You’d be forgiven if you forgot that it’s still January.
For everyone hoping that 2021 would bring some sort of respite and renewal, much of the new year has simply felt like a continuation of the tough slog of 2020.
The whiplash in the US has been intense. Each week this month – each Wednesday, specifically – Washington, DC has witnessed historic moments. Together, it’s hard to believe they’ve all been crammed in just 20 days.
And they’ve all centred on the US Capitol, which has been battered and broken by a right-wing mob, the site of the historic second impeachment of a president and, finally, the inauguration of a new president promising unity for the nation.
A look at the three Wednesdays in January.
January 6 – Insurrection
Thousands of Donald Trump supporters came to Washington to stand behind the president, convinced the November election was stolen away from him and given to Joe Biden.
Trump urged his backers to march to the Capitol and stop Congress from certifying Biden as the winner, telling them to show strength and fight for the cause.
They listened and followed his orders. The resulting riot and siege of the Capitol left five people, including a police officer, dead. Some in the mob wanted to “hang Mike Pence,” upset that the vice president wasn’t doing more to support Trump in his claims of election fraud. Lawmakers and their staff feared for their lives, fleeing or getting locked down in secure areas.
January 13 – Impeachment
The fallout from the riot for Trump was swift.
Just a week later, the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president, charging him with “incitement of insurrection.” Ten Republicans joined with Democrats in voting for impeachment.
Trump is the first president in history to be impeached twice, and it was the most bipartisan impeachment vote ever.
January 20 – The Inauguration
The Capitol could not have looked more different from January 6. Joe Biden stood outside the Capitol and delivered his presidential inauguration address, issuing a call for unity.
“So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power, as we have for more than two centuries,” he said. “We look ahead in our uniquely American way – restless, bold, optimistic – and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.”
“For without unity,” he added, “there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.”
Still, the inauguration wasn’t completely normal. Washington was heavily fortressed downtown, prepared for a repeat of Jan. 6. The violence, thankfully, didn’t materialise. The ceremony was also far emptier and more somber than usual, reflecting the toll of the coronavirus pandemic that still rages.
Trump refused to participate in the tradition of attending his successor’s inaugural ceremony. He left Washington on Wednesday morning.