In the aftermath of these events, however, Democrats cannot forget two that shone brightly: the Senate runoff elections in Georgia, and the vote that certified Joe BidenJoe BidenHaiti prime minister warns inequality will cause migration to continue Pelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Erdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system MORE and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTwo 'View' hosts test positive for coronavirus ahead of Harris interview Rep. Karen Bass to run for mayor of Los Angeles: report Biden taps big bank skeptic to for top regulatory post MORE as the next president and vice president of the United States.
In these two events, one truth stands out: Our democracy and our institutions stood strong and prevailed. A horrible day of reckoning came, and we did not fall.
The week started in normal Trump-era turmoil.
President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE raged with lies and conspiracy theories about an election that he imagined had been stolen from him. In Georgia, he scoffed about a rigged system that did not deserve his supporters’ votes in the upcoming Senate runoffs. Republicans worried he would stymie GOP turnout in these two must-win races.
After Trump’s Georgia visit on Monday night, GOP worries were somewhat assuaged as they thought he had made a strong case for the reelection of Sens. David PerdueDavid PerdueTrump stokes GOP tensions in Georgia GOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment Trump campaign, RNC refund donors another .8 million in 2021: NYT MORE and Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerWarnock picks up major abortion rights group's endorsement in reelection bid Trump endorses Hershel Walker for Georgia Senate seat Herschel Walker's entrance shakes up Georgia Senate race MORE, and energized his base to turn out to vote the next day.
Democrats, meanwhile, had left it all on the field. Strategists and activists who had worked tirelessly for years to register, educate and mobilize voters to turn out in November for Biden redoubled their efforts to get a historic number of voters to the polls for Democratic candidates Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockTrump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Trump stokes GOP tensions in Georgia The Memo: Trump's Arizona embarrassment sharpens questions for GOP MORE and Jon OssoffJon OssoffThe Memo: Trump's Arizona embarrassment sharpens questions for GOP Progressive poll finds support for solar energy tax credit legislation Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE.
It was an uphill battle for Democrats. History and money were not on their side. But momentum, energy and investments in human capital were.
Trump also helped Democratic efforts. His message of a fraudulent election and his demand that millions of Georgia votes be thrown out allowed the Democratic candidates to tell Georgia voters that Perdue and Loeffler supported taking away the legitimate votes of Georgians, mostly Georgians of color.
Warnock and Ossoff won their races, giving Democrats narrow control of the Senate. Democracy prevailed.
Then Wednesday came, and Trump reminded the country how badly he wanted to win, what a sore loser he was and just how dangerous he had become.
After weeks of telegraphing to his most ardent supporters to gather in Washington and protest what he saw as an effort to steal the election from him, thousands gathered near the White House. Trump stoked their anger and directed them to march to the Capitol to keep legislators from certifying Biden and Harris as the next president and vice president of the United States.
At this rally, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) urged the crowd to go “kick ass.” Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThree Democrats call for investigation into Sidney Powell to move 'swiftly' Fox News bans Rudy Giuliani from appearing: report Alabama official dismisses Lindell claim that 100K votes were flipped from Trump to Biden: 'It's not possible' MORE told them to engage in “trial by combat.” Trump said, “We're going to walk down...to the Capitol...Because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
The mob marched straight to the Capitol, and many forced their way into the building, smashed windows, overpowered police, crushed an officer and ransacked democracy’s most sacred inner sanctum. They stole government property, destroyed documents and even smeared feces in the hallways.
Members of Congress who were in the midst of certifying the Electoral College votes fled or hide for fear that they would be harmed.
Law enforcement officials finally gained control of the Capitol and members of Congress returned to finalize the certification. They were not deterred. Even as their lives may have still been in danger, they did their duty.
Before the mob attacked the Capitol, 13 senators and 140 representatives had planned to object to the state electoral college results. After the deadly attacks, seven senators and 19 House members stood down and decided democracy was more important than perpetuating a lie for political expediency. They decided to do the right thing and stand up for the Constitution. But they do not get a complete pass. The majority of Republicans enabled this president from the very beginning.
The perpetrators of terror at the Capitol are getting arrested, and the congressional enablers who voted against our Constitution will get their due. In the end, let us remember, America and the American people prevailed. We should be proud.
Maria Cardona is a longtime Democratic strategist and was co-chair of the Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws committee for the party's 2020 convention. She is a principal at Dewey Square Group, a Washington-based political consulting agency, and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.