Racism and Capitol hill attack: Is there a link?
Donald Trump elected in 2016 and shown the door in 2020. Between those two timelines, America witnessed his eccentric governing methods. He was probably one of its kind government heads who used Twitter to announce his administrative decisions to his cabinet and the world. As one cabinet member in his government remarked, we would know about his decision through his tweets.
He is mercurial. But one aspect of his personality has remained constant-all these four years- his divisive tendency. In every country, certain fault lines exist in society. For example, caste has been the fault line for India. Leaders either try to hold or even fix these cracks or split it wider. Donald Trump did the latter. Whether it was on the racial lines or attacking the immigrants, he used these fault lines for his electoral agenda.
What happened in the U.S is a blot on democracy. Globally, authoritarian leaders could be content that Capitol hill kind attack never happened under their regime- at least not in the near past. It is easy to blame democracy here. But that is anything but true.
I love dissent and dissent is what makes democracy what it is. No system is perfect, but you want to be as close to perfect, and that’s why democracy exists. I always have admired U.S democracy for it has provided people with the opportunity to freely dissent. And I have quoted the U.S as an example of how an imperfect democracy functions in many of my talks with my friends. The Black Lives Matter protests united the U.S even though the president was not one of the active espousers of Black Lives Matter. I agree it had its fallouts; the protesters resorted to violence, but the protest was successful as demonstrated by the 2020 U.S election result. I am not saying Trump lost because of this reason, but it did ruin his re-election chances.
Pan globe politicians play on people living on the margins. Leaders are reluctant to uplift people living on margins and join the mainstream as they want to exploit their marginalized status for their political agenda. Leaders wear a mask assuring marginalized people they would do everything they can to improve their lives, but deep inside they never want them to move up the social, economic ladder.
But capitol hill attack was not perpetrated by a bunch of low-class people. Many respectable people-CEOs, state legislators, business owners, police officers, active and retired service members- participated in the attack. What propelled them to join the attack?
The immediate cause for the attack is the president inciting his supporters in the January 6 rally, held at D.C., to march on to capitol hill. Even before the rally, he had been urging his supporters to protest the election results through his tweets. One of his tweets read “Big protest in D.C. on January 6. Be there will be wild.”
The president loves his supporters going wild. He called his rioting supporters as “very special people.” Perhaps, for him, the sight of rioting protesters gave a boost to his ego, made him feel great as his words caused mayhem in the seat of American democracy. He may not have been personally present in the crowd that ran amok in the capitol hill, but he orchestrated a situation where the supporters were able to carry out such an attack.
But why did respectable people join the attack? They knew what the president wanted to achieve and certainly not ignorant, which is the case, with people living on the margins. A part of the answer lies in the birth of America- circumstances that led to its foundation.
American history is peppered with instances where respectable people have participated in political violence. The thought that political violence has its roots in economic deprivation may seem acceptable, but nothing can be further from the truth. As the Atlantic article put it, “The belief that only impoverished people engage in political violence — particularly right-wing political violence — is a misconception often cultivated by the very elites who benefit from that violence.”
The American constitution accepted slavery, and the founding fathers limited the participation in democracy to property-owning white men. As democracy evolved, it abolished slavery and broadened to grant voting rights to people from different races. The enactment of Voting Rights Act, 1965 granted everyone in America the right to vote, at least on paper.
Trump supporters despise the fact that democracy in America, as it is today, is different from what the founding fathers of the U.S. envisioned: inclusion of blacks as electorates. Many Trump supporters have demanded votes from the black majority constituencies must be left out. As Trump put it, “Detroit and Philadelphia — known as two of the most corrupt political places anywhere in our country, easily — cannot be responsible for engineering the outcome of a presidential race.” The respectable people believed they had been unjustly kept away from their right to rule, and therefore the capitol hill attack.
Trump was not an overnight phenomenon. Two terms for a first black president brought out the insecurity of Trump’s core supporters-inherit racial benefits. And that’s why Trump happened- at least one factor why Trump won 2016.
Winning was the easy part, but how the new administration goes about governing the U.S.; the U.S. that has never been this polarized before will be the biggest challenge.