America should move on

It will be an uphill task to neutralise these elements of American society who are staunch believers of Trumpism

Dr Moonis Ahmar January 14, 2021
The writer is former Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi and can be reached at [email protected]

“At this hour our democracy is under unprecedented assault unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times, what unfolded was an assault on the rule of law like few times we have ever seen. In the past four years, we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law, clear in everything he has done. He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was the culmination of that unrelenting attack,” US President-elect Joseph Biden.

After an assault on Capitol Hill, the seat of American Congress on January 6, under the instigation of President Donald Trump, it is time for the United States to move on and its leadership should make sure that such an ugly and shameful event must not be repeated. Biden was quick to call the attackers “extremists” and not representing America. But it will be an uphill task to neutralise these elements of American society who are staunch believers of Trumpism and consider it their last chance to restore the white glory of America. After all, 70 million voters who voted for Trump are not advocates of Trumpism, but all racists and extremists are his supporters and him losing the elections is a shock they cannot absorb so easily. If Capitol Hill was attacked, vandalised and its sanctity violated, it was primarily the culmination of four years of Trumpism, which under the patronage of President Trump, not only sanctioned but also supported racism and intolerance against non-whites and immigrants.

Now the damage has been done to American democracy and image. But the confirmation of Biden and Kamala Harris as President-elect and Vice-president-elect, respectively, by a Congress that stayed up all night, means that democracy has won. The fact that Biden, despite all the conspiracies and obstacles by his opponents, will take oath as the 46th American president on January 20, and the Democratic Party will get a majority in the Senate after several years means Trumpism has lost and the American people’s will has prevailed. Trump’s second impeachment is also a severe blow to Trumpism, which is now termed a threat to American democracy. Despite the faults of American democracy and society, the US is still number one in terms of economy, technology, military power, research and development. The American people, if united to rebuild their country, possess enormous resilience to move on and play a leadership role in global affairs.

The events of January 6 also prove that the Republican Party, which has ruled the US most of the time since the end of the WWII, will find an opportunity to disown Trumpism. Otherwise, if the Republican leadership fails to delink itself from racist and extremist groups within its fold under the ideology of Trumpism, then it will be held responsible for destabilising America. How the saner Republican elements can marginalise those who till now challenge the 2020 presidential election results and encouraged the mob attack on the Capitol Hill is a fundamental question. The fact that Trump despite his dubious background managed to hijack the Party, proves how the so-called culture of populism has permeated deep inside the American society. Division within the Republican Party is also a reflection of the January 6 events which proved that law enforcement agencies accountable to President Trump were not only complacent but also incompetent in dealing with the assault on Capitol Hill.

The embarrassment and shame of these events let the US down internationally, prompted some American diplomats to express their resentment. According to the AP, two cables dated January 9 were drafted by American diplomats who not only condemned the involvement of President Trump in an assault on Capitol Hill but also demanded that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo support any lawful effort by the Vice President and majority of the cabinet to declare the President unfit for office. Such diplomats supported invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. The “dissent cable” signed by diplomats maintained, “It is essential that the Department of State explicitly denounce President Trump’s role in this violent attack on the US government.” It is an unprecedented move on the part of American diplomats directly attacking the US President and asking for his removal.

The editorial titled “Trump’s Legacy”, published in the January 9, 2021 issue of The Economist (London) lamented: “His term is concluding with a sitting president urging a mob to march on Congress — and then praising it after it had resorted to violence. Be in no doubt that Mr Trump is the author of this lethal attack on the heart of American democracy.”

America should move on because of three main reasons, as follows:

First, the Biden-Kamala administration cannot afford to get bogged down in the vicious cycle of political polarisation triggered by Trump on January 6. The political death of Trump and Trumpism should be the goal of the Democratic Party, which is only possible when majority of the American people and a large segment of the Republican Party decide not to allow extremism and violence in any form. Sadly, during the last four years of the Trump administration, a mindset reflecting racism and xenophobia was not only patronised but also became a part of state policy. The failure of security personnel who were deployed to protect Capitol Hill to prevent violent Trump supporters reflects their compliance to the ideology of Trumpism. By punishing culprits and those responsible for the breach of Capitol Hill, America should move on.

Second, at stake is America’s economy which still stands strong along with its technological and military power because there cannot be any moment of joy for America’s opponents if the country is destroyed from inside. America’s pride in its innovation and seeking excellence in science, research and education will go down the drain if the Biden-Kamala administration is unable to deal with the roots of racism, extremism, violence and intolerance in American society. If the US is ridiculed all over the world for making a mockery of its democracy, such an impression can only be undone by not only prosecuting President Trump but also by revamping the law and order mechanism which should not provide any space to anyone who takes the law into his or her hands.

Third, America can move on by learning lessons from the years of hate, racism, xenophobia, intolerance and extremism and plan to eliminate the symbols of white supremacy which tends to not only divide but also destroy the American society. Before the forces of hate, retrogression and racism permeate deeper into American society and cause irreparable damage to the US, damage control measures should be taken by the incoming Biden administration with the support of saner elements in the Republican Party.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2021.

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