The world watched with dismay on the night of January 7 as overzealous Donald Trump supporters, driven by fantasy and false hope, tried to stop a sitting Congress from certifying president elect Joe Biden’s legitimate election victory.
The barbaric and daring act by Trump’s aloof supporters came as a shock to the world; Third World countries and world leaders alike looked on in disbelief.
It will be disappointing of us if we look at Trump’s last days in office and his handling of his election loss in isolation. There has been a pattern to his behaviour, a pattern that has been consistent since his election campaign in 2016.
Trump has countless times proved that he does not have the composure of the office, the integrity of leadership and the calmness of responsibility that is expected of a sitting president.
He has been a lunatic since he availed himself for the US presidency. He bullied past Republican nominees in primaries, bulldozed through Hillary Clinton with putrid misogyny, sexism and poor presidential decorum never seen before.
He emerged as the president to the shock of the rest of the world. From there, America and the world at large have been on edge.
Trump, a despicable nationalist, is by far not the type of leader made for the US democratic system. His presidency was a shameful one term characterised by cultic politics – in which he stood as the alpha male supreme to all around him – narcissism; in which he wanted to be revered as America’s greatest leader, albeit with little or nothing to show for it – polarisation; and in which he actively sought to pit race against race and religion against religion.
His desperate nationalist policies that led to an unwanted trade confrontation with China and his awful foreign policy that led him to flirt with Russia, a permanent enemy of the US, as well as North Korea, which is heavily despised by the US for lack of rule of law and totalitarianism, add to his miserable record in office.
The American democracy is seen as close to the best there can be. The union does not hesitate to use this status as moral justification to police other countries into rule of law and democracy.
It has exercised this democratic superiority sometimes with positive outcomes but sometimes with tragedy.
Immediately when news began to flow that there had been an ugly disruption of congress business at Capitol Hill, adversaries and perennial antagonists of the US were quick to press the panic button.
They harvested the unfortunate event in the best possible way. The American democracy is not what we think it is nor what America says it is.
The US has no moral ground to interfere in the governing of other countries when it cannot convincingly deal with its own internal affairs.
Some even went as far as letting off a coup alarm. This was unnecessary.
The scenes at the Capitol were not far from events usually associated with perennially ugly transition of power in Third World countries.
However, the intrusion by the deeply illusioned Trump supporters, in as much as it was emergent, was not alarming.
The intention of the hooligans, assisted by their fertile imagination, was to coerce mainly Republican senators and Vice President Mike Pence into rejecting the Electoral College vote and putting a stop to president elect Biden’s assumption of power on the January 20.
Besides desperate, this was nearly impossible.
The superiority, reliability and strength of the US democratic system was affirmed by the smooth ineffectiveness of the mayhem that occurred on the night of January 7.
How the situation was handled and neutralised speaks of a competent and unbreakable democracy.
In the midst of the tension, there wasn’t a single loose partisan statement from the army or any of the security service; in fact the defence secretary publicly said he supported the smooth transition of power.
There wasn’t a single inflammatory solidarity statement from the Republican Party; in fact some of the party’s leaders have strongly suggested that the president be stripped of his powers immediately, because he cannot be trusted with the country for another day. There wasn’t a single controversial statement from the judiciary regarding the transition of power.
This reassures everyone of the independence of the American democracy in the midst of a political squabble. The independence of the system is a crucial test of democracy.
Trump has lost cases on allegations of baseless and unfounded electoral fraud, which were presided over by judges he nominated to office. Had the American democratic institutions been weak, surely these judges would have preferred gratitude over law when presiding over these cases.
Trump did manage to get a considerable number of people to toy for his last attempt to hold on to office; surely for a country of 331 million, a billionaire, sitting president and party leader cannot fail to gather 50 000 people for a pointless crusade.
Be that as it may, the thousands of people who gathered in Washington, DC, were not by any measure a threat to the stability of America.
It may be that 74 million people voted for Trump in his ill-fated pursuit for a second term, but it is a simple argument that he was a mistake.
It is no secret that, on the January 20 when Trump leaves the White House, America will be concluding four years of uncertainty, division and polarisation.
How the American system kept intact under the authority of a conceited bully speaks volumes of a system unbreakable.
As great states always do, America will rise from the dark years and emerge a modest and refined democracy, up to date with the times.
Mutema is an economist and political analyst