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Political experts evaluate lasting effects of riots at US Capitol

Electoral College Protests
Posted at 10:51 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 23:51:29-05

WASHINGTON (NBC26) — Following Wednesday's riots at the U.S. Capitol, experts said there will be lasting effects that could change the political landscape now and in the future.

Michael Kraft, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, said it's possible the attack could help Democrats and hurt Republicans in the short term.

“The insurrection, or protests, yesterday may have helped put Joe Biden in a stronger political position to start with than he would’ve had," Kraft said.

As a result of the destruction caused when supporters of President Trump stormed the Capitol, Kraft said he expects President-Elect Joe Biden will have an extended "honeymoon" once he takes office, possibly increasing his ability to "get things done."

Kraft said Wednesday's event, combined with the fact that the House and Senate now have a Democratic majority, will lead to a rapid confirmation of cabinet nominees followed by quick legislative and budgetary actions.

“Before Republicans may have said, ‘well we’re going to argue with that President Biden, and we’re certainly not going to give him what he wants.' Well, thanks to Donald Trump, they’re now in a very weak position," Kraft said. "I think Joe Biden is going to be able to negotiate much more effectively with Senate Republicans and House Republicans."

Kraft said there's discussion that President Trump may have "seriously hurt" future prospects of the Republican Party, which could lead to the development of a new party or change of party affiliation.

He said people could already see the fallout Thursday as several top White House officials resigned and members of Congress called for Trump's resignation. Some also called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Kraft said the attack on the Capitol will hurt Trump's reputation.

"He's done a lot in four years that Republicans wanted, from tax cuts to regulatory change," Kraft said. "He could have exited the White House with the support of the Republican Party, and even though Democrats didn't like him much, he accomplished a lot of the Republican agenda: Court appointees, three Supreme Court justices, a hundred or more justices on other federal courts. But now he's jeopardized all of that, because people will almost certainly not look back at the Trump presidency as a success, and they will be supportive of Democratic efforts to undo much of what Trump has accomplished in four years.

As for the public view point, Wendy Scattergood, assistant professor of political science at St. Norbert College, said the climate could be similar to a "K-shaped recovery," with new opinions shifting in several directions.

“The people that were already kind of on the road for a more extreme view point and series of actions, I think they’ve been empowered by what happened yesterday," Scattergood said.

On the other hand, Scattergood said some people and legislators originally critical of the election might decide things went too far.

“The end result, hopefully, can be that we really work to end some of the polarization," Scattergood said. "I do think that among some of those people is gong to be that impetus to try harder to make negotiations and try to find that common ground.”

Scattergood said it's important to remember the rioters make up a small portion of the U.S. population, but added "small groups of people can cause enormous amounts damage."

It's not the first time the nation's faced violence in times of extreme polarization. Today, experts said it's about picking up the pieces.

“I think people will be anxious to get over this as quickly as we can to restore American democracy," Kraft said.