There is no magic in democracy
Most of the world looked forward with shock as events unfolded in America on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. But some of us were less shocked. You see readers, America has done an outstanding job selling its exclusivity to the rest of us. So, even as rabies took over on Wednesday, many well-meaning American leaders, opinion-makers and journalists were still heard repeating the popular refrain— “This is not America.” And that’s the root of the problem for America. Its leaders and gatekeepers have been zealous in telling us that political deviance is a “Third World” phenomenon; that America and Americans are above such afflictions.
Goes into Donald Trump. He did not come to power by coup – he was duly elected by a majority of the Electoral College. What Trump has done over the past four years is exposing the world to the dysfunction of the American political system and culture. It has revealed the myth of American political exceptionalism. It has shown how the American presidency is as open to treatment as any other presidency in the world. He has shown how one man armed with Executive Power and critical mass support can easily bypass the rule of law. He has shown how “democracy” can be as undemocratic as the actors want it to be.
America must own Trump and Trumpism – they can no longer describe its actions as Third World political behavior. With 74 million people endorsing his candidacy with their votes in 2020, he is essentially American. What we have to know is that Trumpism is deeply rooted in the American political tradition – it is not an aberration. Any serious study of American history would reveal that the current leak is a familiar refrain. Americans have always pushed back violently against the threat of fundamental change that threatens to subvert the ideas of deep Americanism.
Yes, America has walked this way before. What happened on Wednesday is very American. The drive back to Freemasonry led to the Civil War and the birth of Racial Segregation. More than 600, 000 Americans were killed in the Civil War – an American killing America over what to do about the slavery of some of its citizens. The Supreme Court and State Governments approved Racist Segregation (American Apartheid), which remained legal for nearly eight decades. And all that time, America convinced itself and the rest of the world that it was the gold standard of democracy.
The Supreme Court ruled through the ruling in Browne’s 1954 1954 segregation as unconstitutional, but a majority of Americans did not comply. A decade of “Massive Resistance” which saw American “mobs” led by their leaders storm schools and universities to prevent them from accepting African Americans. Many Southern states closed their schools instead of accepting their Black citizens. It was the Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King that pulled America out of that era of political devastation, just as Black voters in Georgia have now given America some place in its fight against Trumpism.
The Richard Nixon-Spiro Agnew presidency that arose as part of the clash against the end of legal separation was just as corrupt and corrupt as the current Trump regime. The new brand of Conservatism run by Barry Goldwater’s run for the presidency in 1964 revamped the doctrine of Manifest Destiny – the bedrock of American experimentation. The Southern Strategy was birthed as a facilitator of modern White Supremacy in high places. Even the liberal members of the political elite were forced to bend to its orders as America entered the 21st century.
Obama rose to power through “deracialization,” where he detached himself from anything blatantly Black. But the backlash to Obama is Trump and Trumpism. Trump resurrected the ghosts of the 19th century Manifest Destiny. He was pushed into office by that current in American political culture and used it very effectively. It came to power through the Electoral College, which is the most undemocratic electoral system in the world. What Trump and his troops have done since the election in November is to challenge the letter and spirit of the Electoral College set up by the Founding Fathers to negate the popular vote of the citizens. The real line is that Congress has the power to reverse the popular vote. Trump pushed that envelope and opened the door to the events of Wednesday, January 6, 2021.
No amount of deviation by the conversational classes in America and beyond can cover the truth – American democracy as democracies worldwide are fragile and any malfunctioning leader can treat it to dysfunction. Everything in American politics must now respond to Trump’s impending forces, because those forces are rooted in something that is real and lives in the country’s psyche.
The fact that the “crowd” did not take over the country is not a victory for democracy as some would have us believe. The objective was not to occupy the country; the philosophy has already taken over. The events on Wednesday aimed to signal to America and the world that Donald Trump and Trumpism are not worms or aberration. Notice how easy it was to overtake the Capitol. Also note the cordial treatment of the so-called protesters by the enforcement forces. Finally, note that when the crowd left, the rebellious intellectual writers had re-established themselves calmly and regularly in their treatment of the power conferred upon them by the Electoral College. Biden will have to govern against the backdrop of that mercy.
There are lessons for Guyana in what is happening in America. Our country went through its own self-examination in 2020 – a complex development that has been seriously simplified to fit into a partisan matrix. There is no magic in democracy.