Republican leaders should recoil in horror at Trump. But too many still fear him | Jonathan Freedland

The fate of the United States now rests on the stark choice the divided party faces: Trump’s way or democracy

Surely this would be the moment. Surely the sight of a horde storming the US Capitol, smashing windows and breaking down doors, determined to use brute, mob strength to overturn a free and fair election, surely that would mark the red line. After five years dismissing those who warned that Donald Trump posed a clear and present danger to US democracy, branding them hysterics suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, surely this moment – when they saw the citadel of that democracy overrun by men clothed in the slogans of neo-Nazism (Six Million Wasn’t Enough, read one), waving the Confederate flag of slavery, racism and treason and carrying zip ties, apparently to bind the wrists and ankles of any hostages – would, at long last, make Republicans recoil from the man who had led them to this horror.

After all, the link between Trump and the sacking of the halls of Congress was direct and unhidden. Short of carrying the battering ram himself, he could hardly have done more to lead the mob. “Let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he told the “Save America” rally that preceded the attack, guiding them towards the House and Senate as lawmakers prepared to certify Joe Biden’s election victory. No need to bother with the “strong ones”, he said, referring to those Republicans who were already on side. The crowd was directed to focus instead on “the weak ones”: “We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” The thousands who had gathered, who revere Trump and call him Daddy, did not need to be told twice.

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