A New Low for America

President Donald Trump faced the threat of a second impeachment on Thursday, a day after his supporters breached the U.S. Capitol in a stunning assault on American democracy as Congress was certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. As Democratic leaders demanded his ouster, Trump came closer than he ever has to a formal concession, acknowledging a new administration would be sworn in on Jan. 20 and vowing to ensure a “smooth transition” in a video released on Thursday evening. The president condemned Wednesday’s violence, saying rioters had defiled the seat of American democracy and must be held accountable.
It was a new low in the history of America. News reports showed images of the mob streaming into the Capitol through broken windows and doors, ransacking offices, and waving Confederate flags. Initial police action seemed lacklustre (in comparison to scenes of muscular action against Black Lives Matter protests last year), but picked up later in the day. The Capitol was shut down for hours. Americans remained glued to television watching the chaos unfold. Many members of the mob, in costume, were taking selfies in the Capitol and putting on MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats on plaster busts of former legislative worthies. The incident has caused shock among world capitals, while the Chinese Communist Party has been handed an unexpected propaganda coup. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done well to quickly condemn the violence, stating that “democratic process cannot be subverted through unlawful protests”.
The US will find it hard to live down one of the darkest days in its political and constitutional history. The mob violence only showed the hard task of democratic restoration that lies ahead of the Joe Biden administration. It revealed the absence of either principle or spine in the Republican Party — which enabled Mr Trump’s rise and looked the other way for way too long. And it will substantially damage Washington’s position to speak on the democratic deficit in the rest of the globe, at a time when the world is confronted with the rise of belligerent non-democratic States. A source familiar with the situation said Trump in recent weeks had discussed the possibility of pardoning himself. The White House declined to comment. Constitutional scholars have said it is unclear whether the presidential pardon power can be used in that way. Trump faces potential state legal actions when he leaves office, including a criminal probe in New York, that would not be covered by a federal pardon.
The US has, for long, preached the values of democracy and accountability. It is time to put it in practice.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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