A year ago (6 January 2021), the World watched in disbelief the unravelling of democracy in America, which often prided itself as the “greatest or Mother” of modern democracy.
After the presidential, governorship and legislative elections of 3rd November 2020, the then outgoing Republican President Donald Trump and his supporters were in conspiratorial campaign overdrive to undermine the result of the presidential vote, when it became clear that he had lost the contest to his Democratic rival Senator Joe Biden.
When it seemed that his lies could not stick, Trump whipped up sentiments from his political base, and assembled an array of attorneys to mount legal challenges to the poll results in several American States. But more than 60 separate suits by his legal teams all fell apart including at the Supreme Court.
Also carpeted for his denial, mismanagement and lies about Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit America the most with more than 831,000 deaths and counting, Trump literally went for broke. He fired his supporters at a campaign speech that saw them march on the Capitol Hill, the American Congress building in what has been variously described as an armed insurrection, a democratic coup and an unprecedented assault on American democracy.
At the last count some 10 people, including four police officers who committed suicide died, with more than 150 others injured in that mob attack.
It was the same day that the Congress was to certify results of the 3rd November elections, which gave Biden victory with more than 80 votes against Trumps 70 million.
The Trump supporters came prepared, some armed with baseball bats and various weapons, to lay siege on Congress, attacking police officers, shattering glass windows and desecrating the hallowed Chambers with American lawmakers scampering and hiding from the violent mob.
Some of the rioters mounted a nose threatening to hang Vice President Mike Pence, a staunch Trump supporter and fellow Republican, who by the American constitution had the responsibility to preside over Congress for the Electoral College vote on that day.
Thanks to what is now known as the resilience of America’s democratic institutions and particularly, the principled and patriotic stance of Mike Pence to allow the certification of Biden’s victory and the defeat of Trump, American democracy was on the verge of total collapse.
At the last count, more than 700 people have been charged or are facing prosecution over that invasion of the Capitol Hill.
However, the trauma persists, with America deeply divided amid resignations and early retirements of personnel from the national police force.
In his speech to mark the anniversary of the armed insurrection Thursday, President Bin blamed Trump for the incident. Without calling Trump by name, and only referring to him more than 16 times as “a former President and former defeated President,” Biden accused him of “spreading a web of lies… lies conceived and spread for power and profit.”
He said American democracy was “attacked one year ago by an armed insurrection that tried to subvert the constitution.”
“The former president attempted to sell lies for his own ego and personal benefit,” Biden said, and pledged to work on bipartisan basis with those who “believe in the rule of law and not the rule of a single man.”
This a reference to the fact that a large number of Republicans after expressing outrage at the January 6 event, have since lined up behind Trump.
“The way forward is to recognise the truth and to live by it,” Biden affirmed, denouncing those Trump supporters who “want to rewrite history through lies,” and calling their position “wrong, undemocratic and un-American.”
He canvassed defeat for new laws being contemplated by some American states to “suppress vote” instead of protecting it.
“We have to be firm, resolute and unyielding in our defence of the vote and ensure that votes are counted,” Biden said, insisted that the mob that “attacked the Capitol Hill, and those who incited, instigated, encouraged and supported them were not patriots but those who voted, certified the results and defended the Capitol.”
He paid tribute to those who lost their lives and the injured, adding that “the pain and scares of January 6 run deep.”
“We are in a battle for the soul of America,” the U.S. Commander-in-Chief said, pledging: “I will defend the nation, we will not allow anyone to place a dagger on the throat of democracy,” Biden said, adding: “Together we are one nation indivisible under God.”
Earlier, Vice President Kamala Harris in her own speech lamented that those who attacked the Capitol were not only determined to harm the lawmakers, but also tried to destroy the (Congress) building, and assault the American democracy and its core values.
She acknowledged the “unravelling of the oldest democracy in the world,” adding that the “American spirit is being tested.”
“We cannot let our future be decided by extremists,” she said, noting that the “dual nature of democracy are its fragility and its strength… democracy has to be defended, otherwise it will fall.”
But ever-unrelenting, former President Trump, who apparently still nurses an ambition to return to the White House, has dismissed President Biden’s speech claiming that the 3rd November 2020 elections were fraudulent. This was after cancelling an earlier scheduled Press Conference to mark the anniversary of January 6.
Meanwhile, in an emotional reaction ahead of the anniversary, Sandra Garza, the girlfriend of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died trying to protect the Congress building, said that Trump should “serve prison term” for his role in the January 6 insurrection.
She said, she demands justice Sicknick, who suffered multiple strokes after rioters sprayed him with a chemical substance resulting in his death on 7th January 2021.
“Trump belongs in prison – period,” an angry Garza told the U.S. media.
It is obvious that America has a long way to go to curb domestic extremism, shake-off the ghost of January 6 and the stubborn Trump effect for genuine national healing and redemption.
*Paul Ejime is a Global Affairs Analyst and an Independent Consultant to International Organizations on Strategic Communications, Media, Peace & Security and Elections