A Madness without Method
By TP Sreenivasan
The US has survived its worst challenge by continuing the democratic process without being overwhelmed by the machinations of an individual.
Nothing unexpected happened on Capitol Hill on January 6th, 2021. President Trump had outlined his choreography and followed it in letter and spirit. There had never been such a transparent insurrection aimed at getting an election nullified. Trump had said that he would try to block the election results at every stage by every means available to him, including violence. He had asked his boys to stand by till they got a signal. When all efforts failed till the matter came to the joint session of the Congress, the only option to him to ensure his pledge was to disrupt the Congress session. And that is what he asked his boys to do, unleashing a bunch of infuriated supporters into the hallowed Congress hall. It was madness without method to stop the proceedings by shooting key leaders, if necessary. The assessment of the president made by a team of 35 psychiatrists and mental health experts in the New York Times bestseller The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump proved right.
For weeks, shops in New York and Washington had remained boarded up like in the case of an impending storm and many people had left the two cities, fearing violence. The only surprise was that the law enforcement authorities were not as prepared as the attackers were. They appeared taken by surprise or letting them in deliberately to obey the president’s orders. The enquiries to follow will establish the facts and many heads will roll, as it has happened to the police chief. Happily, a bloodbath was averted and the lawmakers were moved to safety. The entire responsibility for the event should rest on the shoulders of the president in office.
The hero of the night of January 6th was Vice President Mike Pence. It was known that Trump had tried to persuade Pence to cooperate. The plan was for the vice president to cancel the session and walk out on account of the situation. Pence stood his ground on his constitutional responsibility and stayed up till the wee hours of the morning to complete the confirmation process. What put a stop to Trump’s misadventure was not action by Democrats or the president-elect, but by Trump’s own deputy for four years.
In fact, Pence was not the only patriotic American who kept the US going during the four years of the American journey under Trump. An anonymous article appeared in the New York Times on September 5th, 2018, entitled ‘I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration’. The writer, who later revealed his identity as Miles Tyler, the chief of staff of the Department of Human Security, wrote: ‘The dilemma—which he does not fully grasp—is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them…. we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have to do what we can do to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.’
The cumulative impact of the events was that Trump himself realised how foolish he was to have unleashed his minions into the citadel of democracy and quickly condemned the attack and pledged a peaceful transition. But it was too little too late. In the ten days that remain for President Trump, avenues are being explored to remove him either through the 25th Amendment or through the impeachment process. Pence will not be game for the 25th Amendment and time is not enough for impeachment. Trump will be more than happy if he is given a general pardon to escape imprisonment and this must be on the cards in the remaining days. Nobody needs to worry about Trump pressing the nuclear button as no president can operate it without crossing many human and technological barriers. We can expect the dark days of political history to end so that Biden can deal with the pandemic in right earnest.
Nothing has happened to American democracy. As expected, the US has survived its worst challenge by continuing the democratic process without being overwhelmed by the machinations of an individual. If anything, 2021 will be remembered as the year of liberation from an evil empire, though it struck back with fire and fury.
India unnecessarily walked into the quagmire of January 6th, 2021 by worrying over the appearance of some Indian flags in the hands of the Indian supporters of Trump. Political parties who believed that they had a special relationship with Trump and encouraged their supporters to vote for Trump, suddenly felt ashamed that such a thing had happened. First of all, all kinds of flags are used in the US as a sort of identification of the people involved. The Indians who carried the Indian flag wanted to signal that the Indian community also had supporters of Trump. The crocodile tears shed over the incidents made no difference to India or the Indians. Indians in the US are not sensitive enough to understand our flag code or the respect we give to the Indian Tricolour.
After a long journey of four years of America First and anti-globalist policies, marked by some limited successes domestically and no American soldiers sent out and brought back in body bags, a new era is about to dawn in the US. Hopefully, the Biden-Harris vaccine will bring the pandemic and pandemonium to a close.
The author is a former diplomat and can be reached at [email protected]