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January 6 and American Democracy 
Supporters of President Donald Trump and far-right demonstrators storm the Capitol building in Washington, DC, during a joint session of Congress, to protest Trump's election loss, on Jan. 6, 2021. (Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

January 6 and American Democracy 

Al-Arab, London, January 9

Over the course of nearly two-and-a-half centuries of existence, American institutions haven’t witnessed anything like the events that transpired on Capitol Hill last week, when supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed Congress. Undoubtedly, the image and reputation of the United States were shaken. However, the traumatic event also revealed the resilience of US democratic institutions. Despite the blow to America’s reputation, Congress was able to resume its meeting and approve the results of the election. Moving forward, it seems clear that the events of January 6 will have significant repercussions on the entire American political scene, as well as on internal divisions in American society. The American people will not easily forget this shameful day. As soon as he enters office in just a few short weeks, Joe Biden will have to assume the difficult role of beginning to heal these wounds, unifying the American people, and returning the US to a position of global leadership. The violent attack on the Capitol sparked global outcry, most notably from French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who criticized Trump’s actions and called upon him to respect the peaceful transition of power. Perhaps one of the most striking reactions came from Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian Federation, who declared that following the January 6 events, the US lost “any right or legitimacy to teach other countries any lessons in democracy.” It is evident that the violent attack on the US Congress led by far-right militias and white nationalists, as well as the efforts of some members of Congress to revoke the election results, would not have happened had it not been for President Trump’s refusal to concede the election. Trump broke the long-standing tradition of the peaceful transition of presidential power, which has been the hallmark of American democracy for over two centuries. Indeed, Trump missed his last chance to prove that he is a responsible statesman, taking advantage of the situation by admitting his loss in the election despite his reservations. Observers of American politics suggest that many of the seventy million or more Americans who voted for Trump did not do so because they like Trump as a person, but because they felt that he supported policies or cultural positions that were more in line with their values than those of the Democrats. It seemed that ordinary Republicans were willing to overlook Trump’s persona because they believed he would carry out their agenda. Now, after what happened at the Capitol, the Republican Party will have to do some serious soul-searching and restore the public’s faith in its members. However, this effort will be insufficient without significant political reforms designed to overhaul the American political system, including by changing the two-party system, reforming the Electoral College, and mending the rifts in American society. If President Biden and his team are unable to respond to this challenge, the fragility and model of American democracy will be further undermined, and the new administration’s ambition to promote liberal democratic ideas around the world will fail. The US can no longer serve as a role model for other nations to emulate, especially if its own institutions succumb to dysfunction, division and anarchy. – Khattar Abu Diab (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)


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