The January 6 insurrection in the US which appeared to have been an aborted coup attempt had been the dominant political story of the year, to be followed by the mid-term elections which were finalised on Tuesday when Reverend Raphael Warnock won the Georgia run-off to conclude the mid-term elections that led to the Democrats winning an extra- seat in the Senate.
It is the first time in over 80 years that the party of the president has gained seats in the Senate along with governors’ seats in mid-term elections. The very thought of an attempted coup in the US, the so-called fountain of democracy, calls for special attention to be paid to what is happening in that country. This is something which some of us associate with the ‘shith…’ countries as a former president described them. But ironically the man behind that was the former president, Donald Trump, who started things going by refusing to accept defeat, claiming that he was the winner, even though defeated by over 7 million votes.
He is still today, years after, clinging to this absurdity. This continues even after supporters, led on by his outbursts, joined far right extremist groups to storm the US Capitol and prevent the certification of Biden’s victory. A Senate investigative committee is nearing the end of its work and should in a matter of weeks be presenting its report. The Department of Justice is carrying out its own investigation which so far, has led to the prosecution of members of far right groups.
One can regard Trump as he repeats this claim for which there is no evidence, as being deranged but when he gets support from leading members of his party and from millions of Americans, then one has to become concerned. Let me repeat that, It was this claim about being defrauded from victory that sparked what happened on January 6. The results of the recent mid-term elections give some glimmer of hope that a large part of the population is distancing itself from his outlandish claims.
In those elections the President’s party was able to retain and even add a seat to its control of the Senate and to have suffered minimum losses in the House. This went against tradition where the party in control of Congress is normally expected to lose a large number of seats at mid-term elections. But of even more significance is the fact that candidates who were hand-picked and supported by Trump, suffered major losses.
Despite the prevailing view that the relatively poor performance of the Republican party can be attributed to the support given to their candidates by Trump, his hold on the party remains strong as few are willing to challenge him on a number of unpopular issues. Recently he entertained for dinner at his Mar-a -Lago residence in Florida two despicable characters in the persons of white supremacist ,Nick Fuentes, and antisemitic Rapper, Kayne West now known as Ye. There was light criticism from leading members of his party but no indication that they were prepared to break their links with him.
One of the complications about the US and its government is the division of power where states retain functions that are their exclusive concerns, retaining rights over some aspects of elections- deciding on where polling booths would be placed, controlling voting procedures and with some power over who can and cannot vote. We have seen recent issues involving the banning of abortion, the banning of books and deciding what can or cannot be taught in schools. These are part of a culture war geared to controlling family, art and education. Far right groups as part of this are trying to get their followers to be members of the many school boards where they can control that process.
The recognition of the existence of far right extremists and local terrorists, one had hoped, would have led to more soul searching and a deeper understanding of the US where some of its darkest secrets are yet to be fully revealed. Instead, books that try to expose that dark side are now being banned. Why is the US after 30 consecutive votes at the UN over its continued blockade on Cuba refusing to budge? At the last vote on the issue at the UN, its only support to continue the blockade was from Israel, with two abstentions from Brazil and Ukraine.
Are we really in 2022? Is there an understanding that democracy is more than being able to vote?
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian