THE SIEGE ON AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

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Ademola Abass writes that the attack on Capitol Hill will go down as one of the darkest days in US history

The almost unprecedented siege, laid by Trump supporters to the Capitol in Washington DC on Wednesday 6 January 2021 would go down in history as one of the darkest days in the US history. Not only is the Capitol the seat of the American Congress, it is the seat of the US president, the cradle of American democracy from where that monstrously powerful country lectures the rest of the world about the ideals of democracy. The only other time the Capitol was invaded was on August 24, 1814 by Great Britain.

January 6 of any year following the holding of presidential elections in America is set aside by the US Constitution for the two houses of Congress to jointly certify the already state-certified elections. It is not a day for the Congress to audit ballots cast, much less to reject any, but a day in which the Congress, led by the Senate President fulfils a perfunctory function of reckoning the electoral college votes returned by the 538 State electors, and certify the winners of the presidential election. January 6 is the last ritual in the democratic rites de passage in the ridiculously convoluted American presidential elections process.

Many world leaders have condemned the attack, laying the responsibility for the ignominy on President Trump, except Israel and France, whose leaders avoided naming Trump in their adumbration. As Emmanuel Macron of France said, “What happened today in Washington, DC is not America”, a sentiment shared by former president George Bush who likened the attack to one usually witnessed in the Banana republic.

No doubt the specter of thugs ramming the Capitol in the world’s leading democracy is uncommon, but to parse the entire event of ‘Jan 6 event’ as not America is a pander to the farcical and a blistering hogwash. Except if by ‘America’ it means the America that people like are Bush always wont to see when, in fact, a far uglier America is always on the prowl.

The America that the world saw on 6 January 2021 is the America that black Americans have grown accustomed to in humph and sigh: An America where justice is served on two differently plates in that famous land of freedom; an America in which blacks are routinely killed, demonized, and comprehensively dehumanized, often by the very institutions sworn to protect them: The America in which thousands of National Guards beat and fired rubber bullets at peaceful groups in Washington just so that the President Trump could pose for a photo shoot in front of a church. It is an America where white domestic terrorists, armed with automatic rifles and motolov cocktails, who drove federal legislators literally to the ground, were met with timid and vacuous police officers, some of whom took selfies with the thugs and opened the doors of the Capitol to murderous insurrectionists.

Yet, it is this sort of rarification (madness is elsewhere!) of the banality of evil that black Americans have endured for decades that make it all permissible for monsters and demagogues to perpetrate the sort of carnage and orgy of violence that has gripped America in the last four years. What happened on the Capitol on 6 January was not just about goons attacking the house of parliament: it goes far beyond that. It is about how a system responds to crimes committed by various shades of its population, how politicians perceive their duty towards all citizens, and about how justice, which is supposed to be blind, is served in America.

Two days after Black Lives Matter protested in Washington in June 2020, the then Attorney General, William Barr, and the FBI director, Christopher Wray, responded swiftly with press statements they read to vast media coverage, naming Antifar as responsible. Neither of these leaders, nor their successors, have done anything of such since the event of January 6 despite that the names of the far right organizations are in blatant display on the insurrection day. The now resigned Capitol police chief primarily responsible for the city’s safety, Steven Sund claimed that his many requests to call in the national guards into the Capitol were initially rebuffed by his superiors, contradicting the latter’s claim that no one had made any requests for national guards. Had the Jan 6 invaders been blacks or Muslims such claims would only concern who authorized the use of deadly force.

Even the reckoning of Trump’s comeuppance has been no less divisive and hypocritical. For many Republicans, a mere slap on the wrist is enough a punishment for America’s most dangerous president!

Writ large, there is little possibility in a Pence-driven Cabinet mounting an effective 25th Amendment against Trump before 20 January, not just because some key Cabinet members who could be counted on had left the government, but because Pence has no appetite to move against his mercurial benefactor. Impeachment is attractive but equally fraught with myriad challenges. Reps might be able to impeach Trump easily, (counting on the simple majority rule and votes of disgusted GOP reps), awarding Trump the inimitable prize of the first American president to be impeached twice, but Mitch McConnell would be expected to run out the time in the Senate.

The other option open to the Dems is to impeach Trump and then wait until after 20 January when the Schumer Senate may be able to then hold a trial to hopefully banish Trump from ever holding public offices again. This prospect may align certain GOP Senators with Dems. It is in the best interest of Senators Graham, Toomey, Murkowski, Sasse and Romney and many more daubed RINO (Republican in Name Only) or outright nooseable traitors, to ensure that they do everything to cripple Trump’s ability to ever run for US presidency again. Only then could they hope for respite. Not supporting Dems in this strategy will win these senators neither appeasement of Trump followers nor mercy from their vengeful godfather. For senators Cruz and Hawley their fate is much simpler: they either fall under the 14th Amendment before 20 Jan, otherwise their singular prayer will be that all Democratic weapons fashioned against Trump’s future political ambition shall not prosper.

Whatever permutation play out in the last days of the Trump’s combustible presidency, it is hypocritical to regard the episode as entirely Un-American. Just as it is disingenuous to confuse the infeasibility of constitutionally holding Trump accountable for the insurrection with its needlessness. These are two different things. Holding Trump accountable for inciting an insurrection against American democracy is a sacred constitutional duty that must be performed. That duty inheres in the very nature of democracy. The executive levelled an insurrection against the legislature. Nothing is more violative of the most formidable gatekeeper of democracy: the principle of separation of powers amongst the three arms of government.

America democracy has never been tested to the extent it has been in these last four years. One can only hope that, like a boxing match, it is only knocked down, not out, and it will surely rise again before the referee’s counting runs out.

Professor Abass wrote from Lagos