An American president once famously described America as a shining city on a hill. But in 2021, that description seems to have passed with time and circumstance.
More facts are coming out of all the videos and documentation coming out of the US Capitol siege. The insurrectionists prepared a noose, and plastic cuffs, and moved with apparent knowledge of specific congressional offices. “Hang, Mike Pence,” they shouted as they made their way inside the US Capitol building that fateful day. American journalists have since reported that the insurrectionists seemed to have aimed to capture and murder the vice president, and leaders and members of Congress.
When the US House of Representatives voted this week to impeach Donald Trump a second time for what was a nakedly fascist insurrection to tamper with American voters’ decision to repudiate him, many members of Congress admitted against it out of fear for their and their families’ lives.
The investigations have led to the arrest of dozens of fascist insurrectionists, in what the US attorneys and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said is a dragnet operation against a conspiracy to commit insurrection. But absent until now are arrests of the leaders of the conspiracy. No conspiracy could advance without leadership.
In a matter of days, Trump will be made to depart from the White House. But the US capital and all 50 state capitols are on high alert for protests planned by Trump’s supporters, with participation of those bearing arms and weapons. It seems Trump wants his supporters to unduly make Joe Biden look like a beleaguered leader whose inauguration would be met with protests that could easily spiral into violence across 50 states. Or maybe to goad Biden to respond with violence as well.
Come to think of it, the problems have been in plain sight for a long time. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, racists, bigots, misogynists, and right-wing religious fundamentalists have demonstrated openly and defended publicly by the US president.
The normalization of fascism under Trump has gotten too far that when the fascist forces attacked the US Capitol, law enforcers were not prepared mentally to push them back. Some members of law enforcement in fact are under investigation for letting them in and taking selfies with the insurrectionists.
American democracy’s institutions are still standing, but limping. The US House has impeached the outgoing president, but the US Senate has not taken action. Biden’s transition team is focused on the inauguration and on hitting the ground running, but it is silent how they will confront Trump’s fascism head-on.
The new president and the leaders of Congress would commit a serious mistake if they will give Trump any breathing space. It will only allow him to regroup and violently challenge any progressive governance steps Biden may take once he assumes office. To restore order and to thwart any future fascist acts, the US Senate has no other choice but to convict Trump, perpetually ban him from holding public office, and recommend the filing of civil and criminal charges against him and his co-conspirators.
Absent a forceful response to Trump’s fascism, they would constitute stumbling blocks and threats to Biden’s plans to address the coronavirus pandemic, and to undo Trump’s worst policies affecting immigrants, people of color, LGBTs, women, seniors, victims of crime, and working people.
Trump is not alone on the world stage. There are others like him who for the past few years substituted various shades of fascism for liberal democracy which they blamed — rightly or wrongly — for being unable or unwilling to deliver results for their people. For the likes of Trump, democracy is only good when they win, but not when they lose or when the people express their displeasure or disapproval.
There are reasons why American voters chose Trump in 2016, why tens of millions still voted for him in 2020, and why he has been able to conspire against American democracy in 2021. The same could also be said for his confreres around the world. The history of fascism teaches us that fascists take advantage of crisis situations and systemic inequities that, time has again proven, they could only inflame and make much worse.
For America, progressives and even some liberal democrats agree on those root causes of people’s desperation to attach themselves to the likes of Trump: systemic problems in immigration, health care, criminal justice, environment and climate, low wages, wealth and income inequality, super high military spending, dirty money in politics, disinformation, and its relationships with other countries, especially neocolonies and client-states.
America’s Trump experience has shown that the old ways cannot be adequate. Lest we forget, the same old ways rolled out the red carpet for Trump. America should seize the opportunity to be the greatest and most envied democracy by making democracy real and substantive to its own people, through bold, systemic changes beneficial to working people, people of color, immigrants, women, indigenous people, youth and LGBTs, while at the same time holding the criminals liable and arresting the power of oligarchy. Democracy and oligarchy cannot co-exist. Only when America boldly confronts its systemic problems can it deny fascism any base of support and basis for being, and also be a beacon of hope for people worldwide.