The picture of the greenhorn Republican Senator for Missouri Josh Hawley thumping a defiant fist at the armed mob that attacked, over-ran and damn sight near sacked the US Capitol — the seat of legislative power — this week is a very frightening one.
Why, because it means that while this power grab may have consolidated the political forces ranged against Trump and most likely wiped him out as feasible, mainstream political force, Trumpism and its appeal to racism and inherent nativism is just warming up.
Mr Hawley, from what I have been reading and seeing on US TV, is something else. Already Senator, he has been to good schools — Stanford and Yale Law — and is hardly the typical, bearded, tattooed, gun-toting and poorly educated rural man who forms the most visible and unquestioning MAGA goon.
But it is Mr Hawley who untethered the Kraken even though he must have known as a well trained lawyer who clerked for the Chief Justice of the United States, no less, that Trump had no case and Congress has no authority to overturn an election that had been challenged and confirmed by both the electoral authorities in the stated and the courts all to the way to the Supreme Court.
Corridors of power
Mr Hawley is the one who opened the way for the challenge to the vote tallies from the electoral college. The law requires a Senator to support such a challenge and Mr Hawley offered himself, emboldening a few of his Senate Republican colleagues not to waste an opportunity to please Mr Trump.
He must also have known that Mr Trump is probably not well and that the President’s entire universe is organised around a black hole of reason, facts and logic. I suspect he was not interested in fact checking the President’s rhetoric, his game is entirely different.
His prancing in front of the mob reminds me of a young, male lion, circling the harem of an older champion, evaluating his females, re-arranging the pecking order, identifying the cubs to be smothered to death to force their mothers into early mating, all the while preparing to consign the aging king to glory with one mighty bite to the neck.
Mr Hawley wants to inherit Mr Trump’s boondocks support and run for president in 2024, using very much the same rhetoric and appeal to racial tensions that Trump did. So you see, Trump invented a destructive, democracy-gutting political formula that works and ambitious and ruthless politicians are going to adopt and use it, perhaps to the detriment of their country. Trump is quite likely finished, Trumpism is not. Far from it.
The President incited his supporters to march on the capital and they did, invading it and taking over, a shocking breach of security, maybe as shocking as a US president inciting citizens to violence.
The most powerful and most guarded people in the US were in that building — the second and third in line of succession to the presidency. The rioters walked the floor of the Senate and sat in the chair of the president of that chamber, who is also the Vice President of the republic.
They broke into the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, sat in her chair and left her a threatening note. They literally sacked the most treasured corridors of power in the world and carted away art and other artifacts.
Ambitious politicians raised money off the invasion and prepared to take over from Trump as leaders of this segment of the population, channeling its anger and insecurities against minorities, foreigners and other regular victims of white supremacists, such as gay people.
Trump has pretty much destroyed the image and prestige of the US, he has taken it off its perch as an admired example that many countries aspire to, a nation of good values and laws and democratic consistency. He has shown that the US can breed a strongman without any respect for the laws and for the principles of democracy.
He has demonstrated that a US president, having lost an election, can use a mob to perpetrate a coup against his successor, that a US President can use the Oval Office to intimidate election officials in an attempt to rig an election.
Trump has shown that when you boil everything down, the US is no different from Ethiopia, the Philippines or indeed any African basket case: democratic order can break down, a leader can defy the law with impunity and a nation can be bent to the petty whims of its petulant dictator.
That is a disaster but hardly the biggest one: the bigger catastrophe is that American has hardly learnt from Trump and it is likely to travel the same route, is the Hawley example means anything.
It also shows that where power is concerned, US political parties are now willing to go to any lengths, to pander to the whims of a bad leader, to enable and support his damaging politics, so long as the party gets power and is able to advance its political agenda.
I watched Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and even Vice-President Mike Pence all discover their voices and stitch Trump’s political coffin. But it was too little, too late. This is what they should have done in 2016.