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The Financial Express

US democracy survives litmus test


US democracy survives litmus test

About 400,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, with the U.S. contributing around thirty per cent of all cases globally. And the numbers are still rocketing. The health sector in many states is in complete shambles, as Coronavirus has pushed it to the breaking point and beyond. Then, the American economy is a mess with agricultural producers pouring milk down the drain, slaughtering livestock and digging crops back into the soil due to lack of demand and the strain put on delivery systems by the pandemic.

On top of all this, we saw the unprecedented spectacle of pro-Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol, prompting a lockdown and causing lawmakers to run for cover, fearing for their lives. The Congress is home to both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives and one of the most recognizable symbols of American sovereignty, power and decency. The attack on 6th January represents one of the gravest security lapses in recent U.S. history. As a result, five people were dead. Little wonder that outrage grew over Trump-inspired mob's unprecedented assault on all that was sacrosanct in US democracy.

Americans watched - the world watched - in horror as neo-Nazis quickly overcame Capitol security forces and disrupted - for five long hours - what should have been a nominal count of the electoral college votes to confirm Joe Biden as the winner of November's election.

Outgoing 45th President Donald Trump, who had earlier urged his supporters to march on the Capitol and repeated his unfounded claims that the election was lost due to voter fraud, urged the thugs in Washington D.C. that day loudly and clearly not to leave quietly but to fight to take the country back. The deaths, the assault on the Capitol and the outrage of all sensible spectators across the USA and the world were the result of his selfishness and untruths, told to cling to power in any way he could.

After lawmakers on both sides of the aisle publicly urged the outgoing President to speak out forcefully against the chaos caused by his supporters, Trump tweeted a video in which he told supporters to go home but he repeated false claims that the election was stolen. A political crisis in the United States which its citizens had never seen nor expected to see in America had nevertheless rocked the country. As the President of Venezuela said, it was a remarkable day when the U.S. suffered the same chaos at home as it had so often stirred up abroad in trying to overturn a democratically-elected government.

Although Congress did eventually manage to conclude proceedings to confirm the election of Joe Biden as the 46th US president, the chaos might not be over yet.

 Some people were even inspired by the anarchic scenes from the US Capitol. Farewell, world order! Dictators, autocrats and military juntas will laugh out loud. What a shame! This is a crisis, but it has not been built just because of the 2020 election, nor solely in Trump's era. This crisis of governance has been brewing for decades. US democracy had run into serious trouble since 9/11.

Democracy in the United States might not be in mortal danger now due to its strong democratic intuitions, especially its judiciary. If all this had taken place in any other country, it would have spread all over the country and the government would have collapsed. For now, we can assume that it is secure, but for how long? I do not like to think there is a crack in it, but there is. Tensions over race are at an all-time high. For the first time in history, national unrest and a long history of racial division became a threat to American democracy.

 Democracy is not just a question of whether you hold elections or not. Rather, there are a multitude of factors that influence its working, including respect for civil liberties and citizens' faith in their country's democratic system. As those things erode, democracies become weaker.

The United States has been the most successful constitutional republic in history and in the world. The country is an iconic symbol of democracy for many nations. The scary part is this was not a protest; it was a coup against the electoral college and the people's mandate. If this was a protest, why were people climbing up walls, smashing windows and beating police officers with the American flag?

As the American Constitution says, justice is for all and nobody is beyond its reach. Leaders of the movement should be charged and those abetting them dealt with harshly - even the lawmakers themselves. The sad part is it was lawmakers who instigated this insurrection.

The shadow of January 6 will loom over America for a long time to come. Its corrosive impact will remain long after we have a 46th US President!

Professor Sarwar Jahan is Founder of Southern University & SDG worker
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