One year after the assault on the Capitol: polarisation vs dialogue

2 min
Assault on Capitol Hill on Kings Day last year

It has been one year since the assault on Washington's Capitol by a populist far right backed by the defeated President Donald Trump. That episode, which embarrassed the United States, is difficult to erase. It remains as an insidious and persistent stain for American democracy, which impudently showed its fragility. Its consequences are still being felt. In fact, American society continues to be marked by those unprecedented events that made it around the world live: a citizens' assault that forced the evacuation of congressmen threatened by the mob and resulted in five deaths and hundreds of arrests.

And just as the U.S. has not yet closed a very vivid wound, which continues to divide public opinion, its repercussion is also global and is poised in terms of polarisation or moderation. Was the assault on the Capitol a warning sign or the end of a threat? From the outset, Trump's ridicule and the excess of his followers was evident. But it is true that the world ideological and political debate remains stranded between, on the one hand, the confrontation of the extremes with a far right which continues somewhere between unleashed and latent, and, on the other hand, the attempt to rediscover the foundations of a broad consensus that recovers the prestige of the institutions of liberal democracy and public governance. Leaders such as Trump himself, who from an illiberal populism have exacerbated the attacks on democracy from within the system–and continue to do so– maintain their influence over a large part of a citizenry that is very distrustful of power and authority in general. This can be seen, for example, in anti-vaccine denialism which is complicating the scientific and health victory against covid.

All this means that it is far from clear where the global political and social situation is likely to continue in the coming years. No country or society is safe from the lengthening shadow of this anti-political radicalism that exploits popular unrest, while dialogue and moderation, both from the right and the classic left, are having a hard time finding a connection with the citizenry.

Trump continues to distort American politics and hinders Biden's main decisions, which require a minimum of consensus. The latter is impossible to achieve with the current Republican Party. In Latin America, from Bolsonaro to Ortega, there are reasons for pessimism. And Europe does not escape the divisive danger either: as well as deeply worrying cases such as Hungary and Poland, far-right options contaminate political action everywhere and make it very difficult to properly address capital issues such as immigration, the management of the pandemic or the climate crisis or, in the Spanish case, the Catalan sovereigntist challenge, systematically poisoned by Vox, the PP and Cs. In any case, the hope is that, precisely because of the strong shock of the double crisis of covid and climate, public opinion will opt for common sense, dialogue and understanding, and banish the demagogic shouting of those who always promise false solutions that often end in dramatically.