Shocking visuals from Capitol in Washington DC presented how right-wing monsters launched an assault on democracy in the United States of America. What is more shocking is the ease with which the ‘domestic terrorists’ overran the security apparatus and personnel and walked all over them to take over the Capitol Hill even as the joint sitting of the Congress was in progress to ratify electoral college results of the US Presidential elections held on November 3.
What the violent clashes between the police and white supremacists, and an assortment of Trump supporters, went on to reveal was the practiced ease with which the angry mobs broke through the security cordons and ‘conquered’ what can easily be described as the most secure buildings in the world, a few km away from the White House. These protesters had the building all to themselves for a few hours till reinforcements came in.
The arrival of national guards and extra security personnel helped the clearing of the Capitol Hill of the invaders, and handed over the building to senators so that the certification process could continue, as per schedule.
For sure, this violent attack was not something that developed all of a sudden. Anger was building up in Trump supporters, fed on a steady diet of conspiracy theories about Democrats stealing the election – without any proof. In fact, all allegations of Trump and his legal team were thrown out of courts, and election results were certified by Republican officials too in states where they were ruling.
It is now being openly debated within the American society if President Donald Trump himself was directly responsible for the attack on democracy as he was seen as inciting his supporters to march onto the Capitol. In his last rally address, Trump told his supporters that he would march along with them, but himself sat inside the secure White House as thugs and goons broke through security cordons and occupied the seat of elected representatives.
It was not a scene that Americans were not familiar with, such violence in their own capital city rather than in a distant land that was struggling with democracy. Quite naturally, the internet was ablaze with jokes as American politics stooped to such lows that they could never fathom possible.
American television anchors were near-unanimous in calling Trump out.
Cable news channels questioned the President and his conduct and speculated if President Trump could be removed from office for the next 14 days, or so that he can do no further damage to America and its image globally.
Over the past few years, the media reported, the Republican establishment had fed and nurtured a monster that was growing in their midst – conspiracy theories, white supremacy, nationalism, violent political rhetoric, and assault on the Constitution. And they tried to harness this monster, insisting that it was not a monster at all. And now the monster went out of control of the Republicans – Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, they injured several police officials and they threatened the safety of Vice President Mike Pence, and the entire senate and the House of Congress as well as staffers and journalists.
The Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s electoral college win when the mobs attacked. Four people have died in the aftermath. Now, Republicans have begun shifting blame onto Left groups for the violence alleging that these elements infiltrated into the peaceful protesters and they were the reason for the attack on Congress.
But clearly, their coup attempt failed – because of the rigid and correct stand taken by Vice President Pence and influential Republican senators who broke ranks with Trump and spoke against the attacks and conspiracy theories and false allegations of wide-spread electoral frauds. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell declared that Biden had won the election fair and square and the elections were free and fair.
More important, half the Republican party voted against the objections raised by a handful of Trump supporters who challenged the electoral votes that caused inordinate delay in the certification process. Disregarding the attack of the hooligans, the Congress reconvened to complete the certification process, in a strong message to the anarchists.
Interestingly, President Trump, at last grudgingly sent out a message that there would be a peaceful transition of power, indicating that finally, he threw in the towel. This was his closest to conceding the election, that his ego would allow, but only after the ugly attack on Capitol that has sparked anger among Republicans.
Already, there are speculations of resignations by senior White House staffers and Trump appointees. Prominent among those who resigned include US Transport Secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She said she was resigning in reaction to the “traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President entered the Capitol building following a rally he addressed."
The shocking events of Wednesday also robbed America its moral high ground in casting aspersions on democracy and democratic institutions across the world and trying to police them.
Besides, the mob attack in Washington DC exposed to the world, the deep divisions in the American society and polity. At another level, the police action, or inaction, exposed its double standards in dealing with protesters.
Television channels were beaming images of triumphant protesters walking out, sloganeering, through the door held ajar by security personnel, sparking off immediate reactions over the seemingly discriminatory police treatment of protesters. The kid-glove treatment of pro-Trump mob contrasted with strong-arm police tactics against Black Lives Matter activists.
Black Lives Matters activists in America wonder why the police were allowing people toting guns, rioting and virtually carrying out a coup. White protesters intent on violence were not met with any of the strong-arm tactics that police black lives matter protesters faced.
Hundreds of white protesters were eventually evicted.
Initial investigations showed that the immediate trigger for the mob was the surprise victory of two Democrats, Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff, in the January 5 run-off election in Georgia. Now this victory gives them control of the Senate to the Democrats with Vice President Kamala Harris getting the deciding vote in case of a tie.
President elect Joe Biden, who will be the 46th President, has his task cut out – with the deep polarisation of the American society and polity.
This distasteful anger and angst visible all through the election campaign of the past three months indicates the frustration of the middle class and blue-collar workers. President Trump exploited a sense of alienation in American society for his political gains. The election is much closer than the results indicate with 70 million voters pumping for Trump.
This also makes the job of Biden that much tougher by trying for bipartisan consensus on thorny issues – immigration, checking ills of wanton free market liberalization and working out an effective COVID-19 19 economic policy that delivers relief to the vulnerable and the worst-hit people.
Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country. He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer, and Hindustan Times. He can be reached on [email protected]
and Twitter handle @kvlakshman