Donald Trump's presidency is in its final, chaotic spiral. But even with the end so near, each hour seems to carry a new threat to America's fragile democracy.
With less than two weeks until President-elect Joe Biden takes office, the nation is on edge -- unsure whether Trump will incite another round of violence or just carry on, petulantly, seeking outlets to whine about Twitter's decision to ban him. Recognizing the instability, Vice President Mike Pence has not ruled out an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment, a source close to the vice president told CNN Saturday night. The relationship between Trump and Pence is fractured -- they haven't spoken since Wednesday, when a violent mob stormed the Capitol, and the President never bothered to check on Pence's safety.
The insurrection put the country at a crossroads. House Democrats could bring a new round of impeachment proceedings this week, this time over Trump's role in inciting the deadly riot. If they go forward, Republicans could again be faced with a public test of their loyalty. That so few seem prepared to forcefully speak out, let alone pledge to take action against the President, suggests the Capitol siege is less likely to have marked the bloody end of Trumpism than the opening of a more dangerous chapter.
The "paranoid style in American politics," as the historian Richard Hofstadter described it nearly 60 years ago, is nothing new. Under Trump, though, and through new organizing channels on social media, it has further radicalized the modern Republican Party and moved steadily from the fringes to the center of political power in Washington and state capitals around the country, which again saw angry clashes this week.
From their gilded bubble, top Republicans have mixed condemnations -- mostly focused on Trump and his chief allies in the electoral college stunt, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri -- with a familiar refrain: that any meaningful rebuke to this horrifying display would only serve to "politicize" it and "further divide" the country. Plans to impeach Trump again and even Twitter's deplatforming of the President should, many Republicans said, be viewed as political gambits rather than rational, overdue measures to combat a vicious assault on democracy.
But those who would deny the scope of the threat were stripped of their fig leaves -- or delusions -- on Wednesday, setting off an enervating race to January 20, when Pence --- but not Trump --- will attend President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.