In the early hours of January 6, in what were surreal scenes even in an era dominated by Donald Trump, the American clown of a president, potentially thousands of pro-Trump supporters barged into United States Capitol, the federal legislature. Four people were killed in the melee. US Senators and Congressmen were seen scrambling for cover. The march on Capitol followed exhortations by Trump to his supporters that they “would never take back our country with weakness”. The occasion that had drawn these people together was the legislative confirmation of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
The American democratic system has been a frequent butt of jokes the world around following Trump’s election as the US President in 2016. It became a laughing stock on January 6. The dictatorship of Venezuela issued a statement, expressing its concern over the violence in Washington DC. “The United States is suffering the same thing that it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression,” it read. The foreign ministry of Turkey, another enemy of Trump’s America, said it believed “the US will overcome this internal political crisis in a mature manner”. Both the countries were mocking previous US statements on their domestic affairs.
It is easy to ridicule the Trump-era American democratic process, not to mention the country’s ‘imperial’ interventions abroad. Yet what transpired on January 6 was also, in a way, a sign of the resilience of American democracy. Biden’s victory was confirmed despite every effort by Trump to discredit the US electoral system. On the same day, a Black man was elected as US senator, for the first time in the history of the state of Georgia. In the process, the Democrats also took control of the Senate— the US House of Representatives was already in their bag—in what was yet another instance of popular rejection of Trumpianism.
A similar sequence of events in other democratic presidential systems, for instance in Turkey or Russia, could very well have culminated in successful coups by their all-powerful executives. Democracies around the world now find themselves in crisis, partly as a result of the ultra-nationalist right-wing populism unleased by the likes of Trump, Bolsonaro and Modi. The final act of Trump’s repudiation by the American electorate and its democratic institutions on January 6 will, hopefully, make other potential dictators and Trump idolizers pause before they think of bending the democratic process to their will.