The darkest hour: Trump’s politics has done great damage to the cause of democracy around the world


In shocking scenes without precedent in US politics, pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol as Congress was meeting to ceremonially certify the Electoral College votes and confirm Joe Biden as the next US president. Four people have reportedly died as rioters fought with law enforcement forces, scaled the walls of the Capitol building, vandalised government property and disrupted Congress proceedings. President Donald Trump cannot disavow his role in fomenting this chaos. For weeks after losing the presidential polls in November, he has put out a stream of falsehoods claiming victory and alleging widespread electoral fraud. He has been deliberately exciting his base of radical right-wing followers, with the aim of overturning the election result. It’s hard to describe this as anything short of an attempted coup.

That such scenes should play out in the world’s most powerful democracy, in terms of both hard and soft power, is surely bad news for democracies everywhere. Naturally it has caused shock among world capitals, while the Chinese Communist Party has been handed an unexpected propaganda coup. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done well to quickly condemn the violence, stating that “democratic process cannot be subverted through unlawful protests”.

Thankfully, saner voices in the Republican Party are prevailing, with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Vice-President Mike Pence condemning the subversion of democratic process. Despite his hectoring officials across US systems – cutting across party lines and including Republican appointed judges in courts – stood up to Trump’s falsehoods and called him out. While this attests to the strength of America’s democratic institutions and convictions, it must also be noted that this one went down to the wire. And that is bound to diminish America in the world’s eyes, while being a source of comfort to authoritarian leaders like President Xi Jinping.

The good news is that Democrats are on course to secure a trifecta – the presidency, house and Senate majority after the run-off results in Georgia. They should get down to reforming the US electoral system so that its processes can’t be questioned or challenged in the manner Trump just did. That’s the only way to undo the damage to America’s prestige and standing in the world caused by this disgraceful course of events. As of now Pence should invoke the 25th Amendment, declare Trump unfit, and remove him from office forthwith.

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This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.



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