Columnists

US democracy shows its resilience

US Capitol chaos

A Trump supporter screams at police and security forces as demonstrators storm the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. PHOTO | AFP

Summary

  • US has not been perfect on Statecraft around democratic values and principle.
  • Apart from public officers standing ground against President Trump’s intention to manipulate the results of the election, what happened at Capitol Hill on the contrary showed how resilient democractic values are in the US.

Is the US a banana republic after pro-Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill where the electoral college votes were being certified by Congress?

First, some history lessons would go a long way here. This is not the first time the US finds itself against radical groups. Coincidentally, or not, the rise of such radical groups, posing instability, has always happened when the US economy is in turbulence.

During World War I, popular vigilante groups took their cue from government and leaped into the battle. One of the horrendous incidents involved a man dragged out of a court, castrated and hanged by a mob.

Then there was the great Red Scare that posed the most serious instability threat to antebellum US. In 1917 the US economy was facing turbulent times and there were labour unrests, and also racial conflicts in cities. Then a wave of radical revolutionaries committing terrorist acts emerged. For example, Attorney General at the time Mitchell Palmer, and also a presidential hopeful for the 1919 elections faced an attempted bombing of his house.

The radicals were linked to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, that created tremendous fear throughout the capitalist world, with the intention of overthrowing the US government. The federal government ordered raids on suspected radical centres and 6,000 arrests were made. Some of those arrested were in custody for weeks and months without formal charges. Hundreds of foreigners were deported to Russia where they arrived speaking no Russian and knowing nothing about the country which was in a civil war at the time.

So, the US has not been perfect on Statecraft around democratic values and principle.

Apart from public officers standing ground against President Trump’s intention to manipulate the results of the election, what happened at Capitol Hill on the contrary showed how resilient democractic values are in the US.

In 1857, the US economy was left in a depression, but the depression hardly touched the South since the world demand for cotton was unabated. This led to rising antagonism between the North and South leaders that almost brought paralysis in the Federal government.

In 1860, Republicans won the election with their candidate Abraham Lincoln getting less than a majority of the popular votes but a solid majority in the electoral college. What followed was the South Carolina state legislature voting unanimously to secede from the Union. The rest of cotton-growing states in the South followed suit and they set up a new nation called the Confederate States of America and a provisional constitution was adopted to permanently replace the US constitution.

A Congressional committee was set to strike a last-minute compromise to save the Union, but the sticking point was about re-establishing a ban on slavery in territories in the North whilst protecting it in the South.

Abraham Lincoln couldn’t accept this proposition, and this led to a civil war. At the end of the war, more than 620,000 soldiers from both sides had been killed. Looking at the American population at the time, the estimation of that human cost would be more than five million soldiers.

So, when pro-Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill raising Confederate flags, it was the highest desecration of the Union. In Kenya, not even the scenario of secessionist MRC movement that was based in the Coast hoisting their flag at Parliament Buildings can provide the context of such desecration. With such dark history that the flag reminds Americans, I am not sure there is any other country that has the liberty to make such political statements.

As Barack Obama once said,“Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. What is amazing, is that despite all the conflict, our experiment in democracy has worked better than any form of government on earth.”