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#BTEditorial – An attempt to trump democracy

by Barbados Today Traffic
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When the United States presidential election occurred on November 3, 2020, and we later learned that Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris had prevailed over incumbent Donald Trump, the euphoria erupted.

There was a collective sigh of relief. For the global political arena had been hijacked and we dare say, altered to such an extent that it was extremely difficult to predict that the hallowed American democratic system could withstand the trauma.

There were real fears that democracy, as we know it, and of which the United States of America was held as the gold standard, was beginning to unravel before our eyes.

The events that followed on January 6, 2021, at the United States Capitol came as no surprise to those who had been following the mouthing of Donald Trump. He had been saying quite openly what he was planning.

He rejected the will of the people and was prepared to do anything to remain in power, even if it shook the foundation of the American republic.

As we Barbadians would say, a blind man on a trotting horse riding backwards, could have predicted that violence was inevitable, as the reality television star cum president, had fed his ardent followers an unending diet of divisive lies and hate.

And so, we witnessed on live television, thousands of marauding supporters refusing to accept that the majority of Americans had turned their backs on Trump and what he represented.

What has occurred since the January 6 attack, is a parade of republican congressman and women, senators, state representatives who have become supine and have sacrificed principles at the altar of political expediency.

The Trump presidency has been dangerous for a number of reasons because it has created a playbook for others who find his tactics useful in the political system of countries where there are very few of the checks and balances that we thought existed in the United States.

With another important string of imminent elections coming in the US next year, one is left to wonder just how much damage is being done by Republicans as they seek to undermine the integrity of next year’s election.

Moreover, Americans who believe in the rule of law, and that truth matters, no matter how much a lie is repeated, must do all in their power to remove the stumbling blocks put in the way of those who want to exercise their right to vote.

Biden, the oldest man to be elected United States president, took control at a pivotal time during a deadly pandemic. He has his hands full trying to moderate the competing interests in his own Democratic Party.

However, one would expect that despite this, he would assign a team to tackle what is evolving into another sinister attempt to fix the 2022 election.

We suspect that Biden, an old institutionalist, may still have his head in the sand believing that the great American democracy he knew, will withstand the calculated attempts by the other political party to win by fair or foul means.

It is the deep concern that Trumpism, which is characterised by lies, fear-mongering, intimidation, hate, ostracism, and the need to worship the leader, could be mimicked by other politicians around the world as a viable way to remain in power.

Writer Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institute penned a compelling piece in July. She wrote: “Successful democratic systems are not designed for governments composed of ethical men and women who are only interested in the public good.

“If leaders were always virtuous there would be no need for checks and balances. The Founding Fathers understood this. They designed a system to protect minority points of view and to protect us from leaders inclined to lie, cheat and steal.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had many of those in our 200-plus years of history, which is why the Trump presidency sent such shock waves through a large part of the body politic.”

And a section of the article that should be offered as compelling reading, Kamarck adds: “The United States government is based on the rule of law, not the rule of men. Nowhere is that more evident than in the behaviour of the career civil service or the permanent government. In dictatorships, there is no such thing as a “career” civil service—only loyalists who act on dictates from the man, not the law.

“Early on, Trump found out that he could not prevent the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate his relations with Russia. Where the law allowed for discretion and where career government officials could legally implement a presidential order—as in the disastrous separation of children at the border—the career civil servants acted as Trump wished. But where the law was clear Trump could not force his will on the bureaucracy.”

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