Opinion: How the Republican Party and the Nation can recover from the riots

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Going into the 2020 elections there was a lot at stake for both parties. Incumbent President Donald Trump was up against challenger Joe Biden to become the most powerful man in the free world. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election in a shocker. He knocked down her “blue wall” and was able to secure the presidency. The Republicans also had control of the Senate at the time which was a very promising sign for Republicans. This election was more than just Trump vs Biden, as the Democrats had to flip a few seats and win the presidential election to have full control of our government. Joe Biden won all the swing states that he needed amid his anti-Trump campaign that seemed to have voters convinced that change was coming.

Meanwhile, the backdrop for the election was the ongoing pandemic, and there was a sense that COVID-19 would make some of the population not feel comfortable about going out to vote , despite the attempts by election officials to make in-person voting as safe as possible. Election officials resorted to absentee ballots and mail-in voting, which became a point of contention as President Trump railed about the legitimacy of the votes. But despite this, on November 6, 2020, Joe Biden became the unofficial winner of the election, pending certification and recounts. There was a fervent push from the Republicans and Donald Trump to investigate the election, due to claims that the election was stolen. These claims only divided the nation more. Donald Trump, through his lawyers, filed lawsuit after lawsuit, but they would be thrown out, and it was becoming more and more obvious that Joe Biden would become the 46th president of the United States. Despite Trump’s claims of the election being stolen it was clear to most Americans that Joe Biden had won the presidency.

On January 6, 2021, Congress gathered to certify the electoral votes. In the chambers of Congress there were a number of debates and objections taking place, as some representatives and senators argued there was evidence of fraud. But in the middle of the session, all the members of the House were forced to go on lock down. Outside of the Capitol, rioters were attempting to enter the building, and some even gained entry. They practically took over the building, going into offices, and taking pictures from the floor of Congress. One protestor, a woman, was shot while storming the capitol and would die hours later, while a capitol police officer died days later from injuries that he suffered during the riot. This true madness was inspired by fear and uncertainty over our democracy. The immediate reaction was to blame it on President Trump, who just hours before had whipped up a crowd of protesters. Blame was also laid at the feet of the Republican Party. When 100,000 extremists storm the capitol how can people automatically blame the entire Republican Party though? The rioters and the violent acts that they committed are something no rational person should condone, regardless of party, but it is a sign of how divided our nation as a whole is.

Congress would regroup later in the night and would eventually certify Joe Biden as the President-elect of the United States. Republican leaders, and some of President Trump’s closest allies, realized that the events of the day had gone too far, and they needed to withdraw their objections for the betterment of the party and of the nation. Donald Trump released a statement that he would allow for a peaceful transition of power, to presumably help the nation move on from this dark dark day. In the days that followed, President Trump would be impeached a second time in the House of Representatives, with a trial still to come in the Senate. Is there a purpose to a second impeachment now that President Trump has left the office, other than to humiliate him and place the blame of the violence on him? It shows how much hate is on both sides.

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The Republican Party will have to look forward to the 2022 and 2024 elections to help rebuild their power and influence in the national government. But one of the bigger questions they have to answer about themselves is whether they will continue to be the party of Trump, or will they continue to distance from Trump, as many did in the last days of his presidency. For many Republicans, there is a sigh of relief of being able to move on from the antics and personality of Donald Trump, who let his ego and unpresidential actions overshadow any good that he did for the country. For whatever positives came out of President Trump’s time in the office, they were largely overshadowed by his clashes with the media, his Twitter outbursts, or his handling of the pandemic. Donald Trump’s legacy and legitimacy will be doubted for the rest of history, but he will always be the man that beat the odds to become the 45th president. He just turned out to be his own greatest promoter and worst enemy.

Andrew Sheppard is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class