After anarchy in the US, reimagining the middle ground

Indians are not the only ones claiming gloating rights over the anarchist violence in America. From Turkey to Zimbabwe, this is the world’s schadenfreude moment — a sort of payback for the countless times America has lectured the world on democracy.

As Dr Faheem Younus, a Covid-19 expert, known for his people-friendly interventions, wryly tweeted, “This is why I had left Pakistan.”

What other, newer democracies find relatively easy — conducting an election, the counting of votes, the peaceful transition of power — seems to have befuddled the United States (US).

That said, once we are done making the barbs, the jokes and the asides — as well as the earned right to call out systemic hypocrisy and humbug — it might be instructive to look at the takeaways for the rest of us.

For starters, America may have flunked the easier questions in the democracy exam paper, but its institutions — judiciary, media, Congress — continued to push back and remain independent, when most needed. The US has been like the kid at school who couldn’t do basic math but was eccentrically brilliant at quantum physics or game theory.

You can argue, and correctly so, that the spate of Republicans who have so suddenly developed a distaste for Donald Trump enabled him and the mob violence at Capitol Hill to begin with. Absolutely. But they remained alive to the larger notion of an American nationhood and the values that spring from that idea. Equally, I cannot think of a single other country in the world, where Twitter and Facebook, however belatedly, would have been able to lock out the most powerful man in the country, even if he was on his way out.

But as Joe Biden gets ready to take office, ironically more empowered by this moment than otherwise, the real challenge before him is how he intends to be a president, also for the 71 million-plus citizens who voted for a hate-monger.

The rise of Right-wing populism globally has divided not just countries, but families. It has broken relationships and torn apart friendships. It has created social media discord and abuse, and led to unprecedented name-calling. Trump is gone, but as KC Singh, a veteran diplomat, told me, “Trumpism is alive.”

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