The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can Dark Days Have a Silver Lining?

Wednesday was one of the darkest days in American history. Pro-Trump fanatics stormed the U.S. Capitol, overran an understaffed security force and forced Congresspeople and their staffs to run for cover. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer who supported Trump.[1]

The assault on the Capitol was a result of Donald Trump’s relentless, unfounded claims that the election was stolen and he actually won “by a landslide.” He had urged his supporters to come to Washington on January 6 for a “wild protest” against Congress’ certifying that Joe Biden had won the presidency. Trump implored his legions to march on the Capitol and take back their government.

Two burning questions immediately come to mind out of this horrific event: First, why weren’t the Capitol police better prepared and ready with sufficient backup for this well-publicized protest that was ripe to turn violent? And, second, will Trump and his Congressional rabble rousers be held accountable for this attempted insurrection? It will take weeks, perhaps months, for these and related matters to be resolved.

As ugly and tragic as that day was, I believe there is a silver lining. Trump has been using his false claims of a fraudulent election to keep a hold on his base and to raise funds for his post-presidency undertakings. Those pursuits include preparing for another possible run for the White House in 2024.

After Wednesday’s mayhem, the chances of Trump winning the presidency in 2024 are nil. While some of his base will surely stick with him, Trump’s insurrection was the final straw for many Republicans and Independents. The size of his following as well as the amount of funds in his campaign chest will surely shrink.

In fact, Wednesday’s insurrection increases the possibility that Trump will land in jail. While there was plenty of evidence of his criminal behavior prior to this week, Trump’s attempt to overthrow a legitimate election only adds fuel to the fire of prosecutors seeking to imprison him for his multitude of crimes.

Additionally, Trump has clearly created a deep chasm in the Republican Party that will take a long time to bridge, if ever. The Wall Street Journal, a Republican icon that had long backed the president, called for Trump’s resignation.[2] Others have suggested the formation of a third party to separate themselves from Trump’s Republican Party.[3]

This can only be good news for Biden, the Democrats and the American people. While the new administration’s task come January 20 will not be easy, having a divided opposition may well enable Biden to form a broader coalition to enact his agenda to help our nation. Already some Republicans have renounced their allegiance to the Party. In addition, Independents will be more inclined to favor the new administration. And, of course, the Democrats capturing control of the Senate will be a tremendous help as well.

In turn, this will assist the Democrats in holding onto Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024. The more they can accomplish for the American people in the next two to four years — whether it’s providing greater COVID relief, creating a living wage or reigniting the economy — the better the odds they will be rewarded at the polls by the voters.

Lastly, Trump’s disgraceful final act has given some Republicans the courage to stand up to him. With his reduced stature, his threats to find primary candidates in 2022 to run against Republicans who crossed him no longer will be the kiss of death. The fear of Trump’s wrath has lost a good deal of its potency.

American democracy has survived a deadly attack. But, let this be a vital lesson: we the people must not let down our guard. We must vigorously protect our democratic institutions and hold accountable those elected officials who do not.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

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