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The Fall of Western Democracy—The US Capitol Attack

The President of the United States of America (POTUS) is widely proclaimed as the leader of the free world. The designation is undoubtedly accurate as the POTUS wields immense power and holds an incredible sway on world affairs. Anything and everything the President does can potentially affect the entire world. The American presidency bears a tremendous responsibility, and its President must be the flag bearer of democracy. 

For the last four years, that flag bearer has been the highly controversial figure, Donald Trump, who may well go down as the worst President in American history. Over the years his presidency has been marred with scandal after scandal, and his volatile nature has offered no comfort to world leaders and citizens alike. Whether it be persuading citizens to inject themselves with disinfectant, or being impeached for a historic second time, Trump’s actions have been rather comical but frightening at the same time.

His conduct reached an all-time low after the US presidential elections. He repeatedly denied the result and sought to brainwash the American people into thinking that he had won the election. Trump took to Twitter and even held a White House press conference to claim that the opposition was trying to “steal” the election. In fact, the first time he even acknowledged the Joe Biden administration was on December the 11th, albeit by ironically labelling it as a “scandal-plagued mess.” Ever since Joe Biden’s victory, Trump has carried on numerous fraudulent claims, buoyed by his party members’ support.

Trump has certainly been a controversial figure over the last four years. (Image credits: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican Support

Though Trump was initially seen as an “outsider” in his early days in politics, he has enjoyed unwavering support from his party since he won the 2016 Republican primaries. In a survey carried out by the Washington Post in December 2020, 129 of the 247 Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate said they supported Trump’s efforts to claim victory. However, as Trump’s legal challenges failed to bear any fruit, overt support from his party’s members gradually waned.

In an astonishing turn of events, Senate majority leader and Republican stalwart Mitch McConnell, who has exhibited staunch support for Trump throughout his presidency, urged his fellow party members to accept the election results on the House’s floor minutes before the Capitol building was breached. In the aftermath of the riots, McConnell referred to the mob as thugs” and passionately advocated for the smooth functioning of American democracy. Prominent Republican Senator Marco Rubio also tweeted against the rioters, saying there was nothing patriotic about them. In the final motion to impeach Trump for the second time, 10 of the 211 Republican House Representatives voted for the motion.

Trump’s Abuse of Social Media’s Power

In today’s day and age, the power of social media is unparalleled, and Donald Trump has exploited this power to its limit. Throughout the Trump presidency, social media has been used to its best, or worst, effect. Post-November 8th, the President’s Twitter handle essentially became a primary source of false conspiracy theories about how the election was “stolen” from him. Though this may seem trivial and ridiculous to many, surveys showed that about 40 per cent of Americans believed these claims. 

Trump first publicised his Save America rally through his Twitter page on December 19th, 2020. In his tweet, he urged his supporters to “be there, will be wild” on January 6th in Washington D.C. In hindsight, social media turned out to be the key factor in amassing public support for his rally and fraudulent claims about the elections.

Although Twitter has previously flagged Trump’s tweets for containing misinformation, the complete suspension of a world leader’s account is something that has never happened before. Both Twitter and Facebook cited the incitement of violence by promoting the Save America rally as the reason for banning Trump’s handles. The move has seemed to be a success as, according to a Washington Post report, misinformation about the election has been reduced by 73 per cent since the banning of Trump’s account.

The Capitol Breach

On 6th January 2021, the day on which the US congress was set to confirm Joe Biden as president-elect, Donald Trump carried out a Save America rally in Washington D.C. in protest against the declaration of the election results. Thousands of Trump supporters waded into Washington D.C. to see their messiah preach his word. He riled up his supporters claiming, “we will never give up, we will never concede,” and urged them to defenestrate the election results in his speech completely. Trump’s lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, who spoke during the event, was also seen provoking the crowd saying, “let’s have trial by combat.” Trump also urged the crowd to march on to the US Congress in his speech.

Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building after Trump’s inflammatory speech. (Image Credits: Getty, Samuel Corum)

What followed was absolute pandemonium on Capitol Hill. Scores of Trump supporters marched onto Capitol Hill and began forcing their way into the US Congress building. They were seen scaling the walls of the Capitol building. The security personnel at the Congress were completely outnumbered and overwhelmed by the sheer size of the mob. One supporter even went as far as to seat himself on the chair of the House’s Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Once the rioters had entered the building, police officers sealed off the main entrance to the Senate and the House chambers to protect the lawmakers.

The Congresspeople were later evacuated from the chambers with the help of security personnel. Five people were reported dead due to this riot. Over a hundred rioters have been arrested so far, and 300 more are being investigated by the FBI. Notable arrests include Klete Keller, a five-time Olympic medal winner, and John Schaffer, a guitarist in a heavy metal band named Iced Earth. This horrific event further highlighted the deep political fault lines that exist amongst the American public.

Consequences and Trump’s Second Impeachment

“We love you… But you have to go home now.”

These were the words President Trump used to address the rioters after the terrifying Capital attack. He did not condemn the actions of his supporters, he did not react to the horrifying deaths, and he did not comment on the embarrassment caused by the Capitol attack. Instead, Donald Trump used Twitter to reiterate his belief that the election was “fraudulent”. The US government had had enough of Trump’s antics; they needed to take action. 

Whispers of the 25th Amendment circled in Washington D.C. with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in particular, seeking to invoke it. According to this amendment, if a President is deemed unfit to carry out the office’s duties, the Vice President can then assume the office of the President. Although Vice President Mike Pence issued a letter saying he would not invoke the 25th Amendment, it did not deter the House Democrats. Determined to oust Trump from the Oval Office, they swiftly moved to have him impeached, making Donald Trump the only USA President to be impeached twice.

Nancy Pelosi gavels in the final vote of the historic 2nd impeachment of Donald Trump. (Image credits: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Though most Republicans defended Trump in the House of Representatives motion for impeachment, many only claimed to do so to protect national unity and prevent a further insurrection from Trump supporters. The former President’s Senate impeachment trial will now commence in the week of 8th February. The key motive behind impeaching Trump is to bar him from running for President again, which many feel is vital to keep American democracy safe.

The World Reacts

Trump finds himself increasingly secluded as his own party has now withdrawn support for the former President. On the international stage, Trump’s actions have met with heavy criticism from other world leaders. Many have claimed the riots to be an “attack on democracy,” and some have voiced their concerns about Trump not accepting his election loss. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a meeting of German conservatives, “I regret very much that President Trump has still not admitted defeat, but has kept raising doubts about the elections.”

French President Emmanuel Macron voiced the grave concerns on everyone’s mind. In a video on Twitter, he made a powerful statement saying, “When, in one of the world’s oldest democracies, supporters of an outgoing president take up arms to challenge the legitimate results of an election, a universal idea, that of ‘one person, one vote’, is undermined.” The Capitol riots stained the very belief of democracy. If the rioters and instigator go unpunished, democracy as we know it will never be safe again. Insurrection and insurgence will become the norm.

An Attack on Western Democracy

President Trump has torn down the pillars of democracy, literally and metaphorically. His rejection of the election results, his countless lawsuits to overturn the elections, and finally, the riots at the Capitol building, were all a series of scathing attacks on American democracy. The storming of the Capitol building—a symbol of American democracy—has ruthlessly shown how weak this democracy has become. 

The image of a taken-over Capitol building depicts America’s crippled democracy. (Image credits: Reuters)

The American democracy was on the verge of crumbling, and that too at the hands of its now-former President. The United States has long been an example of an effective democracy, but the horrifying events of Capitol Hill have completely undermined that notion. However, there is hope as the Biden administration comes with the promise of fixing the damage the Trump presidency has done and offers the assurance that it will re-establish America as one of the beacons of Western democracy. 

We leave you with an interesting quote from John Adams, the second President of the U.S.A, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy, yet that did not commit suicide.”

Featured Image Credits: Getty Images