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The Financial Express

American democracy under the scanner


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-Reuters file photo -Reuters file photo

In their second attempt to impeach former US president Donald Trump, the Democrats have presented before the Senate more vivid pictures with graphic details of the insurrectionist attack of January 6 on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. And the main thrust of their arguments in the trial has been to prove that the former president was complicit in the act of violence and that he was not a mere bystander. But as before, the staunch pro-Trump senators remained unmoved, though it was clear that they were not at all comfortable with the proceedings of the trial. Notwithstanding this, the Trump camp seems to be still behind him despite the new video and audio clips about premeditated nature of the violence that was organised and how Trump conducted it.  Still, the second impeachment move is likely to meet with the same fate as the first one especially in the Senate. What is then the rationale for holding the entire impeachment exercise by the Democrats afresh knowing full well what might be the end result?  Hardened politicians as they are they were certainly not expecting some miracle to happen at the last moment?  Or were they?  There is not a suspicion of doubt that the Democrats knew it all. If so why did they go ahead with the second impeachment move?

The new video and audio clips unambiguously pointed to how the rioters rampaged through the Capitol building's hallway and chambers looking for Senators and Congressmen and women they had to settle score with. There is the scene of Senator Mit Romney running for life through the Capitol building's hallway as a police officer warning him of the approaching mob. Doesn't it leave a bad taste in the mouth of the American people so proud of their democracy and the moral high ground they always claim for that? Of the many such compromising scenes, there was also the one that showed the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's aides trying to block the angry mob close by from entering the conference room they were in. The rioters were heard calling Nancy Pelosi by singing, "We are looking for you." Seeing the way the seasoned Senators and Congress members of either camp, Democratic or Republican, were trying to save themselves from the vandalism of rioting mob, it is clear that they were genuinely afraid of their lives. So, are not the Republican Senators who still support them and their mentor, former president Donald Trump, ashamed of their role? How can they justify the unjustifiable, defend the indefensible? Even so, some Republicans in their attempt to defend Trump's speech and Tweets encouraging the rioters brought the issue of freedom of speech to the fore. A lofty issue undoubtedly, but they would, perhaps, also allow the holocaust deniers to say their say on the ground of 'freedom of speech' or the terrorists' call to destroy the democratic, civilised order of society also as their 'freedom of speech'! In fact, unwittingly, the Republican Senators and Congress members still behind Trump are in this manner exposing their political bankruptcy or even their complicity in the scandalous January 6 riots in the Capitol building.

But it looks like some Republicans have been pursuing an ostrich policy in this regard. Perhaps the Democrats want the American people to see that.

The scenes in the video clip speak for themselves. And no Republicans can at least deny that those scenes were real or that those did not happen. So, what constituencies are they possibly trying to please by their stubbornness not to accept the truth? Do those constituencies constitute voters? Or is it their 'cult guru' Trump that they are still trying to appease?

To all appearances, by their repeated but apparently unsuccessful impeachment moves, the Democrats are not after Trump as such.  They are actually after the Republican Senators and Congress members still beholden to Trump. They may even be after the Republican politics itself. So, it is a totally different ballgame the Democrats are playing now!

For countries like Bangladesh, the recent American experience in Trump-era democratic practice and his legacy following his reluctant departure from the White House, leaves a very important message. It is that democracy is not something granted. Even after it has been practised for two and a half centuries, there are still such visible yawning cracks in the structure of American democracy! But the takeaway from the 'Trumpist' assault on American democracy is this: it seems to have survived it. Evidently, it is institutions built over the centuries-the electoral system, the judiciary, the Press, the civil society, to name but a few, that have saved American democracy from the incessant four-year-long 'Trumpist' attacks. If truth be told, elections in themselves cannot protect democracy. In a country with weaker, or even non-existent democratic institutions, a Trump-like figure may have runaway success in an election to the detriment of democracy itself. And in absence of institutions to protect democracy, he can destroy the future prospect of democracy taking root in the nation he leads.

At the moment, the Democrats happen to be on the right side of the cause and the Republicans on the wrong side. But the Democrats were not always there. There has been role reversal of both Democrats and Republicans over the centuries.

Elections are transitory processes in a democratic system and parties are susceptible to vicissitudes of time and public mood. What stay are the institutions of democracy. So, those must be made strong as the bulwarks of democracy.

 

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