On Wednesday, what was once unimaginable happened on the streets of Washington DC. After having conclusively lost the presidential elections, Donald Trump — who has, baselessly, claimed the process was riddled with fraud and he was cheated out of a victory — incited a mob to march to the Capitol Hill. Mr Trump first tried to block the election certification process by telling his Vice President, Mike Pence, the presiding officer of the Senate, to block the results. When Mr Pence, rightly, did not do so, he resorted to egging his supporters on to do so through mob action. In the process, he disrespected the electoral mandate; undermined a fundamental tenet of democracy — the peaceful transfer of power; eroded America’s moral authority globally; indirectly caused outright violence; and showed why he never deserved to occupy the world’s most powerful office.
The US will find it hard to live down one of the darkest days in its political and constitutional history. The mob violence only showed the hard task of democratic restoration that lies ahead of the Joe Biden administration. It revealed the absence of either principle or spine in the Republican Party — which enabled Mr Trump’s rise and looked the other way for way too long. And it will substantially damage Washington’s position to speak on the democratic deficit in the rest of the globe, at a time when the world is confronted with the rise of belligerent non-democratic States.
But it is important, to safeguard domestic stability in the US and other democracies, to understand how Mr Trump could do what he did on Wednesday in the first place. A leader obsessed with building a personality cult, who has no hesitation in trampling over constitutional processes and institutions, and who has a strong streak of ethno-nationalism based on demonising minorities, can easily turn into an undemocratic and authoritarian figure. All those who dismissed Mr Trump as merely idiosyncratic rather than as a danger to democracy itself underestimated his destructive instincts. He must be held accountable, immediately — for leaving the country and the world with Mr Trump enjoying executive power for another two weeks till the inauguration is laced with risks. The US has, for long, preached the values of democracy and accountability. It is time to put it in practice.
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