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  • Raghav Sand

Capitol Chaos: Determination for (Self)-Destruction

United States of America witnessed its most disgraceful moment in decades when a mob, incited by outgoing President Donald Trump, laid siege to the seat of government at Capitol Hill. The famed residential neighbourhood in Washington D.C. is home to the domed United States Capitol, Senate, Houses of Representatives and the neoclassical Supreme Court. America is imploding and the transition of power has torn the nation which has never been more divided in its recorded history. Civility and sensibility have been laid to rest, while anarchy is sowing distrust and harvesting chaos.

More Than Revolt, Less Than Coup

Let us dispel some doubts about the mob attack. It was a pre-planned attack on democracy, and nothing that transpired was instinctive. After facing defeat, in both popular vote and electoral college, Trump and his legal team made an attempt to malign the elections by labelling it as ‘rigged’. Subsequently, when they did not find any takers for their conspiracy theories, suits were filed in contentious state to overturn the polling outcome. Lastly, when none of the above tactics found any traction, the gloves were taken off to ‘save democracy’. None of the above was unexpected, but the inability and incompetence of the law enforcement agencies to restrict the damage caused from violence exposed disturbing facts.

The law enforcement agencies in D.C. should have envisaged such violent actions and must now be on their toes till the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden. Events like the one that took place at the Capitol may be forgotten, but it has tarnished America’s image as the moral compass for democracy. Now, when America tutors other nations about rule of law, it will be nothing short of hypocrisy.

Chorus of Condemnation

Heads of state and government expressed concern and pain after the violence at Capitol Hill. Democracy is fragile and functions on good faith. The reverberation of distasteful demonstrations will take time to settle. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, took to his private twitter handle, terming the protests ‘unlawful’. “Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,” he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, emphasised that democracy is robust and will prevail. She tweeted, “Democracy – the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob. Our thoughts are with everyone who is as devastated as we are by the events of today. I have no doubt democracy will prevail.”

Doubting the outcome at the time of electoral loss has become commonplace in democracies. When political parties fall short of majority, they blame the voting machines or the integrity of election commission / board. This is a wrong precedent, and implants the seed of doubt in the minds of voters. Instead of slinging mud at the process or elected representatives, the political parties and civil society should focus on the robustness of elections. Partisan views do not make a society divided by itself, but the stubbornness to not hear the other person’s view, and have a rational discourse surely draws indelible boundaries.

Fire from Friends and Foes

President Trump has not made many friends during his time in office. His cabinet members feel sick to associate themselves with him and have started to put in their papers, less than two weeks before the inevitable. Betsy DeVos has resigned from her role as Education Secretary, according to a Thursday night report from the Wall Street Journal. “That behaviour was unconscionable for our country,” she wrote in her resignation. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”

Apart from DeVos, other notable departures are Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, deputy NSA Matthew Pottinger and Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff for First Lady Melania Trump. Many more resignations are expected in the coming days as personnel in the Trump administration feel compelled to uphold morality.

Challenges for the Incoming Administration

There is already a lot on the plate for President-Elect Joe Biden. From executing the inoculation drive for COVID-19, to the geopolitical rearrangements, Biden will have no time to waste and his ‘A’ team should pull up their socks. As much as its global economic and military dominance need protection, a concerted effort must be made to heal the wounds caused from mutual distrust. Episodes of cyber espionage have jolted American superiority in cyberspace; defending the breached firewalls and networks is of paramount importance. Biden is a seasoned politician and has vast experience in public life. His calm demeanour is the perfect recipe to instil confidence among Americans and regain the position as the leader of the free world.

Violence is not the answer to human disagreement – it pulls us further apart. Intercourse creates humans, while discourse promotes humanity. There are plenty of well-meaning American citizens, and now is the time for the silent majority make their voices heard. People from the land of opportunity and liberty do not need instructions about running a nation, but they must be mindful about their action / inaction.

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