1. Aristotle and Thucydides saw how demagogues seduce the masses but end up destroying themselves and their city-state. Pathological narcissists, they accumulate power without limits. Plato observed that there are no sane tyrants.

2. Trump showed that “American exceptionalism” is weak and incoherent. The administration often fails to administer, for example, stopping coronavirus and vaccine distribution. Moscow and Beijing laugh at us. American world leadership is over.

3. Some 40% of Americans are disgruntled, but few of them vote in normal times, so we pay them little attention. But they are highly susceptible to lies and delusions. Demagogues can mobilize them by nonsensical, inflammatory claims, especially over a Black president. The “tea party” started the present anti-system movement in early 2009.

4. Some label our right-wing extremists “fascist.” Well, maybe. They spout a loony mix of Stop the Steal, conservatism, white supremacy, Christianity, incivility, anti-tax, anti-mask, anti-lockdown, anti-pedophilia, anti-Semitism, QAnon and violence. Call it “pre-fascist,” as they lack organization, an ideology and uniforms. They are immune to reason.

5. America split into radical left and right, both utterly irresponsible. Black Lives Matter and “antifa” spun out of control, setting fires, toppling statues and costing Democrats House seats. QAnon and Proud Boys became the Republican voice. The center held, but barely.

6. The media gave Trump priceless publicity as soon as he declared in 2015. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and the Washington Post featured him daily; he was a colorful draw. Social media, devoted to divisive (and lucrative) unrestrained freedom, refused to limit lying and inciting. They finally suspended Trump only after he had done his worst damage. The social media need the same rules the regular media work under.

7. Our electoral system is defective. Congressional seats are gerrymandered. Primaries reward militants. The Electoral College let numerical losers win the presidency in 2000 and 2016. A constitutional amendment is impossible, as small states won’t surrender their advantage. An interstate compact in which states go with the national numerical winner requires trust between parties, now utterly lacking.

8. Trump knew he lost but panicked at looming civil and criminal charges. That is why he desperately ordered absurd legal challenges that even Trump-appointed judges threw out. The courts and bureaucracy proved to be bulwarks of democracy.

9. Removing Trump early is desirable but unlikely. Republicans are still too Trumpist to invoke the 25th Amendment or impeach. Conviction would require 17 Republican senators to join 50 Democrats. Ideal resignation: Tell Trump that Pence will pardon him. Then Pence leaves it for Biden to decide.

10. Inciting a mob is easy. Just lie. Trump invited extremists to D.C. to “be wild” and fed them fighting words at a noon rally to overturn the “stolen” election by stopping the counting of state electoral lists. They marched and by 2:30 were inside the Capitol. Trump ordered Vice President Pence to send the issue to the House, which would re-elect him. It was Trump’s last chance, but Pence, hitherto obedient, stuck with the Constitution.

11. Congress was unprotected even though warned two weeks in advance. Capitol Police, concerned about overreacting, didn’t grasp that Trump in effect demanded the insurrectionists break in. Some had weapons. Only a fraction of the 2,600 Capitol Police were on duty. Overwhelmed, most officers had to give way. One who didn’t was beaten to death.

12. Don’t assume protests will be peaceful. Enraged and chanting hate slogans, rioters vandalized, looted and attacked officers. Five people died. Livestreamed videos incriminate many insurrectionists and enable the FBI to identify and arrest over 100. Participants are charged as accessories to the violence and face jail time.

13. Mobs, once aroused, have no brakes. Crowds are notorious for abandoning self-control and inhibitions. Participants run amok, committing acts they would normally abhor, such as demanding to kill Pence and Speaker Pelosi. Some now regret their actions.

14. Firm police resistance came too late to dissuade insurrectionists. One Capitol Police officer warned and then shot and killed a Trump fanatic as she climbed into the heavily protected Speaker’s Lobby. Deaths could have been much higher.

15. Racism discriminates among different protests. Black or Brown protesters would have faced massive force, including armed troops, if they marched on Capitol Hill.

16. It’s hard to admit that our society is as badly split as France’s, but we too need national riot police such as France has. Trumpists rioted in many cities, not just D.C. After riots start, local police, state troopers, National Guard and FBI may arrive hours late. No one in charge.

17. Congress doesn’t check and balance the executive. Far from coequal to the executive, Congress is weak and getting weaker. Episodically, Congress rears up, but it never lasts. Legislators represent interest groups, not the people, and care only about re-election. Dependence on donors means legislators dodge vexatious problems, such as robocalls.

18. Trump held Republicans in thrall until the Capitol storming, but now many pull away from him and hearken to traditional Republicanism. The split, self-wounded GOP needs a leader who can reconstruct it. I see none.

19. No president fully controls the civil service. Alarmed officials, even political appointees, frustrated Trump by stalling, leaking, resigning and disobeying. This, not Congress, checked dictatorial tendencies. Bureaucrats develop back channels to communicate among themselves. State, Defense, the intel agencies, Justice, Health, Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control used this to work around stupid orders.

20. Trump’s economic policies dumped a trillion dollars into the stock market, and it rose. Any market would. Trump mistook stock prices for rising prosperity, but it mainly made rich people richer and did little for the real economy of jobs and wages.

21. Domestic terrorists threaten Biden’s inauguration. The Secret Service might want Biden to take the oath elsewhere at an undisclosed location, maybe inside the Capitol building.

22. Demagogues are ever present in American politics. New ones pop up whenever they sense gullible citizens: from Newt to Cruz to Trump to Hawley. We have a civic education gap.

23. A coup is an extra-legal seizure of power. So, yes, America just experienced an attempted coup, one with some chance of success. Eventually, the system worked and saved the Republic from autocracy, but not by much.

24. With our badly split society, America’s travails are far from over.