WORLD / AMERICAS
US elites blame riot on Trump, fail to reflect on system flaws
‘Democracy perfect; problems by Trump; trouble-free soon’: expert mimics US politicians
Published: Jan 08, 2021 08:51 PM Updated: Jan 08, 2021 11:06 PM

Pro-Trump supporters storm the US Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images/VCG


After the unprecedented storming of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, the US has been busy dealing with the fallout. Cabinet members and other officials are resigning or breaking off from Trump, and the Democrats are thinking of impeaching President Trump a second time. 

Analysts described the Capitol riot as the worst political crisis since the Civil War which showed the US desperately needs major reforms. However, when US politicians and media are working to defend democracy from attacks from Trump’s supporters, few of them seem to respond directly to loopholes in the US democratic system.

Even as they reflect on the chaos at the US Capitol, they are less likely to hold Trump and his supporters accountable. The arrogant US elites would never allow an attack on their democracy even though its decline cannot be hidden anymore, observers said. 

One day after hundreds of his supporters stormed and vandalized the US Capitol in an effort to block Congress from certifying the presidential election results, Trump appeared in a video released by the White House on Thursday and condemned “the demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol.”

The president did not address his role in fomenting the unrest, and made vague claims that the 2020 presidential election was marred by fraud.

CNN and many US media interpreted Trump’s Thursday video as his “concession” after his defeat to Joe Biden, and cited Trump as saying that he vowed for a “smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

Despite condemning the violence, Trump’s role in inciting the Capitol riot pushed him into an isolated situation, analysts said. Throughout Wednesday evening and into Thursday, he faced resignations from senior staffers, and Democrats sought to file a new impeachment.

According to US media, members of the Trump administration who resigned included Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, former acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger. 

And a growing number of Republican leaders and Cabinet members were cited by CNN on Wednesday as saying that they were considering having Trump removed from office by impeachment or by invoking the 25th Amendment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday also called for the immediate removal of Trump, and Pelosi also threatened to start impeachment proceedings if Pence doesn’t invoke the 25th Amendment. 

Analysts predict that Trump is faced with three possibilities – being ousted, being impeached or leaving the White House “peacefully” after January 20.

There are less than 14 days left for the Trump administration, and the impeachment process may take longer, Sun Taiyi, an assistant professor of political science at Christopher Newport University, told the Global Times. 

If the House and the Senate start the impeachment process – the second time for Trump – the purpose is not only to drive him out of the White House but also to prevent him from running the 2024 presidential election, Sun noted. 

The Democrat-led House impeached Trump in December 2019 for pressuring the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden, but the Republican-held Senate acquitted him in February 2020. Only two other presidents in history have been impeached, and none has ever been impeached twice, Reuters reported. 

Sun told the Global Times that the most likely scenario may be Trump peacefully leaving the White House. “He will immediately turn his club Mar-a-Lago in Florida into ‘a White House of the South.’ He may also face lawsuits and even go to jail.”

Considering Trump’s current predicament in his last days in the White House, Chinese observers warned that Trump is more likely to sign more administrative orders to contain China as well as to cast hurdles for Biden administration.

Li Haidong, a professor at Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, said that either out of vanity or to show his “capability” or “toughness” to his supporters, Trump may take more measures to attack China. 

Whether he has enough men to implement the orders or whether they would be carried out is not what Trump cares about. “Trump does not care of whether these measures harm the interests of the US,” Li said, noting that sending UN Ambassador Kelly Kraft to Taiwan to provoke the mainland may not be the end, and “himself may suddenly appear on the island.” 

Yuan Zheng, Deputy Director and senior fellow of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Trump would continue to pressure China as it is a bipartisan strategy, and the legacy may set a tone for the Biden administration. 

A Capitol police officer stands with members of the National Guard behind a crowd control fence surrounding Capitol Hill a day after a pro-Trump mob broke into the US Capitol on Thursday in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP


 

Unfixed loopholes

Although US politicians and media described the Capitol chaos as “shameful” and they may learn from the lessons and take action to weaken Trumpism in Congress, few would conclude it has to do with the US democratic system, observers said. 

“The extraordinary events in Washington DC will mark a fundamental change in how the world sees the US… It is a symptom of the country's worst political crisis since the Civil War. One fears it is more a beginning than an end,” Martin Jacques, who is a visiting professor at the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University and a senior fellow at the China Institute of Fudan University, wrote in an article to the Global Times. 

Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, said the riots would be blamed on Trump and some of his supporters. 

“They would conclude that our democracy is perfect, problems have been brought by Trump and his supporters, and remove them, and everything would be restored in our great country,” Shen told the Global Times. 

He referred to the cover photo on the Times, which shows a few people or officers holding guns to safeguard one gate in the Capitol to protect politicians hiding inside. The caption reads: Democracy under attack.

“The photo shows that it is the elites’ democracy that is under attack,” and after attributing the fault to Trump and his supporters, these US elites would return to the democratic models they are familiar with and do nothing to change or remedy it, Shen said.

But the decline of US democracy and its problems have become too obvious for them to hide from the world’s view, observers said. 

“We always thought that US institutions are very resilient and even with a very bad president, the result would not be that bad due to the power balance. But the Capitol storming showed us US institutions heavily rely on informal institutions, which need all parties to abide by on peaceful power transition, and non-violent protests,” Sun said. 

US institutions can be divided as formal and informal ones, with the former including the Electoral College and have few new problems. But the latter has collapsed, Sun said. 

These informal institutions are hard to remedy and have been severely challenged, which means Americans have doubts about them and similar problems may reemerge, Sun said. 

Yuan pointed out that for the last 200 years, there have always been doubts about the Electoral College, and some have called for direct elections. The US needs to remedy loopholes in its institutions and gray areas that may leave room for Trumpism. 

However, the work is not easy as the US is now a deeply polarized country and has never solved the wealth gap, let alone rising populism and protectionism, he said. 

Jacques also wrote that “America will become unpredictable and unstable… The future will be constantly uncertain. America desperately needs major reforms… but these will be extraordinarily difficult to achieve. The implosion of America seems like a recipe not just for further American decline but a far more rapid decline in the future.”

The long-term influence of the Capitol riot remains unclear, but it showed the world that US democracy is far from mature and cannot be called “successful,” Li said. He noted that without fixing loopholes in its election system, there will be another Trumpist individual who will push the country to the abyss.

For a long time, the US has touted itself the model of democracy, but what happened in the Capitol is a blow to its international reputation and may take more than four years for Biden and others to fix, analysts said. 

The US also lost the moral high ground with countries it intends to interfere in. Any country that wanted to learn from the US would think twice. Even US allies may think twice, Li said.

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