GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the images from Wednesday’s siege on the U.S. Capitol, a rioter standing on the base of President Gerald Ford’s statute in the Capitol with a MAGA hat placed on the statue’s head and a Trump flag shoved in the crook of the statues’ arm, may have seemed a bit ironic to some.
“He resisted the more extreme elements of the politics of his day… and I think he sought to transcend them as president,” said Grand Valley State University History Professor Paul Murphy of the 38th President of the United States.
Ford came to power during one of the country’s greatest constitutional crisis.
Watergate made Nixon’s impeachment certain. He resigned on Aug. 9, 1974.
It took decades, but Ford’s effort to bring the country together in the wake of the resignation would give the Grand Rapids native a special place in history.
“He represents a kind of model that today, conservatives and Republicans and people that might look to President Trump for leadership. They might consider someone like him and the values he represented,” Murphy said.
And once again, we are asking how history will remember a moment in American history.
“I think a lot of that depends on what happens going forward,” Murphy said.
An example is whether the president remains in power until inauguration day.
“The idea of the 25th Amendment action would surely be unprecedented,” Murphy said. “And it seems to be a very difficult thing to have happen.”
Murphy says the broad definition of sedition could make it difficult to apply it to the president’s actions in a court of law.
“It’s a question that’s likely to play out in the court of public opinion, and unlikely to play out in the courtroom,” Murphy said.
And with just a few weeks ago in the Trump Presidency, Murphy says impeachment is also unlikely at this point in the game.
Murphy says it’s not just how Trump’s presidency will be viewed, but his impact on conservatives and the Republican Party.
Will Trump’s ability to use cultural grievance and mistrust of the federal government to motivate supporters to be part of the conservative movement’s future?
“The Republican Party can say ‘enough.’ Stepping back, saying ‘this has gone too far.’ We want to support the institution of the federal government. Or not,” Murphy said.
But perhaps the biggest question for history to decide, will the events of Jan. 6, 2021, divide us more or bring us together?
“One way or the other, it will be an important chapter,” Murphy said. “And I think it will be several chapters in the history books.”