Crumbling from withinThe lessons of the drama in America may help the world—if the people and their leaders chose to listen.
Early on Thursday morning, when most of Kathmandu was asleep, the world was abruptly awakened by the antics of domestic terrorists and vile politicians in the United States. A mundane ritual that usually reaffirmed the quirky yet stable electoral process in the world’s oldest democracy was delayed—almost derailed—when some Republican lawmakers from both the House and the Senate kept up the mad charade of insisting on mass voter fraud. Conservative loyalists followed up by breaching the US Capitol building while the joint session of Congress was ongoing.
Much can be said to lambast the supporters of Donald J Trump who came out in force insisting that their representatives right an imagined wrong. For one, no credible media source had hinted at the slightest chance of voter fraud in the November 2020 US elections. The one publicised—and one-off—case seemed to be that of a Trump supporter who voted twice for the outgoing president.
For another, the thousands of people claiming that the election was stolen did not seem to have reviewed past speeches where President Trump claimed that the 2016 elections would similarly be taken from him by the power brokers in Washington; of course, he clearly and fairly won the electoral college votes to win the presidency back then. Neither do these zealots seem to have realised that with President Trump being in power and his penchant for rewarding loyalists with key roles in powerful positions, if anyone could have hoodwinked voters and upturned the federated election system, it would have been him. That many of the swing states during this last election were Republican-controlled but still certified votes, after numerous challenges and recounts, seems lost on this crowd.
But it would be wrong to simply reprimand the extremists and not call out the ones who allowed this to happen in the first place. For, the actions that unfolded on January 6 were only the latest, and perhaps the starkest, of the symptoms that the American democratic system was diseased. But who’s to blame? After the enactors, it surely must be the ones who egged them on. Many will rightly point to President Trump’s election as being the nail on the coffin.
While Trump’s America First and other conservative agendas unravelled the years of goodwill the US had earned globally over decades of ups and downs, back home it seemed to embolden a special section of the population that actually embraced his rhetoric. Based on lies and half-truths, and propped up by sensationalist talk show hosts and conspiracy theorists, many Americans (over 74 million) seem to agree with Trump’s inward-looking and sometimes discriminatory policies. In an attempt to ride on the coattails of Trump’s popularity with this massive minority (Joseph R Biden still won the popular vote, amassing over 81 million votes) many Republicans traded in their own conservative policies for Trump’s populist ones.
And therein lies the problem. If Donald J Trump, even with his large and devoted following, would have been on the pulpit alone, spewing out hate and prevarications, America would perhaps have a different president four years ago. Or, even if he was still elected president, his more outrageous actions and words would have been subdued by the policy machine that is Washington. But it was clearly the support Trump’s fabrications received from highly respected Republican leaders and the widely followed but spurious media sources that brought America to where it is now—crumbling from within and a long way away from reconciliation.
Perhaps this can be a lesson for the rest of the world about the dangers of populist leaders and of fake news. It could be a wake up call for world leaders not to hook their carriage onto the mad horse for short term gains.