US' democracy in a bad light amid partisan politics over Trump case

Global Times
Li Weichao
2023-03-22 11:37:47

Donald Trump Photo:VCG

The US and the world have been closely watching how a possible indictment of former US president Donald Trump will develop, with growing worries about a replica of the Capitol riots, and analysts said that the whole stunt showcased the dysfunction of American democracy amid increasingly extreme political polarization.

New York and Washington, DC have braced for possible demonstrations on Tuesday: workers erected barricades around a Manhattan courthouse, a coordinating body which includes 12 local agencies in Washington has been put on standby, while federal, state and local enforcement have also prepared for this Tuesday, US media reported.

The heightened alertness started since Trump on Saturday called on his supporters to protest to a potential arrest over an alleged hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign. Such a call echoed his final days in office when he repeatedly urged his supporters to reject the results of the 2020 presidential election, leading to the deadly attacks on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, CNN reported.

If Trump is indicted, he would be the first former US president ever to face criminal charges and it would also be a landmark moment for the US that signals ever fiercer partisan struggle, said analysts.

Chinese netizens are also closely watching the development of the case with many netizens expressing surprise about the former US president's capability in muddying the waters.

After messing up with international relations and existing orders during his presidency, Trump, with his destructive influence, has further pushed the split of American society, some netizens commented.

Intensified polarization

It is less possible for Trump's supporters to stage another riot like the Capitol Hill riot, given the authorities' full precaution. Despite support from fanatic, the craze for Trump has cooled down a little over the past years with more people getting a clearer understanding of the severe consequences of the Capitol riot, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested for participating in the storming of the Capitol Hill. Trump himself has also been lashed from not only the Democrats but also Republicans for undermining US democracy and the Justice Department had noted he can be sued for the riot harm.

Only a couple of dozen Trump supporters attended a protest in New York on Monday evening and many far-right activists chose not to heed Trump's call to hit the streets as they see Trump's possible arrest as a trap to lure supporters into a riot that will ultimately hurt Trump's chances of winning back the White House in 2024 from Democratic President Joe Biden, Reuters reported.

If Trump is charged, he needs to follow procedure, including recording his fingerprints and taking mug shot, which will be humiliating to Trump.

Also, as Trump leads other potential rivals for the Republican nomination right now, the current situation is also a conundrum to the GOP -- republicans are unwilling to give firm support to Trump in case he is found "guilty," neither will they want to give up the votes Trump has, Lü said.

The embarrassment of the GOP does not mean the Democrats can easily win. The vicious cycle will start if Trump is indicted and even "found guilty" as Democratic presidents will also be raked up for their or their families' dubious deeds, making the US judicial systems a weapon for partisan struggle, Lü said.

Law enforcement agencies, including the Secret Service, which guards Trump and other former presidents, have been involved in contingency plans in the event of an arrest, officials told US media.

The seesaw battle centering on Trump's case will continue for a while, and so will the battle between the Democrats and Republicans, said analysts, warning more turbulence may be seen with the approach of the 2024 presidential election.

Flawed democracy

Some two years after the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021, the US system of democracy still has difficulty in learning the lessons, as political violence continued to grow and deteriorate, according to a report released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday, which reveals American democracy is in chaos at home but also presenting the havoc and disaster the US has brought to the world.

Although the scale of demonstration against Trump's possible arrest may not exceed the Capitol riot, his way to continue wielding influence to incite supporters reflects the pernicious trend of American politicians' manipulation of populism, Sun Chenghao, a fellow and head of US-EU program at Center for International Security and Strategy in Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The upcoming election season will amplify the confrontation and split of the American society with long-seated problems, such as racism, gun violence and political violence, witnessing a possible surge, said Sun.

The political battle has made more Americans to become disillusioned with American democracy. An NPR/Ipsos poll in January 2022, one year after the Capitol riot, showed that 64 percent of Americans believe US democracy is "in crisis."

The expert noted that if the Capitol riot demonstrated the dysfunction of the American democracy, the fiercer partisan fight in these years clearly showed politicians are unable to fix any of its chronic ills. However, amid mounting political stunt, the US is still keen on touting and exporting its democracy to the world, said Sun, noting about the upcoming Summit for Democracy.

On March 29 to 30, the US will continue to host the second summit for democracy together with some other countries, an event that has been criticized as more like pulling together an "interests camp."

Pointing fingers at other countries' democracy without reflecting on its own problems, the US will bring nothing but hypocrisy and hegemony to the summit, said Sun.

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