The next 14 days have been described as the fortnight that will decide the fate of democracy in the US.That period includes Wednesday's certification by Congress of the election result.There will also be major protest marches in Washington by Trump loyalists that same day.And then on January 20, if all goes smoothly, President-elect Joe Biden will take the oath of office.But if you want to understand how high the stakes have become, then look no further than the extraordinary leaked phone conversation between President Donald Trump and election officials in Georgia.
In the call, the audio of which was obtained by the Washington Post in the first big scoop of 2021, and one of the most startling of the whole Trump era, the president can be heard pressuring officials to “find” an extra 11,870 votes.
That would be enough to flip the state into the Republican column.
In the conversation, Trump is speaking to the man who oversaw Georgia’s Election Day count, Brad Raffensberger.It is unclear whether Trump’s phone call, with its vague and unspecified threats, might be a crime.
Some lawyers think Trump could be charged with breaking federal election laws and even extortion.But this is only one part of the unfolding political drama.
On Wednesday, the new Congress will convene to certify the November’s election result.
That is normally just a ritual, a mere technicality, ahead of the Inauguration.But after Trump’s bitter accusations of fraud, at least 12 Republican Senators and over 100 members of the House of Representatives are likely to vote against the certification.
This is an extraordinary challenge to the democratic system since no credible evidence has emerged of significant fraud.
Democrats are outraged, calling it sedition, treachery, and an attempt at a constitutional coup.It has reached such a level of concern that all living former US defence secretaries have implored the military not to facilitate any attempt to thwart the election result.
The concern isn't so much what occurs in Congress - for the certification will certainly be approved despite this last stand by Trump loyalists - but what happens on the streets.Trump has called for his supporters to flood the capital on Wednesday, and he is promoting on social media a dramatic video suggesting that the protest will be one of the most decisive moments in American history.
It has certainly caught the attention of Washington’s mayor who fears violence on the streets of her city and is urging residents to avoid downtown.
So this is going to be a week that represents the last throw of the dice by the president and his die hard supporters.It will also be a stress test for the constitution unlike any other in recent memory.