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Ten Hours that Shook America

The storming of the US Capitol by Donald Trump's supporters in a last-ditch effort to overturn the result of the 2020 election was as predictable as it was shocking. Four years of Republican complicity in the face of Trump's erosion of US democracy have brought the country to its most fraught moment since the Civil War.

MOSCOW – The January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol lacked the gravitas of the storming of the Winter Palace, that much is certain. Incited by President Donald Trump at a nearby rally, where he encouraged his supporters to march on the US Capitol, the mob did succeed in interrupting a joint session of Congress to confirm the Electoral College vote in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. But lawmakers will still carry out their constitutional duty, and Biden’s inauguration will take place on January 20.

The insurrectionists were nowhere near as disciplined as Lenin’s Bolshevik cadres of armed revolutionary soldiers and sailors. Most were paunchy, middle-aged, red-hatted “weekend warriors” who were as interested in getting a good selfie from the Capitol rotunda as they were with overthrowing the US government and establishing Trump as an unelected dictator. It was, as one commentator put it, a “Beer Belly Putsch.”

And yet, the insurrectionists’ actions – pathetic though they were – will have revolutionary implications for America’s self-image and standing in the world. For the first time in the country’s history, a defeated incumbent president summoned a mob to intimidate Congress into violating the US constitution to keep him in power. Aided and abetted by the right-wing press and rank-and-file Republicans, Trump’s four years of open contempt for democratic values, institutions, and norms have yielded precisely what he has always wanted: a lawless, nihilistic revolt against the “elites” by the “losers” that he has made into his core supporters.

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