EDITORIAL: Nothing, not even the most eccentric of Donald Trump's statements or actions as US president, were enough to prepare anybody for what happened this past Wednesday as he incited his charged followers to storm the Capitol building just when it was hosting proceedings meant to formally declare Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as winners of the 2020 election. Now even Trump's best friends in government and the Republican Party, including Vice President Mike Pence, are distancing themselves from him and his backers in the media, especially the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, are calling for him to resign or be ready to face articles of impeachment. Indeed, Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have already demanded Cabinet remove him from office under the 25th Amendment, which pertains to the president's ability to perform the duties of office, otherwise they would impeach him again. Pelosi has also urged the military to keep him away from "nuclear codes" for however much longer he retains the powers of the president.
As the shock of all this is being slowly digested by the whole world, the debate is now shifting to just how much damage has been done to "American democracy" and what can and should be done about it. Washington is going to find it increasingly difficult to lecture the rest of the world about democratic values and so on and it is going to struggle even more to address social and political cleavages at home that were widened so blatantly in just four years of the Trump administration. This right-wing, white supremacist, pro-evangelical mob that he collected and fed into becoming a force strong enough that it actually attacked Congress is not going to break off and disappear just because he is fading from the scene. It is much more likely, considering the deep divisions, to mutate into a lasting political force in its own right. His personal touch also affected foreign policy as he alienated friends in Europe, all but finished off Nato, started a destructive tariff war with China, changed the game in the Middle East and spread political instability in South America; all of which have become large knots that the Biden administration would have to waste much of its early days in office trying to untie.
Yet there are also much deeper questions that America must answer to the satisfaction of everybody. How could it be, for example, that the system that governs the arguably best-established democracy in the world could allow a clearly unhinged person to contest, win, and occupy an office he was unfit for despite mounting evidence that he was bad news for everybody? And how strong could "representative government" in America really be if such a president can openly hurt American values, economy and its standing in the world while those that the system has given the power to check him are only too happy to play along in return for the privileges that they get to enjoy?
It is, unfortunately, too early to turn the page on Trumpism just yet, even if he is sincere about an orderly transition of power. And nobody should forget that this problem is not restricted to America in any way. The last few years have seen similar right-leaning governments crop up pretty much across the world. Invariably, they have tried to impose the will of a loud minority over others by making them appear as a silent, suffering majority. Trump's time in the sun only goes to show how far such tendencies can reach and what kind of lasting damage they can cause. One can only hope that the Biden administration will appreciate the need to push the reset button on American democracy. It will no doubt take a lot of time, but if one good thing can come out of what everybody has had to endure for the last four years it is that important lessons can be learnt and mistakes can be identified that should never be made again. To begin, though, the new president will have to show his country the folly of Trump's approach. But when 45 percent of Republican voters still back the attack on the US Capitol, that is not going to be easy.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021