Misc 10/01/2021

What (a) democracy

Esther Vera
3 min
Quina democràcia

"A republic, if you can keep it"

Benjamin Franklin

On the first day of the year, Donald Trump addressed his followers to call them to the January 6th rally:

"Go, it will be wild". And they went.

Donald Trump had repeatedly summoned the worst spirits, once again through Twitter, which during the legislature has been his direct connection to the liver of most fanatical Trumpsters. Before the crowd of what he called "The March to Save America", the defeated president once again raised the decibels of the speech, spitting out snakes of hate and lies. Trump threw the masses directly into the Capitol, where the Senate had to close the process of proclaiming Joe Biden the winner of the election and the next president. The rest, images of chaos in one of the emblematic symbols of U.S. democracy, we have seen enough of.

Trump said he would not concede victory and sent his black shirts to disrupt the transition, threatening voter representatives and also the press, another enemy from day one. From his first campaign speech, Trump tried to undermine the credibility of the press by sending a direct message to Americans' phones. In fact, as early as 2017, Trump declared in the Financial Times that "without tweets I would not be here", and to this day Trump has tried to discredit the decent press and cover up the facts and allegations that he does not pay taxes, his lack of scruples in business, the ruin of his speculative companies, multi-million dollar debts, abuse of power, and bullying behavior. When he leaves the White House, it will be difficult for him to emerge victorious from the many legal proceedings that he is involved in, from which he is trying to escape until the last moment by using his presidential position.

The desperate attempt to prevent Biden's appointment has failed, and today he reinforces the new president and leaves Republicans to their own mercy. Trump has played strong, but he is much weaker than he was before the assault on the Capitol.

Taking his paranoia to the extreme, the (still) president has made the largest Democratic victory in more than a hundred years possible: exactly since 1892 there was no Democratic majority in the Houses and the White House. Despite the ostentation of the assault on the Capitol, the news was that the Senate was controlled by the vice president's casting vote and the election of the two seats won in Georgia. Symbolically, the elected senators are a Jew and an African American, the first black representative from the South.

Republicans have lost everything in four years, and today they have to face the shame of having let the snake's egg hatch with their complicit silence, as well as the wrath of Trump's followers, who accuse them of being lukewarm and treacherous now that he has lost. The transition within the Republican Party will be long and painful. Despite the scandal of the assault and Trump's sectarian behavior, only one Senator, Lisa Murkowski, has aligned herself with the voices that want the president to leave the White House immediately, and the Republican National Committee, meeting yesterday in Washington, flew over the assault controversy with the little courage and support that the party has shown over the past few years, reaffirming Trump as the head of a party which is currently in ashes.

Despite the danger of the last few days and until the inauguration on the 20th, the Republican is on his way out and his influence will wane without the presidency, or without access to the best known social networks. Does this mean that Trumpism is over? Absolutely not. The fury of his electorate will remain intact unless the pandemic eases and the economy pulls. The bedrock of 74 million votes is the breakdown of democracy and the imperfections of a system that calls for will. In fact, democracy is always potentially bankrupt, and nowhere is it written that history translates in constant progress or that the battle for democracy can be stopped.

Citizens are asking for answers in a changing world that is not always understandable and, as Adam Gopnik writes, "The rule of law, the protection of rights, governments, are not fixed foundations shaken by events, but practices and habits constantly threatened, often renewable".

It would be useful to ask ourselves how Americans have got this far, and the complex and controversial answer lies in the economic frustration and racism of a part of society that is losing the demographic battle and refuses to be removed from the centre of the debate of what it considers a country in exclusive ownership.

The Trumpist assault on democratic institutions had been germinating for many years before the eyes of the world's democrats. Taking one step further, Paul Krugman writes: "If history teaches us a lesson about how not to deal with fascists, it is regarding the futility of appeasement. Surrendering to fascists does not pacify them, but encourages them to go further".

The defence of democracy challenges us all in the deepest sense of our individual and collective responsibility. Democracy is a fragile and wilful invention.