GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 605, 8 January 2022

The US: Remembering 6 January
D Suba Chandran

What happened?
On 6 January 2022, observing the first anniversary of the attack on the US Capitol Hill, President Biden said: "To state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked - simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution - our Constitution - faced the gravest of threats. Outnumbered and in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law. Our democracy held. We the people endured. And we the people prevailed. For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol."

On the same day, the Wall Street Journal, in its editorial took a less alarmist, and a positive note: "One lesson is that on all the available evidence 6 January was not an "insurrection," in any meaningful sense of that word. It was not an attempted coup… America's democratic institutions held up under pressure. They also held in the states in which GOP officials and legislators certified electoral votes despite Mr. Trump's complaints. And they held in the courts as judges rejected claims of election theft that lacked enough evidence. Democrats grudgingly admit these facts but say it was a close run thing. It wasn't. It was a near-unanimous decision against Mr. Trump's electoral claims."

Earlier, on 4 January, Trump cancelled his proposed speech on 6 January. According to a news report, he said: "In light of the total bias and dishonesty of the 6 January Unselect Committee of Democrats, two failed Republicans, and the Fake News Media, I am canceling the January 6th Press Conference."

What is the background?
First, the a deep divide between the two principal political parties, despite what happened on 6 January 2021. Developments in Capitol Hill last year has not brought the Democrats and the Republicans together to defend the American democracy, constitution, the rule of law etc. While the Democrats were trying to fix Trump, the Republicans have mostly rallied behind their leader.

Second, an un-apologizing Trump and the Republicans behind him. Trump has not changed his views; neither has the party. Worse, many in the US believe the party has become Trump's. Those who opposed Trump, or have a different view to the lie that the last Presidential election was stolen, have been sidelined or removed. The party has not taken any measure to own what happened on 6 January, or question the events, statements and lies that led to that day. 

Third, legal actions against those responsible for 6 January 2021. The government has taken a series of actions and pursued a legal course against those were involved in the violence. However, those who were actually responsible for what happened on that day, including Trump are still far. Despite constituting committees and accusing Trump and others of obstructing justice, the last year has not achieved much, except placing a few behind bars. 

Fourth, a polarized American nation. Trump and Trumpism has polarised the American nation and the liberal values that the US takes pride of. Questions over white supremacy, racial injustice and the divide within the American Supreme Court during 2021 should highlight the Trump legacy and its fallouts.

What does it mean?
First, there is less likely to be "justice" to what had happened on 6 January 2021. Though the democrats would want to fix Trump and his supporters for what had happened that day, it would remain a tough task to do it legally. Biden instead has to look at addressing the larger fallouts and implications of 6 January to the American democracy instead of trying to fix Trump. The second one, is less likely to result in the first. His speech on 6 January 2022 is an attempt to fix Trump, than a road map to address the issues at hand. Equally important are questions over racial inequality, women's rights, economic recovery, and pandemic fallouts. The decline in American democracy has global implications.

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