to the Capitol and stop lawmakers from certifying Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.
They did exactly as he told them, risking their lives for a cause with no chance of success.
The result was a day of fear, chaos and the loss of four lives as rioters pushed past police officers and stormed the Capitol in an effort to derail the joint congressional session. Lawmakers, journalists and staffers were locked down and then evacuated. The mob breached the Senate chamber and celebrated on the dais. Rioters broke windows, climbed walls and entered lawmakers’ empty offices.
The ”American carnage″ Trump promised to stop as he stood at the Capitol for his inauguration almost exactly four years ago arrived at that same spot Wednesday, at the president’s own encouragement.
The day’s other significant political event was almost lost in the chaos. Media outlets called the second Georgia Senate runoff election for Democrat Jon Ossoff, handing Democrats control of the Senate for the first two years of the Biden administration.
Even just a few months ago, it seemed unfathomable ― or at least very unlikely ― that Democrats could pull it off after losses in Senate races that were supposed to be in their favor.
Yet Georgia will now have two Democratic senators.
The two developments of Wednesday could not have been more stark. In Georgia, Democratic voters ― propelled by the strength of Black voters ― showed their power and made history.
Ossoff, 33, will be the youngest member of the Senate. And Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, will become the state’s first Black U.S. senator and just the second Black senator from the South since Reconstruction. He was born when Georgia’s two Democratic senators were segregationists, and his 82-year-old mother picked cotton when she was a teenager.
And in Washington, Trump supporters rioted at the Capitol, waving Confederate flags and trying to sabotage democracy for a man who has openly supported white supremacist groups.
Hanging over the day was the legacy of the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights leader who was beaten by white police officers in 1965 and devoted his life to advancing voting rights.
Ossoff has cited his activism as an inspiration, and Warnock was Lewis’s pastor.
“My friend John Lewis is surely smiling down on his beloved Georgia this morning, as people across the state carried forward the baton that he and so many others passed down to them,” former President Barack Obama said in a statement Wednesday.
But Lewis was also one of the first prominent Democratic lawmakers to go against Trump, at a time when others were reluctant to do so. He said Trump would not be his president and would not be afforded any of the respect that comes with the office.
“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” a week before Trump was sworn into office in 2017. “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected, and they have destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”
Though Lewis was referencing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, his comments were also a response to Trump’s birtherism. For years, Trump was one of the leaders pushing the racist conspiracy theory that falsely claimed Obama was not born in the United States.
Some Democrats supported Lewis, but plenty also distanced themselves from him and said he had gone too far. They wanted to give Trump ― who had received less of the popular vote than Clinton ― a chance.
The wins in Georgia mean that the Senate will be in Democratic control, albeit with the slimmest of margins. Biden will have the chance to put in place the Cabinet he wants, nominate judges for the federal bench and start moving forward on his agenda, which he vowed Wednesday to start doing quickly.
“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now. On COVID-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more,” Biden said in a statement.
“And I intend to work with the next Majority and the Minority Leader to move forward with key Cabinet nominations even while the Georgia results are confirmed,” he added. “My nominees for critical national security positions at State, Defense, Treasury, and Homeland Security have bipartisan support and have been confirmed by the Senate before. They need to be in their jobs as soon as possible after January 20th.”
Trump, meanwhile, refused to condemn the riots at the Capitol.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump said in a tweet Wednesday that has since been removed by Twitter. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Twitter locked him out of his account for 12 hours ― a first for the social media platform ― while YouTube and Facebook also took down a video pushing misinformation about the election results. Facebook also blocked Trump’s account from posting for 24 hours.