The storming of Capitol Hill by Trump’s supporters dealt a heavy blow to American democracy. Recovering from it will take longer than one presidential term.
The damage Donald Trump has done to American democracy is greater after the presidential election than before. The images of his supporters on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6 have nothing to do anymore with a representative democracy, but everything to do with a completely divided society that is no longer politically connected.
Trump’s insistence, without evidence, that the election was fraudulent has found deep roots among his supporters. President-elect Joe Biden’s support may be wider, but the current president’s support accounts for about half of the American people.
On Tuesday, the last two Senate seats were up for election in Georgia. The Democrats have won one seat, and possibly the second.* That would give them the upper hand in the Senate, which would have 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, and Kamala Harris will be able to cast the deciding vote as vice president.
On Wednesday, Congress in joint sessions of the House of Representatives and the Senate, met to certify the Nov. 3 election results. Trump decided to hold a rally at the same time, where he once again complained about an allegedly stolen election to his numerous supporters, sounding a signal to storm the Capitol.
And that is what happened. Debates came to a halt within the walls of Congress, postponing the official certification of Biden’s election.**
No matter how this turns out, it is a serious blow to American democracy. The whole system is now being questioned. Regardless of whether there is any reason or logic in this story, what remains above all is the sense that confidence in elections has been eroded in a nation that, for years, claimed to bring democracy to other countries.
It’s not just a dark day for the U.S. It is clear that the storming of the Capitol is going to have a major impact worldwide. Authoritarian leaders in China and Russia are laughing. The Western model of democratically constructed societies is suffering more than a heavy blow.
This is a nightmare for Biden. Not only because the transfer of power is ending in complete chaos, but mainly because he has to make the U.S. credible again. Just because he has a majority in Congress if the Democrats win in Georgia, that doesn’t mean he’ll have free rein.* Wednesday’s images will linger for a long time. Images where untouchable places of power suddenly turned into places of chaos and violence.
This is D-Day for American democracy. But “D” stands for doomsday. Recovering from this battle will take longer than one presidential term.
*Editor’s note: The second seat referred to by the author was officially won by Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff on Jan. 6.
**Editor’s note: Certification continued once the Capitol was cleared, and the Electoral College vote was certified early in the morning on Jan. 7.
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