Democracy in the United States, with its admirable centuries of history and the honor of having given birth to the greatest world power of the last century, experienced one of the darkest days in decades on Wednesday. Protesters in favor of Donald Trump – and encouraged by him – stormed the Capitol when the representatives of the national sovereignty held the certification session of the results of the presidential elections won by the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. It is the appalling result of years of systematic effort on the part of the national-populist magnate to foster polarization within American society. Years of painstaking work to douse the foundations of civil and serene coexistence with gasoline have set the most terrible fire in the very temple of democracy in the United States.
The session that was held shows the tear in the ranks of the Republican Party, surrendered to the excesses of the outgoing president in the last four years and who little by little tries to distance himself from the shadow of the populist leader. Republican Senate chief Mitch McConnell and US Vice President Mike Pence himself refused to endorse Trump’s attempts to short-circuit Biden’s inauguration after an electoral victory backed by scrutiny, recount and multiple court decisions. Some representatives of the once respectable party, however, continued to try to obstruct the post-electoral process at the dictates of the president. It was at that moment when the irruption occurred.
At the same time, the country was watching in suspense the scrutiny that was taking place in the State of Georgia to award two decisive seats in the Senate. The first had already fallen from the Democratic side and the second was on the same path due to minimal differences when the assault occurred. It was adjudicated about two hours later, setting the stage for a profound political change in the country that gives Democrats a majority in both Houses.
In this context of maximum political tension, Trump’s irresponsible attitude produced this new shameful climax, with severely undemocratic features. The questioning without any rational element of the electoral results and democratic institutions by the outgoing president himself has caused, as is now evident, a terrible wound in American society. We must not only think of the radicals who stormed the parliamentary chamber, but of the millions of citizens who, without going to such extremes, have lost faith in democracy because of the blatant lies of an unworthy president of the magistracy who won in the polls.
An arduous task of national reconstruction lies ahead. Joe Biden, from his experience and spirit, seems like a well-positioned figure to try. But the damage is enormous. In the task, the unity of all the Democrats in the United States is essential to isolate the virus that is harmful to democracy that Donald Trump embodies. First, it is up to the Republican Party to completely disconnect from that harmful figure and regain the nobility of much of its history. Civil society, as a whole, must also collaborate in this effort.
The lesson could not be clearer for the entire range of Western democracies. The price of polarization is very serious. It should not be underestimated.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.