By Nele Popp
The United States of America is often considered the world’s first modern democracy. But on the 6th of January this year, it witnessed maybe one of its darkest hours. Whoever denied that Trump’s reign led to an overall decline in democratic values was served the final exhibit. I think the claim that Trump’s election and office period could have been the plot of a dystopian novel is not completely far-fetched. Protesters stormed the capitol, incited by the former president who clung to power with everything he had. Biden would state that the U.S. democracy was under “unprecedented assault”.
Since the election, Donald Trump has spread rumours about electoral fraud committed by the Democratic Party – rumours about a stolen vote. A claim made without any proof. In January, the world saw the result of Trump’s spreading of fear, hate and distrust in the electoral system.
Democracy is based on the people. It depends on their votes. In a previous article, I wrote about the voting right as a citizen’s responsibility and pointed out that democracy is obsolete without the people’s participation. However, it is also obsolete without a state protecting its democratic rights, without a supervisory authority, and first and foremost without a leader representing and committing to these values. Hence, one could say that the U.S. was in a state taken straight out of a dystopian novel with this election. So let’s look into the processes leading up to the Capitol Riots of 2021.
It has to be said that there were many things that worked very well in the Presidential Election of the United States in 2020. Surprisingly, some might add. Many people got to vote, even though there was a tiny pandemic going on. People could vote through the absentee vote or go to the election offices. And even though Trump announced that the counting of absentee votes might be stopped, they weren’t. Every vote was counted and many courts backed the ongoing counting of votes. None of the supervisory authorities in the states found any evidence of sabotaged elections. Even the OSCE, the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, an organisation commonly used as an authority to watch over elections all over the world, could not find any electoral frauds. The only thing they were criticising was Trump’s handling of his defeat. With good reason, as we shall see. Because this is the part where fake news and the spread of hate finally seem to turn into a real dystopia.
Be that as it may, Trump’s actions led certain people to distrust the democratic process. They thought that the election had been stolen, and they were prepared to fight for what they thought was right. After a speech of ex-president Trump, his supporters marched to the Capitol. Arriving there, they eventually started to break into the building. The video recordings are frightening. People breaking the windows, climbing through, rioting, and security men with weapons at the ready. The riot led to five deaths, and at least 138 injured police officers. The officials should and could have been prepared better for riots. However, there were not enough security guards to begin with, and the government even denied to call in the National Guard of Virginia as requested by Washington DC’s mayor.
Sadly, they did not fail to call the National Guard during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, where they showed up in formidable strength. This shows that the U.S. has more acceptance for people undermining democracy than for people fighting for the government and others to hold up their rights as stipulated by the constitution. A video uploaded on Twitter even shows a cop taking selfies with the invaders. Partly, one can’t shake the feeling of the system supporting this attempted murder of democracy.
However, Vice President Mike Pence opposed Trump and clarified that he was neither able nor willing to stop Biden from being appointed the new president. When the congress could continue their session after the protesters were cast out of the Capitol, many Republicans spoke up against the senators who had challenged the outcome of the election. And Joe Biden has finally been inaugurated as the new President. A silver lining? Only time can tell.
Dystopia means bad or hard place, and under Trump, America has seen a strong inclination towards the dystopian side. Utopia on the other hand, is normally connected to the idea of a perfect place, a place to strive for. Biden’s presidency has utopian ideals. He wants to reunite a divided country and give more rights to systematically oppressed groups whose oppression has only become more visible and more open than before, but which is still ingrained in US-American culture. Therefore, his task is to create the United States of America in a way that never existed before. And frankly that is what utopia means, translated from Old Greek, no-place or non-existing society.
By Nele Popp
Illustration: Therése Lager