On January 6, Vice President Mike Pence convened the 2 chambers of Congress to rely electoral votes and formally certify Joe Biden because the president-elect of the US. That is normally a simple and purely ceremonial process that takes round one hour. But these will not be “regular” occasions.
First, a number of Republican lawmakers, in a brazen however doomed effort to maintain Trump in workplace, began elevating objections to the outcomes of the electoral faculty, prolonging the method. Then, in an unprecedented try and overturn the election, 1000’s of pro-Trump protesters stormed and “occupied” the Capitol. As folks sporting MAGA (“Make America Nice Once more”) hats and carrying Trump flags rampaged by way of places of work and onto the legislative flooring, lawmakers had been informed to shelter in place within the Home Gallery. Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser swiftly put the US capital below curfew and introduced a two-week state of emergency.
As the pictures of chaos and violence coming from the center of American democracy stuffed tv screens and social media timelines, tens of millions within the US and world wide had been shocked, however all this was not essentially shocking.
President Donald Trump, in spite of everything, has lengthy been spouting baseless claims of widespread election fraud, claiming the presidency has been “stolen” from him, and egging his supporters on to violently resist the peaceable switch of energy. He brazenly pressured Republican officers, together with Vice President Pence, to disregard their constitutional duties to maintain him in workplace. He even made a now-infamous cellphone name to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger instructing him to “discover the votes” he wanted to win the swing state.
Simply hours earlier than the riot in Washington, DC, in a 70-minute speech close to the White Home, the president referred to as the election consequence an “egregious assault on our democracy”, and brazenly instructed his supporters to “stroll all the way down to the Capitol”, including “You’ll by no means take again our nation with weak point”.
However Trump was not the one one accountable for Wednesday’s riot. Numerous Republican lawmakers and officers – in addition to conservative media personalities – contributed to 1000’s of Trump supporters being satisfied that the election was “stolen” from them. Out of ideological loyalty, short-sighted political pragmatism or pure partisanship, they helped the president incite his supporters to violence, undermine the US Structure, and make a mockery of the electoral course of.
Even many high-ranking Republican institution figures refused to sentence the president’s illegal makes an attempt to overturn the election till the final minute, as they had been scared to lose the help of Trump’s tens of millions of loyal followers. Many others, in the meantime, selected to disregard or downplay the president’s antics, claiming that his affect would evaporate quickly. In the meantime, right-wing extremism slowly turned mainstream.
Now, after the Capitol is secured and Biden’s victory licensed after a day of chaos, politicians from each side of the political spectrum are vocally condemning Trump and highlighting the problem dealing with the brand new administration and the nation. However why was Trump’s xenophobic and divisive language accepted for therefore lengthy? Why was he allowed to undermine the rule of legislation and the separation of powers not solely within the weeks after the election, however throughout the entirety of his presidency? Why had been his canine whistles to white supremacists, racists and violent fascists ignored and normalised? Why did the American state not take the required measures to stop Wednesday’s revolt, which was incited by the president and his supporters out within the open for everybody to see?
Even the media appeared unprepared for the violence. In some ways, the president was brazenly paving the way in which for a coup try for months. Hundreds had been frequently taking to the streets to chant “Cease the Steal” and wave their weapons. If what was occurring within the US was happening in Latin America, Southern or Jap Europe, Africa, or anyplace else within the International South, US media organisations would have despatched groups of reporters to the related parliament in full protecting gear and publish numerous information items in regards to the uncertainty surrounding the electoral course of and the “looming violence”. However not within the US. Why?
One cause is the prevailing concept that the US democracy is simply too sturdy to fail. Combine that with American exceptionalism and the widespread perception within the superiority of Anglophone liberal establishments, and you may see how America ended up the place it’s as we speak.
The parochial perception that US democracy and establishments are “invincible” turned particularly sturdy after the autumn of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union. Within the eyes of many, “democracy” had categorically prevailed over dictatorship, and there was (apparently) nothing else so as to add to historical past.
Right this moment, subsequently, is a day of reckoning for Individuals (and everybody within the Western world) who consider their democracy is “too sturdy to fail”, even when their elected officers are working to normalise ultra-nationalism and violent right-wing activism for political achieve. Fairly than persevering with to view their nation as an “exception”, they need to look to the current previous, and different international locations, to grasp the perils of normalising fascistic and anti-democratic tendencies.
Within the interwar years, for instance, conservatives throughout Europe “legitimised” ultra-nationalism or violent activism. They believed they may “exploit” fascism and nonetheless protect the democratic legitimacy of their respective states. Because of this, many countries in Europe discovered themselves being dominated by fascist dictators, skilled widespread violence by the hands of far-right militias, or had been compelled to ascertain authoritarian regimes.
In lots of circumstances all through the twentieth century, from Latin America to Europe, authoritarians and fascists got here to energy “legally” by way of elections, step by step decimating establishments, undermining the rule of legislation and eliminating opposing voices throughout their time in workplace – which regularly lasted years if not a long time. These durations of authoritarianism had been rightfully seen as crises or collapses of democratic methods.
Regrettably, regardless of the widespread refusal to just accept actuality, that is exactly what’s being skilled as we speak throughout the Western world, from the UK and Poland to, in fact, the US: a disaster of democracy. Demagogic leaders have been allowed to undermine political establishments for years whereas right-wing “extremism” turned “mainstream”.
In the event that they wish to heal their nation and rebuild their democracy, the America’s new leaders want to just accept this actuality, abandon the thought of American “exceptionalism” and eventually put a cease to the normalisation of anti-democratic, even fascistic, behaviours of their fellow politicians.
However there’s yet another lesson they need to be taught from different international locations that skilled comparable crises of democracy within the current previous: Even after being defeated in polls and courts, harmful political tendencies like Trumpism don’t disappear in a single day.
Take the instance of “Berlusconism” in Italy.
Silvio Berlusconi, Italian media tycoon and former prime minister, very similar to Trump, labored to undermine the consultant system, attacked the judiciary, legitimised corruption and criticised “skilled politicians” throughout his 9 years in energy.
Regardless of typically being dismissed as a degenerate mired in intercourse scandals and corruption allegations and being “unfit” to rule a European democracy, Berlusconi dominated Italian politics for 20 years till his resignation in 2011. However his exit from the driving seat of Italian politics didn’t in any method mark the tip of Berlusconism. He not solely continued his efforts to return to a place of energy, however the populist modus operandi he launched to Italian media and politics, in addition to his legitimisation of nationalism and neo-fascism, remains to be crippling Italian democracy to today. His ongoing presence in media and politics in addition to the present reputation of far-right politicians akin to Matteo Salvini is, in some methods, proof that Berlusconism remains to be alive in Italy.
The identical might occur with Trumpism within the US. Even when Trump is lastly ousted from the White Home, the injury he brought on by legitimising actions and behaviours that had been as soon as taboo in American politics might proceed to hinder the therapeutic means of American democracy within the years to come back.
So, in brief, America is not any exception to any rule, the American democracy just isn’t too sturdy to fail, Trumpism is probably going right here to remain, and Individuals have to rapidly come to time period with these information, in the event that they actually wish to, in President-elect Biden’s phrases, “construct again higher”.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.