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USA democracy under the spotlight

18 Jan 2021 at 05:58hrs | Views
The year has started on a bad note with the COVID-19 pandemic taking lives, causing sickness, destroying livelihoods and depriving people of freedoms. It is like starting a new a day under a thick dark cloud. For the wise, there are lessons to be learned about leadership, governance and State management.

Talking about leadership and governance, ugly scenes have been unfolding in the United States of America ahead of Mr Joe Biden, the President-elect's inauguration. The incumbent, Mr Donald Trump has been raising allegations of vote rigging long before the elections started. He continued making the same allegations throughout the election season up until January 6 when a mob of his alleged supporters stormed the United States Capitol building where Congress was sitting to certify the Presidential results.

On the surface, the storming of the Capitol building was caused by opposition to the results of the 2020 United States presidential election and Mr Trump's and his allies' false claims of 2020 presidential election fraud.

The objectives of the insurrection was to disrupt, delay, and change the Electoral College vote count in Trump's favour, to capture and destroy the certificates of ascertainment of the Electoral College votes, to pressure Congress and Vice-President Mike Pence to overturn the election of former Vice-President Joe Biden, and to ransack, vandalise, and overrun the Capitol building.

The plan was perfectly executed and deaths, injuries and destruction of property were reported.

Events at the Capitol building have been described in several ways from treason, insurrection, sedition, domestic terrorism, assault, and an attempt by Mr Trump to carry out a self-coup or coup detat.

These are not words associated with the US. And of course, there were several comparisons with African dictators and their refusal to leave office. The House of Representatives moved in quickly to impeach Mr Trump for inciting insurrection, making him the only President in the history of the USA to be impeached twice.

The question that continues to linger since these events unfolded is where does the insurrection at Capitol building leave American democracy.

This question arises from different angles. Mainstream international media has focused on one side of the story — how bad and dangerous Mr Trump is as President of the most powerful country on earth.

It is as if this was breaking news and yet Mr Trump's trail prior to his presidential bid is littered with all manner of unorthodox behaviour. Even in his four years as President, he has demonstrated reluctance to behave presidential.

The real story to some of us is Trump supporters' voices which are being muzzled by the media and yet they carry the frustrations which, I think, are the real issues of concern. They are not a negligible number, nearly 75 million people voted for Mr Trump — that is 47% of the voters. Even if their views may not sit well with mainstream and modern-day thinking, they too must be allowed to exercise their right to express themselves.

Democracy is about that — allowing and enabling differences to prevail and finding common ground amid those differences. It is when their voices are heard that events such as the Capitol insurrection can be avoided, dialogue can be initiated and solutions sought. It is clear that their real issue is not Mr Trump's defeat.

He was just the face they needed to put across their frustrations. Denying them a voice does not necessarily silence them. Events of January 6 demonstrated that there is an available channel for major and destructive protests and showed just how easy it is to tear a country apart when one group feels sidelined.

This is what happens when issues are not addressed and when people feel they are not listened to. It is clear that these are white supremacist raising concern over fears that political and economic power are drifting away from them and they are losing control and opportunities that come with superiority.

What was witnessed at Capitol building is an expression of their belief which favours the maintenance and defence of white power and privilege. It is not about elections or Mr Trump. It is about regaining control. Perhaps, this is an opportunity for the USA to reflect, reform its political system and to address the underlying issues.

Race and control of resources are fast becoming a trigger to waves of violence manifesting in different forms.

Instead of resolving these issues, the two major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are feeding from the racial differences treating them like mere demographics. These are huge pressure points which need to be deflated by dialogue because ignoring them won't make them go away.

It was just in June last year that racial unrests, driven by the black lives matter movement threatened to tear the country apart with waves of civil unrest, comprising protests and riots, against systemic racism towards black people, notably in the form of police brutality.

The recent insurrection at Capitol building shows how the USA is deeply divided raising fears of the possibility of a major political eruption along racial lines.

Thwarting the voices of the both the white supremacists and black lives matters is neither a solution nor democratic and will not wish them and their views away just like that.

The USA as a nation needs to initiate internal dialogue with itself. Otherwise leaving those social and political fissures unpatched, in the interest of keeping the country together, is likely going to be the major breaking point for the world's largest democracy.

Source - newsday
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