Trump has become an infamous populist regarding his actions in office, and those thereafter since he lost the 2020 election.
After the riot at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, an investigation has been under way to hold those involved accountable for their actions. The outcome of this investigation can be critical for the midterm elections, so the committee involved is under extreme pressure to speed up the process. Not only this, but citizens want consequences given, and for this to occur the legal team must act quickly and ensure they can pursue while still following the law. This is causing Democratic Hopes and Anxiety to Rise. .
The biggest question is whether Trump will receive punishment for his involvement in this attack; legally, is there anything the team can do to charge him. Trump has been seen avoiding accountability for his actions since his campaign began in 2015. He wants to be the sole figure responsible for events of a positive connotation only. Constantly saying things like, “I alone can fix this” during his inaugural address, portraying a populist as labeled by Levitsky and Ziblatt . But what really sets him apart as a dangerous demagogue is never claiming to be at fault for the things he did not fix- the blame was always elsewhere. The distinction between a heroic and dangerous demagogue is well described by Mercieca, and I will go on to describe another trait of the dangerous demagogue that Trump portrays . This being denying the legitimacy of his opponents, which is what led to the incident on January 6th in the first place.
Trump could not accept the results of the 2020 election and blamed his loss on voter fraud. He even tried to take this issue to court but was unsuccessful in his attempts at a case. Making claims that people voted twice, once using the name of a deceased person, Trump was following the precedent of past republicans who have tried to argue voter fraud after previous elections . One of the major arguments made by former President Trump was that Biden simply would not be successful enough to win in some of the places that he did, and therefore voter fraud was the answer. Here lies the key distinction between the previous Republican claims and Trump’s claims- he denied the legitimacy of Biden as an opposing candidate. Again, this puts Trump in the category of a dangerous demagogue.
Trump arranged a rally at the Washington Monument on January 6th, where his supporters gathered to listen to these claims. Trump made many populist statements and told his supporters to stand strong against this fraud so they can take back the election that was “stolen.” It was after his speech that the group of supporters marched to the Capitol, located over a mile away. The real concern lies in this period, where Trump said nothing at all. Amid the chaos, Trump did not take any word of action to try and stop his supporters. This is the time period under investigation, a big part of which lies in Trump’s phone records. As expected, Trump has not been compliant throughout this investigation, again avoiding accountability. Biden’s appointed attorney general, Merrick Garland, faces extreme pressure throughout this process because of this . Essentially, Biden and Garland are being put to the test, as they promised to repair cleavages that Trump created.
Biden’s promises restored faith in the democratic citizens, and they were happy to be rid of Trump. But the pressure the current president faces proves that Trump may have left the country in a state beyond repair. Biden is now facing the consequences of Trump’s actions- not just his actions while in office, but those from January 6th as well. If Garland and the prosecution are unable to charge Trump for a crime regarding the assault, anger will fall towards Biden; it will be his fault for selecting an attorney general that could not get the job done. There is hope that arrests have already been made for attendees at the Capitol, but again the anxiety remains that this will not be enough.
Trump was first able to rise to power as a populist, the most crucial point to note as a sign of erosion for United States Democracy. Realizing the risks this posed, voters kept him out of office by electing Biden in the next election. A step in the right direction, this may turn out to fall short in terms of preserving what is left of democracy. If Trump does not face consequences for the Capitol raid, tension and anger will rise further. He has avoided punishment for far too long, and American people are frustrated. The biggest concern, though, is that even if convicted of a crime, Trump has seemed to leave a cleavage too deep in our society. The coming months and investigation will be crucial for preservation, but not all-telling for the future of American democracy.
References: Hounshell, B., & Askarinam, L. (2022, April 2). Democratic Hopes and Anxiety Rise Over the Jan. 6 Panel. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/us/politics/jan-6-committee-investigation.html  Levitsky, S. & Ziblatt, D. (2018). How Democracies Die. Crown publishing.  Rutenberg, J., Corasaniti, N., & Feuer, A. (2021, October 12). Trump’s Fraud Claims Died in Court, but the Myth of Stolen Elections Lives On. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/26/us/politics/republicans-voter-fraud.html  Benner, K., Rogers, K., & Schmidt, M. S. (2022, April 2). Why the Jan. 6 Investigation Is a Test for Biden and Merrick Garland. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/02/us/politics/merrick-garland-biden-trump.html  Mercieca, J (2019). Dangerous Demagogues and Weaponized Communication. Rhetoric Society Quarterly.
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