The US president created this insurrection, but others have aided his assault on America’s institutions

What took so long? “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,” Maya Angelou counselled. Donald Trump’s keenest supporters believed him. But too many others, even among those who reviled him, nonetheless assumed that there were limits. They can no longer be complacent. The American carnage of Wednesday night – the storming of the Capitol by an armed and violent mob, incited by the president, in an attempt to terrorise Congress and stop the peaceful transfer of power – marked an extraordinary moment in US history. “If the post-American era has a start date, it is almost certainly today,” wrote Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Yet this was merely the ultimate and undeniable proof of what was always evident: that this man is not only unfit for his office, he is also a danger to democracy while he retains it. He built his political success on lies, contempt for democratic standards, the stoking of divisions – most of all racial – and the glamorising of force. They were evident when he campaigned for the presidency, and more blatant when he talked of “very fine people” among the white supremacists of Charlottesville. When the House impeached him for abusing power for electoral purposes. When he lied that the election would be stolen, and then lied that it had been. When he called supporters to Washington. When he told them that they would “never take back our country with weakness” and urged them on to the Capitol.

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