Storming US parliament, Trump and a dreary future

Storming US parliament, Trump and a dreary future

By Nairalovers Nigeria


President Donald Trump’s administration was always capable of anything bizarre, but last Wednesday’s storming of the United States Capitol Hill, which houses the American parliament, became the lowest point of his controversial presidency and the highest point of his iconoclasm. The US Congress was barely half way into certifying the Electoral College votes that gave victory to the Democratic Party’s Joe Biden when the assault began. It was not a protest; it was an insurrection that should be punished but will probably not even be censured. As the mob swooped on the halls of Congress, it evoked images of the burning of the German parliament, the Reichstag, in February 1933, a few months after Adolf Hitler took the German chancellorship without a governing majority. No one is sure whether the NAZI Party orchestrated the fire on the Reichstag to engineer a complete takeover of the parliament, or whether it capitalized on the independent arson carried out by a young Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, but those who stormed the US Capitol were not only well known racists and conspiracy theorists, they were clearly, gleefully and deliberately inspired by Mr Trump’s fiery and demented rhetoric.

Mr Biden had won the November presidential election by a handsome 306 Electoral College votes to the grumpy Mr Trump’s 232. But that healthy margin masks the division in American politics between a kaleidoscope of liberals on the one hand and an agglomeration of white supremacists, evangelicals and conspiracy theorists like QAnon on the other hand. That division was amplified in the last poll by the unprecedentedness of Mr Biden’s 81.2m votes to Mr Trump’s 74.2m. It gave a significant and probably consequential victory to the winner, but it also affirmed the substantialness of the cult-following the loser may continue to enjoy in the years to come given the reluctance of the Republican Party to challenge the unusual and nihilistic orthodoxies of Mr Trump. Just as the winner represents the determination of futuristic and liberal Americans to retake their country from the retrogressive column of extremist and fundamentalist Americans, the loser also represents a part of America’s fixation with its sordid past of unmerited privileges. That battle is certain to continue in the years ahead, and will probably not be settled until the mid-term elections and possibly the next general election. Or perhaps the battle will be won and lost only when American demographics, already shifting in favour of liberals, have altered irretrievably against the tendencies represented by the likes of Mr Trump.

But far more dangerous for the US is the import of the storming of the US Capitol by the Trump mob. Among other things, it weakens American global voice in the promotion and propagation of some of the world’s greatest democratic verities. Long regarded as the bastion of democracy, the parliament invasion, particularly the frightening number of those who support Mr Trump’s tendencies, shows that Western democracy may in fact be more tenuous than first believed. In addition, it may also indicate that other democracies, including the one-party states of Asia and Russia, can plausibly lay claim to competitive durability. Mr Biden has spoken ably and admirably of what he and his party, and other like-minded Americans, intend to do to reverse the humiliation and degradation perpetuated by Mr Trump, but his task is complicated by the size of the support Mr Trump can still muster and has in fact spoken to a few days ago, the reluctance of the Republican Party to retake their party, and the decades it will still take for the country’s shifting demographics to undergird the new political deal. That the US will survive this fractious and fragile interregnum is by no means certain, for it is already teetering on the brink of social and political chaos. That it will also regain its voice and composure even if it survives this period of uncertainty is also not guaranteed, given the rapidity with which geopolitical power shifts and new powers stake their claims to global dominance.

In whatever way it is looked at, the US faces a dreary future. It should have confronted its centrifugal monsters decades ago, but it preferred to pass the nuisance from one presidency and party to the other. Once it lost the momentum after the civil war, during which it engaged in the well documented disingenuous and despairing compromises that betrayed its black population, it was fated to encounter a day and a time like this. The ogre staring at the country, and which briefly manifested in all the piquant ugliness of Mr Trump, will remain defiant and probably unbeatable. The US had spent trillions of dollars arming itself against invasion and hypothetical military defeat orchestrated by an indomitable foreign enemy; had it correspondingly spent as much and armed itself with new and fairer and juster social engineering models, it could have forestalled a day as infamous as the one brutishly enacted by the soulless and completely undeserving Mr Trump. In their consideration of America’s future, perceptive historians have looked at the US and suggested that if Pax Americana would come to grief, it would probably do so from the inside. They may eventually be proved right.

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