THIS is with reference to the editorial ‘Anarchy in America’ (Jan 8) and a string of letters that followed it in these columns on the subject. One needs to know the United States of America and the dynamics of democracy in that country.
It was America’s misfortune that Donald Trump became its president. What he did on Jan 6 was outright criminal. He incited a mob to attack and intrude Congress. Five people died in that attack. But it is absurd to say that “anarchy had come to America”.
Anarchy is the absence of rule of law. If those mobsters were to go unpunished, one could argue that America lacked proper rule of law. If such incidents had been happening with impunity, then that would have been anarchy.
The mobsters were arrested across the US. The head-mobster was swiftly impeached. Moreover, after the end of his presidential immunity, his actions and dealings before he became president are to be investigated. This is not anarchy. This is rule of law.
To quote from the editorial, “In the end the coup did not happen. However, America stands damaged.” The ‘coup’ could not have happened. A criminal act is not a coup, the possibility of its triggering a coup in pseudo or quasi democracies notwithstanding.
American media also unjustifiably used the word ‘coup’ in reference to the attack on Congress by domestic US terrorists. I suppose journalistic laggardness knows no borders.
Congress resumed the important business of certifying the election results shortly after the Capitol Hill was cleared of the mobsters. Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-president, in his role as president of the Senate, certified the victory of president-elect Joe Biden, because it was Pence’s constitutional duty to do it. This proves that the US ‘stands’ reinvigorated, not ‘damaged’.
“How will American leaders now lecture the world on high-minded values …,” the editorial asked. The US will do that by reminding the world that there is no ‘doctrine of necessity’ in its ranks. And that the most powerful man on the planet, despite his egregious efforts, could not sway the election results to his favour.
How difficult would it have been for the ruler in a pseudo or quasi democracy to rig or stymie elections? Has anyone followed the elections in Belarus and Uganda? Using the pandemic as an excuse, Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister, cancelled scheduled elections.
When the head of the government of Tigray, an internal region of Ethiopia, questioned the legitimacy of Ahmed’s rule that has continued after his term expired, Ahmed sent troops to seize Tigray. And poor Trump could not even dispatch troops to seize ballot machines in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the four electorally important states.
Other US presidents authenticated America’s democratic order by obeying it. Trump did it by failing to bend it to his whims. Contrary to the insinuation in the said editorial, the US is still the ‘shining city on the hill’; how its democratic system defeated a powerful attack by Trump cultists having enhanced, not dimmed, the shine of beamish America.
Trump’s presidency was a stress-test that the American democracy thankfully passed. However, the US must reinforce the pressure points that the test revealed. And the US will do that by letting democracy’s inherent evolutionary tendency to save the day.
Meanwhile, let us rejoice that even a president like Trump could not encumber the American democracy. And that is an American success story, a proof of the might of America’s democratic institutions, and a boost to freedom’s foot soldiers worldwide.
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2021