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Democracy Under Attack

Once again the attack on the Capitol, incited by Donald Trump,  confirms that the only thing you can rely on with Trump is his unreliability, is his delusion, his incapability to see the world as it is, not to mention understand it. The seeds he sowed in the last five years (I include his election campaign) have now sprouted – as was to be feared.

Immune as I am to conspiracy myths, I have to admit that I am suspicious as to what happened at the Capitol. Everybody knew about Trump’s hatemongering. Everybody knew he incited his supporters to take action against those who “stole” their votes. Everybody knew how violent his most fanatic supporters are. Why were no precautions taken? These circumstances make you wonder if there were too many Trumpists among the security forces who simply did not want to prevent such protests, maybe underestimating what might happen.

The policeforce in America is no normal democratic institution in the European sense. It is paramilitarily equipped, drilled and ideologically trained. It is streaked with racist and (extreme) right-wing elements from bottom to top. All of this has been proved and documented often enough. So, what happened? In order to make Trump hold up a Bible the wrong way round in front of a chapel they were able to brutally clear a street from peaceful protesters. At every Black Lives Matter demonstration there are helicopters in the air and hundreds of heavily armed troopers on the streets. But they were not able to effectively protect the American heart of democracy? And more and more people ask themselves why it had taken so long for additional forces to be called. Might there have been people who were fine with a little escalation? At least Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund had to resign – but he was not the only one responsible!

The whole dimension of political blindness and anti-democratic sentiment among the Republican Party has become evident one more time when even after the Capitol attack, even after those shocking incidents, 147 Republicans continued their contemptuous behaviour and objected to the election results – and thus confirmed that all those conspiracy nuts, QAnon fanatics and Proud Boys thugs were right. Hostility to democratic process, irrationality and violence were thus justified on the highest political level. How could democracy in America sink so low?!

That the American political system is rather questionable is old news. Still, such political mendacity, such moral decay is more than alarming. But it would be far too short-sighted to put all the blame on Trump’s presidency alone. America has never been a really united country; its society was always much more divided socially, politically, economically and culturally than European democracies. But at least people had a common dream. Today, however, politicians in Washington and 50 legislatures and people all over the country do not have political opponents any longer but enemies that, come what may, must be fought to the finish. This radical opposition is not of Trump’s making alone. It started when in 1995 Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House of Representatives and declared each and every political question a fight of Good (American, Republican) against Evil (everything else); it was continued by the Tea Party movement; and it was carried to its abominable extreme by Trump.

Now the whole world talks about Biden having to reunite, to reconcile the American people in order to save American democracy. Some call this a Sisyphean task and describe how difficult this will be. But at present you have to take this image at its true meaning: this is impossible! This means asking too much, considering how hardened fronts are. This is a task that cannot be accomplished in four years, not even in eight.

No, dire and disturbing straits are in store for America. Joe Biden (and perhaps Kamala Harris later on) will need a lot of strength and skill and loads of luck. And a people whose majority proves to be wiser than the majority of its present political elite. A people that in future elections will vote out of office those who stand for hate, agitation and disregard for decency and the rule of law.

At present, let’s hope that Biden and Harris will be better protected than Congress, not only but especially during their inauguration.

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