An assault on democracy | Daily News

An assault on democracy

For decades, the United States has been preaching about human rights, good governance and democracy to other nations, especially those in the developing world, from a moral high pedestal, as the world’s guardian of democracy. That reputation was shattered on Thursday as marauding mobs took control of the US Capitol, the heart of Western democracy, instigated by none other than the President of the United States himself.

Such events would have been unthinkable just four years ago. Yet, the world realized that this could eventually happen when Donald Trump came down the golden escalator at the Trump Tower in New York to announce his candidature at the 2016 Presidential Election. A businessman with zero political experience, he virtually hijacked the Republican Party to gain the Presidential nomination. Then he surprised everyone, including himself, by winning the Presidency beating Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, though the latter won the popular vote by three million votes.

Ever since January 2017, it has been a non-stop roller coaster ride for America where Trump, easily the most spectacularly unqualified US President in history, shattered all norms previously associated with the presidency of the centre of world democracy. He admired despots, called White Supremacists “very fine people”, urged the White Supremacist Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”, described the media “as the enemy of the people” and generally glorified violence, going to the extent of describing an attack on a journalist as being “beautiful”. He became only the third US President to be impeached when he exerted pressure on the Ukrainian President to dig dirt on his political rival (and now President-elect) Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Moreover, the events of January 5-6 were foreshadowed three years earlier when he said that he would accept the results of the 2020 Presidential Election “only if I win”.

True to his words, he did not accept defeat or concede when all the news outlets projected victory for his rival Joe Biden, who obtained seven million more votes in the popular vote and 74 more in the Electoral College Vote. For nearly two months, he has been nursing the fantasy that he won “by a landslide” and democrats “stole” the election from him as a result of massive voter fraud. However, his camp lost nearly 60 cases filed in the Courts, being unable to prove even a single instance of substantial voter fraud. His own officials including former Attorney General Bill Barr said no voter fraud that could change the outcome of the election occurred in any of the 50 States as well as in Washington, DC. But Trump’s stranglehold on the Republican Party was so complete that only a few dared even to congratulate incoming President Joe Biden and his rabid MAGA base believed his every word. Polls found that nearly 70 percent of Republican voters genuinely believed that the election was “stolen” from Trump.

Having failed to stop the certification of Electoral Vote results at State level, Trump and his enablers including Rudy Giuliani saw the Congress’ certification as a last-gasp attempt to overturn the result. While urging his Vice President Mike Pence to disregard the properly certified votes of the States, he urged his base to come to DC and “be wild”. He foretold that it would be a “day to remember”. It was indeed, but only in infamy.

Having told his faithful to march to the Capitol to “take back the country with strength”, he retreated to the White House to watch the unfolding mayhem on television. He did not issue a statement urging the insurgents to disperse until the Capitol siege ended and even then said “we love you – you are very special”.

This was perhaps the greatest crisis in modern US history and an attempted coup for all intents and purposes. There are calls to invoke the 25th Amendment (under which the sitting US President can be removed from office) or to impeach him. It is only amidst these developments that Trump finally relented, admitting he had lost and would not serve a second term.

“Now Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20,” Trump said in a two-minute Twitter video. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

Trump’s reckless attempt to hold onto power by any means and even unleash mobs to defile the heart of America tested the very limits of democracy, as the world community which looks up to the US as a paragon of democratic virtues watched aghast. There is a lesson in this episode not just for the US but for all nations – democracy is fragile and it takes the will and determination of the people and institutions to withstand an assault of this nature. Fortunately, the systems, institutions and independent officials in the US stood up to the unjust demands of a demagogue and thwarted an attempt to strike a deadly blow to democracy. The gift of democracy must be protected and nurtured at all costs, around the world.