The inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr as the 46 President of the United States took place on January 20 on the West front of the US Capitol. Washington D.C. has been occupied by 25,000 National Guard troops as noted by one military officer-- almost ten times the number of American troops currently stationed in Afghanistan. In fact, Washington D.C. has been turned into a militarised zone well before Joe Biden's inauguration as President of the US. Drones, barriers, troops and check points made the capital city look like almost a war zone. The city has been divided into the green and red zones like in Baghdad.
There were also fears of insider attack coming from within the 25,000 National Guard troops so much so that 12 members of the National Guard were removed from the inauguration duty. It has been reported that nearly 1 in 5 of more than 140 defendants charged so far for their alleged involvement in the Capitol attack has served in the military. Not only the state of siege was in place in Washington D.C., but all state capitols of the country were closed for fear of extreme far right attacks.
President Biden inherits a country that is as divided politically as it is racially, notwithstanding rising Covid-19 infections and deaths. The shocking events of January 6 have been alluded to the 1923 Munich beer hall putsch by the Nazis with some resemblance to the Weimer Republic or even with Mussolini's March on Rome a year earlier.
But many shrug off such parallels and argue that Trump and his movement does not have any significant influence on the state apparatus. They also point out the US state still remains far more robust than the fledgling Weimer Republic. Also, author and journalist John Pilger tweeted that "the made for media theatrics on Capitol Hill were not an attempted "coup". Coups are what CIA stages all over the world. Neither was "democracy" in peril. After taking oath of office as President, Joe Biden indeed declared "Democracy has prevailed".
Others also argue that Trump would find himself out in the cold as "more traditional interest groups" such as the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Round Table and the like take control of the Republican Party back into a more conventional path. In fact, US Senate Majority Leader, a fellow Republican and Trump's long time supporter Mitch McConnell has already accused Trump of provoking the January 6 riot on the Capitol.
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump departed Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning vowing, "We will be back in some form" and told his supporters, "Have a good life". He also urged prayers for the new Biden Administration without acknowledging his successor by name. He then said " We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck - very important word".
Jo Biden also in his inaugural speech called upon all American to join together in unity with a reference to the late President Abraham Lincoln and said, " Today on this January day, my soul is in this. Bringing America together. Uniting our people. Uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause." He further declared, "I pledge this to you: I will be president for all Americans".
He was not at all specific on who are being united and what is the basis for such unity. Even his reference to Lincoln is quite misplaced in this context because the abolition of slavery was not achieved through unity but through a bloody civil war.
The central theme of his call for unity and trumpeting of the victory of democracy mask the reality he faces. The significance of such a declaration lies in the fear that political crisis that erupted into a violent attack on Congress has exposed the deep division within the society-- the political establishment and the state apparatus. The trajectory of the 'American style of democracy' which Noam Chomsky described as plutocracy has been on a downward move when one looks into the country's recent history.
Francis Fukuyama who made the hubristic declaration of the end of history and the victory of liberal democracy in 1992 in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, in a recent article in the Foreign Affairs has argued that the political decay has taken deep root in the US, where governing institutions have become increasingly dysfunctional.
The Watergate break in 1972 was a case in point when Republican operatives connected to the CIA broke into the office of Democratic Party to subvert the upcoming Presidential election. In the 2000 Presidential election, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to award the presidency to George W. Bush by stopping the counting of votes in Florida. In fact, in the Bush vs Gore case, Justice Antonin Scalia opined that there was nothing in the constitution giving the American people the right to select the President.
He further argued that the state legislature had the right to select Presidential electors, without any regard for the outcome of the popular vote in the state.
The whole American state operational system is under serious threat so much so that Martin Wolf of the Financial Times described the situation as "The American Republic's near-death experience" referring to the recent attack on the Capitol. There does not appear to be any ready solution at hand now to the current crisis. American political dysfunction runs rather very deep. Also, around the world democratic norms are under siege with the resurgence of the far right and fascistic forces. The US as the super power can also not remain insulated from these global political developments.
President Biden, however, in his first remark as President said that his swearing-in marks a day of "history and hope". In his inaugural speech Biden said that the country had "learned again that democracy is precious". He further added, "The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer".
President Biden now have to deal with the disastrous response to Covid-19 pandemic by the previous administration and the consequent economic ramifications of such a response. During the last four years alone, US government debt went up by $7 trillion to a total of $26.9 trillion. The cost of servicing debt will rise if the Fed has to raise interest rates to defend the dollar.
There is an expectation that the US can now under Biden's leadership leave January 6 behind and everything will more or less return to normal. In his attempt to show that normalcy has returned, on the very first day of assuming his office he issued 17 executive orders from the oval office-- the first related to the Corona virus pandemic which has already caused more than 400,000 deaths and with about 4000 deaths a day, this figure is expected to climb to half a million by the end of March this year. Other executive orders include issues relating to immigration and climate policies and a series of policy actions aimed at reversing many of the policies of the Trump administration. He also delivered a message to the rest of the world promising to repair alliances frayed by the Trump administration and act as a strong partner for peace, progress and security.
World leaders in their turn issued congratulatory statements. European leaders have expressed hope that "conviction and common sense" will restore their relationship with the US under the new President Joe Biden. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshohide Suga congratulated on Twitter soon after he was sworn in. He then got down to the real business without wasting any time urging President Biden to keep the US committed to a "free and open Indo-Pacific"-- a code word for urging the US not to make confrontational and intimidating presence in Chinese territorial waters in the South China Sea.
However, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh twitted after Biden's inauguration: "The DIPLOMATIC VANDALISM of Trump, Pompeo & co stemmed partly from a broken institutional process. But that same process - when 'functional' - produced disasters like wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. The world knows that only the US can fix itself - in practice; not just words".
Overall, some world leaders have been very welcoming to the Biden administration while many took a very cautious approach and some were more critical.
But the underlying conditions that helped Trump win the Presidency in 2016 are still there, not to speak of 74 million American who voted for him in 2020. 77 per cent of the voters who voted for Trump in the 2020 election still believe that Joe Biden's win was due to fraud. Over the next four years the far right will beat the drum of political illegitimacy, therefore whatever the administration does will remain illegal to them.
The mob attack on the US Capitol was essentially organised to do away with the electoral process in the US. But that attack has ushered in a wave of anti-terrorist measures with increased new domestic police powers and more are on the way.
In fact, there are proponents who wish the new Domestic War on Terror to replicate the first one enacted in the wake of 9/11. Tech monopolies themselves have already initiated censorship with calls for more aggressive 'speech policing'. Such censorship is not only criticised by people inside the US but the European Union leaders also openly criticised tech giants' ban on Donald Trump, warning "it brings up broader question about freedom of speech".
The Trump presidency, in future, is likely to be viewed as a time of flirtation with fascism in which the US came close to an autocratic rule. There is an intense effort in the corporate media to present the inauguration of President Biden as a fundamental turning point in American politics. But it is important to examine that illusion in terms of what the Biden administration will or even can do. Biden himself had told his elite Wall Street campaign donors last year that in a Biden Presidency "nothing would fundamentally change". Biden is right, his assumption of presidency clearly signals America is well and truly back.That requires President Biden to continue his drive to secure US's position as the unchallengeable global hegemony notwithstanding the erosion of economic power.
That will entail confrontation with China over its control over its own territorial waters. In fact, confronting China has bipartisan consensus in Washington that views China as a strategic rival whose rise needs to be contained and whose global clout also needs to checked. US Secretary of State Tony Blinken already said that President Trump "was right" to take a "tougher approach to China:". In Europe, NATO expansion and rejuvenation will continue to threaten Russia over its border. The US backed terrorists will continue to undermine Syria to preserve its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to remain under the control of US occupation forces.
Of course, all these projects would be undertaken in the name of defending the "Free World" from its adversaries. The Biden Presidency, many observers speculate, will illuminate the long dark nights of the Trump era with bursting flames of missiles, bombs and drones over the skies of many Middle Eastern countries and countries in other parts of the world carrying the clear message "America is back".