Assault on Democracy and America’s Response
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(17 December 2021)—Whether planned as an insurrection, a terrorist attack on the U.S. Congress, a conspiracy to engage in a coup to overturn a legitimate election, the unprecedented January 6, 2021, events were an assault on democracy. Not just on American democracy but on global democracy. The lame-duck American president Donald Trump and his sycophants needed no Russian autocrat to help them. The Russians could not have planned for a more destructive outcome. Had Trump succeeded, President Joseph Biden, Jr., and Vice President Kamala Harris would have been relegated to the footnotes of American political history, rather than now headlining American and global leadership.
Most importantly, democracy, as we know it, would have received a fatal blow. American democracy, often referred to as the beacon on the hill, historically lit the way for billions of people around the world in their quest for the freedoms promised and are possible only in a democratic form of government. Those of us who are advocates of democracy were spared an ignominiously historic outcome – a world dominated by dictators, despotic regimes, autocrats, governments mired in corruption with impunity, and governments violating basic human rights at will.
American democracy, despite its many faults and historical missteps, has evolved, and has the resilience to survive this attack on its institutions and the rule of law. These American traditions are slowly on the way to recovery. Many democracies, mostly nascent in their development, do not have strong and proven democratic institutions, and are often characterized by weak rule of law traditions. They are wracked by unchecked corrupt practices, and, in some cases, teetering on the edge of autocracy.
These realities should be of concern for all of us. For these and a host of geopolitical reasons, of the193 UN Member States,110 were invited to participate in President Biden’s Democracy Summit, in December 2021. Some 83 of the world’s sovereign countries not meeting this tenuous democracy threshold were not welcomed to participate in the Summit. This was an important beginning of a long-term project to strengthen democracies around the world, and to isolate and pressure autocratic regimes which found favor during Trump’s presidency.
Trump’s Corruption of American Politics in Perspective
Let me put the January 1, 2021, attack on the US Capitol in perspective. The attempted insurrection, the attempted political coup, planned and executed on the basis of Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” of a fraudulent 2020 presidential election, failed because enough Americans believed in democracy and the rule of law. Decent American political leaders, almost exclusively members of the Democratic Party, refused to surrender their ideals. But it never should have reached such a tipping point and possible disastrous outcome.
This erosion of American democracy and the rule of law did not just happen with the events of January 6, 2021. The many signs foretelling the direction in which Trump would take America were quite revealing from the day he entered the presidential race in 2015. Most, particularly mainstream media, ignored the warnings, not wanting to contemplate the worst possible outcome of a free and fair election under a democratic system of government. It has been quite an awakening! But some are still asleep!
Throughout his campaign, Trump’s populist rhetoric played on the least common denominator of many misguided Americans whose convictions were grounded in real or imagined perceptions that the US government and its institutions were the enemy. Intelligence reports have confirmed that Trump received help from Russian operatives with the imprimatur and support of Vladimir Putin who epitomizes every known principle of autocracy. It is beyond reasonable doubt, without Putin’s help, taking advantage of gullible, as well as unsuspecting Americans, Trump would not have been elected president of the United States. Elected with a minority of the popular votes made possible under an anachronistic electoral votes system, Trump governed by the standards he espoused during the campaign.
Trump was not held accountable for his egregiousness. He twice escaped impeachment and removal from office, as well as a lifetime ban on holding political office, with the help of a combination of weak, racist, bigoted, and power-hungry Republican Senators led by Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell. Then came the 2020 elections with Trump as leader of these Republican lemmings – lemmings aptly described by Pulitzer Prize science journalist Natalie Angier as “the locusts of mammals”.
Not surprisingly, Trump falsely sold his followers on the false narrative of the “Big Lie” that if he lost the 2020 presidential election it would be because of massive voter fraud in favor of Biden. It became the mantra of the Republican Party. He knew, the Republican Party he led, and the vast majority of his MAGA supporters knew that he would be rejected by the majority of American voters. They were prepared.
Much has been written and said about the actions of Trump and his supporters to subvert the will of the majority of American voters, to overthrow the legitimate results and steal the election. Trump’s egregious actions leading up to and including January 6, 2021, are well documented. A plethora of frivolous lawsuits alleging election fraud were soundly rejected by the judicial branch of the US government, including the US Supreme Court – the highest court in the land. Trump’s conspiracy to overthrow American democracy culminated in his “Stop the Vote” rally on the Ellipse next to the White House, serving as the primary precursor for the assault on the Capitol, the home of the US Congress and symbol of its democratic ideals. It almost worked.
Rescuing Democracy from a Disastrous Brink
The Democratic Party with its legitimately elected leaders – President Biden and Vice President Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and her team, including a democratic caucus holding on desperately to a narrow House majority, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer with the support of a bevy of strong Democratic Party senators and an even slimmer margin – are determined to right the wrongs of Trump and his Republican supporters.
Democratic Party leaders’ determination to restore democracy and rule of law in America is on tract but it will not be easy. In doing so, they must hold Trump, his enablers, and his co-conspirators accountable. Success in this undertaking will inure to the benefit not only of Americans, but of billions of the world’s peoples who believe and aspire to the freedoms guaranteed by democracy, the rule of law, and who hold sacrosanct the protection from human rights abuses.
It will take decent, well-meaning members of American society and millions more around the world to join in these efforts and ensure that our leaders in the countries of our nationalities climb onboard the democracy train for restoration and strengthening of universal democratic norms to be assured.
© 2021 Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post