Post Mortem

American democracy sieged: Lessons for other democracies

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/9/2021 12:05:52 PM IST

 Claims such as ‘beacon of democracy’, and ‘respect to rule of law’ went topsy-turvy as we witnessed the supporters of the President Donald Trump and far-right adherents besieged Capitol Hill—America’s temple of democracy. Hardly less than two weeks to go for Trump to leave the office, he incited insurgency to his supporters to march towards Capitol. The entire world witnessed a week of turbulence that rattled many including the law makers in the American Congress as the rioters entered the ‘secured’ building started ransacking and looting. 

The visuals and images have shaken those who believe in democracy and put them in utter dismay to think about the conception of democracy. Trump known for his provocative narratives, indecent body gestures and divisive politic as the last resort incited insurrection that goaded a violent mob entered into Capitol Hill, a symbol of American democracy, destroying the chambers of the law makers, tore down metal barricades at the bottom of Capitol steps and some tried to push past cops in riot gear venting their anger.

Throughout his tenure, Trump has constantly provoked violent impulsive behavior that excited his supporters. For every action there should a logical conclusion. Accordingly, on the 6th of January, 2021, President Trump finally enthralled his hard-core supporters over the edge that resulted in the besiege of the Capitol Hill, considered as the darkest day in the history of America that witnessed unprecedented attack on its democracy and rule of law.  Four were killed in the skirmishes which occurred immediately after Trump addressed thousands of his supporters, inciting and encouraging to march to the Capitol Hill.

It was violent as they vandalized Speakers Nancy Pelosi’s office and briefly took control of Senate chamber and had the audacity to pose for photos on the dais where Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over earlier. What went on the dreadful day in Capitol Hill went viral as leaders and others were shocked and dumbfounded since the United States known for superior military and economic power. Over and above, security and riot police though present did not act swiftly as the situation demanded because the ideology of ‘white supremacy’ reigned in. 

President-elect Joe Biden used an array of terms to describe the rioters, and said, “It’s not protest; it’s insurrection.”  US and global media outlets described as “mob” and “rioters” and their actions tantamount to “treason” and “sedition”.  Trump’s predecessors Obama, Bush and Clinton condemned the actions of the rioters and called it a moment of “great dishonor and shame” for the United States. Insurrection against the United States incited by the elected President rips open the hollowness of democracy because United States has the strongest military and with all the intelligence and surveillance, failed to thwart the insurrection.

Undoubtedly, the so-called insurrection was fueled by the top political executive of the United States. Instead of protecting the Constitution, he abetted his supporters to violate the democratic principles and the rule of law. For weeks, President Trump and his supporters had been proclaiming January 6th, 2021, as the day of reckoning. A day to gather in Washington to “save America” and “stop the steal” of the election, which he lost, but claimed that he had won. The day he had specified, Trump rallied thousands of his infuriated supporters by waving Trump flags and regalia stormed the Capitol in order to take over the temple of democracy. 

On December 19, 2020, Trump tweeted January, 6th 2021, “Be there, will be wild.” His supporters took his words seriously. As a result, a member of the Red-State Secession group on Facebook posted on the 6th January, 2020, the eve of the appointed day, “If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism.”  Beneath that many posted commented that included photos of the weaponry that includes assault rifles. There were also comments referring to “occupying” the Capitol and forcing congress to overture the November polls. 

Republican Congressman added that “There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame.” In a tweet Ivanka Trump called them “American patriots”.  In tune to this, a young white woman named Elizabeth from Knoxville emerged from the Capitol with tears was ask what happened for which she replied “I got maced,” she wailed dabbing her eyes and continued “I made it like a foot inside and they pushed me out and maced me.” “Why did you want to go in?” the other person asked, “We are storming the capitol! It is a revolution!” she replied.

All that happened infers to the very fact that it is an assault on American democracy. What happened in America on the 6th of January 2021, is a blot on democracy that America lauds. Democracy per se is so susceptible, be it presidential or prime ministerial. When a leader who is supposed to protect and govern in tune to the Principles enshrined in the Constitution deviates and distorts all the mechanisms at his disposal, what then is the way out? Trump at his disposal the red button and if he presses the repercussion could be massive, disastrous and lethal. 

If the President or Prime Minister whoever anointed at the highest level of government fails to protect the Constitution and uses all the executive powers to promote his/her vested interests shall never be trusted and in this case Trump has about ten days left. In view of emergent constitutional crisis impeachment drive gains pace. Since he became the President, Trump believed in divisive politics and started wooing his electorates playing sectarian politics. 

The white supremacists happened to be his base constituency considers Trump as their “savior”, since he translated their aspirations. To protect himself, he disowned the protesters and now talks about “healing and reconciliation”. This is how the totalitarians behave. Power has crept into their heads displacing reason. He thought he was above his party, Constitution and the American State. Trump has about ten days, but Trumpism will continue to stay.

There are leaders like Trump engaged in sectarian and divisive politics. Once they get majority mandate, they keep bulldozing democratic principles and constitutional norms. America is polarized and divided than ever. Leaders in some democracies keep polarizing people layer by layer. Therefore, the fulcrum of democracy is the people who should be vigilant and thus make democracy to work for larger good. If a democratically elected leaders abets insurrection and revolution, it is sedition. Democracies that believe in diversity and plurality are under attack. 

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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