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There were supposed to be big pro-Trump protests at state capitols all around the country this weekend, including here in Hartford. Capital cities and their police forces braced for a repeat of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Instead, the massive crowds of right-wing extremists didn’t show up.

What happened? Maybe it was the presence of so much law enforcement or the arrest of so many of their fellow extremists following Jan.6 that scared them off. The apparent bowing of Donald Trump to reality, accepting the fact that he won’t be president on Jan. 21, may have dealt a blow to their morale, too.

The Connecticut MAGA faction might have been bummed that they couldn’t gather at IKEA on Saturday, or maybe they took a page from Rudy Giuliani and rallied at Capitol Moving and Storage in South Windsor instead. I feel like we ought to check.

Still, what a relief, right? Maybe the country will get lucky and the exact same thing will happen on Jan. 20, in Washington, where Joe Biden is set to be sworn in as the forty-sixth president of the United States. The era of Donald Trump will be over at last, and those of us who woke up every day of the past four years dreading news of how the president had undermined American democracy yet again will be able to breathe.

Things will be different come Wednesday.

Those of us who voted for Biden have dreams of how things will change. We’ll finally be able to get a hold on the pandemic, and rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. We’ll start to mend fences with our allies all over the world who were confused, shocked and hurt by an administration that belittled and abused them. Full Democratic control of government, not seen in a decade, means that we could finally move forward on health care, voting rights, racial justice, gun control, and so much else.

America, we like to think, will move on. The Trump years will be forgotten as a blip, a trying time that we had to suffer through but no more than that. We’ll be able to resume our flawed, halting but persistent march toward a more perfect union, picking up where we left off in 2017 as if nothing had happened.

If only. Four years of rule by an amoral, incompetent narcissist and his mob of credulous, cruel, toadying supporters has done a lot of damage. We’ll be picking up the pieces for a long, long time to come – and that’s if we’re lucky.

The truth is that the country that existed in January of 2017 is gone. White moderates and progressives have had to learn the lesson that people of color had always known, that this can be a cruel, capricious country full of more selfish, bigoted people than we liked to admit. It turned out that America wasn’t what we thought it was, and that a lot of the myths we loved to tell ourselves about the durability of our democracy just weren’t true.

One of our two major political parties showed us over and over again that democracy was less important to them than power. The guardrails we believed would stop executive overreach turned out to be tissue paper; no one was really going to stop the president from doing whatever he wanted.

And the lies! How do we account for all of those lies? How do we deal with the fact that so many of the president’s supporters believed the big lies of the Russia “hoax,” the “perfect call” to the Ukranian president, a “stolen” election, and more? Half of the country got dragged into the land of dangerous conspiracy theories, and they’re still there.

Maybe you have family and friends who are QAnon believers now, or who fell into equally bizarre and dangerous right-wing conspiracy theories. I do. It’s awful. I don’t know if we’ll ever get those people back, not the way they were before.

Wednesday will be a turning point, but it’s not going to be the end of the Trump era. American fascists, right-wing terrorists, and utterly lost conspiracy-theory believers will be with us for a long, long time. We could see the kind of violence we saw on Jan. 6 again and again if we’re not careful.

Take heart, though. I’m going to savor the inauguration, this one victory we somehow scraped out against the darkness, and then I’ll be turning my gaze, eyes open and wary, toward the future.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.