Is the damage to US democracy irreparable?

Observers across the globe are still preoccupied with the events of last week in Washington. After four years of Donald Trump repeatedly questioning and undermining US democratic institutions supporters of his invaded the Capitol two weeks before the end of his mandate. Some commentators see democracy in grave danger. Others see a new political bearer of hope emerging amid the chaos.

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Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

The danger isn't the anger at the bottom end

All the shock and dismay over the actions of Trump's supporters must not obscure our view of the underlying problems, Göteborgs-Posten warns:

“Of course there is enormous dissatisfaction in the US, otherwise Trump would never have become president. But this pent-up dissatisfaction is particularly threatening when politicians spend all their time arguing and can no longer focus on implementing reforms. As the saying goes: the fish stinks from the head downwards. It's only when those at the top can hardly agree anymore that society as a whole is threatened. Once a country's political class has succumbed to this disease, it's only a matter of time before a crisis looms - Donald Trump, migration, coronavirus or something else. Weakness at the top is a thousand times more dangerous to a society than anger at the bottom. But this is the reality in the US. And also in Sweden.”

Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR Online) (EE) /

Hollowed out step by step

ERR Online warns:

“Democracy is a fragile asset that can be destroyed not just by a coup d'état. The same result can be achieved through many small, targeted steps, which in the end grind the pillars of democracy into a much finer powder than a powerful coup. ... In Europe, too, there are several countries where elected governments are eroding democracy step by step. ... The recipe is simple - put loyalty before professionalism when appointing staff, limit opposition, degrade and nationalise the media, invent external enemies (George Soros), weaken institutions (elections), formalise courts, silently strengthen conspiracy theories - and suddenly there is no turning back. ... What took place in the US on January 6 is the result of the systematic discrediting of free elections - one of the main pillars of democracy.”

liga.net (UA) /

Pinning hopes on Pence

liga.net is lavish in its praise of Vice President Mike Pence's conduct in this most recent crisis:

“He was Donald Trump's closest colleague. He always protected him. He was a loyal and strong team member. And he's been a member of the Republican Party for more than 30 years. But at the crucial hour for the country, he defended the US institutions and constitution. ... For the space of one evening he became the US President. He refused to fly out of Washington despite the security service's orders to bring the top officials to safety. He stayed in the capital, made phone calls and coordinated the work of the authorities. ... And so the Republican Party has a new strong leader. This time a real Republican.”

TVXS (GR) /

Biden will also resort to violence

Tvxs anticipates even more violence in the US:

“Poverty, capitalist greed and barbarism have deeply polarised American society. The problems will not end and capitalism will lead to the impoverishment of millions of young workers, tensions and conflicts. The crisis will also mobilise workers. The new President Biden will not face mobilisations and uprisings without using violence. He too will resort to repression and later rely on the same paramilitaries that Trump has relied on.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

The system is infected

The attack on the Capitol must not be dismissed as merely a tragicomic episode, warns writer Emma Riverola in El Periódico de Catalunya:

“Somewhere between parody and tragedy, a mob of hair-raising characters stormed the Capitol. They were obeying Trump. And again the doubt: Is this just a final burst of pus? Or has the infection spread, now threatening to cause a sepsis of the entire system? The polling agency YouGov did a quick survey. Among Republican voters, 45 percent approve of the attack. So pay attention!”

Postimees (EE) /

Exactly what the Founding Fathers warned of

The story is not over yet, Postimees warns:

“Even the most incredible scenarios are conceivable - for the simple reason that humanity has not changed. James Madison and other US Founding Fathers were under no illusions about this. They saw people as weak and manipulable. The highest power should belong to the people, but it should be thoroughly broken down into separate parts. This was done to protect the people from themselves. Otherwise, men of sinister designs may 'by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests of the people'. The last four years have convincingly demonstrated how far-sighted the American Founders were 200 years ago.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Democracies must be careful

Democracies the world over can do little to defend themselves against an easily incited mob, Habertürk comments:

“Trump showed the world what weak, fragile and defenceless regimes democracies are in the face of despotic state leaders and hordes that have not accepted the basic tenets of democracy. ... With people like that at the top, political parties very quickly become structures that are no longer controlled by a reasonable majority, but by a rampant minority. All democracies will face this risk in the near future. It is not unlikely that we will soon see similar images in Europe due to increasing racism and the predominance of ignorance and a sense of inferiority.”

G4Media.ro (RO) /

An end to the moralising

Opponents of democracy the world over are laughing up their sleeves, says G4media.ro:

“From now on it will be difficult for the US to cast itself as an exporter of democracy and good practices. You can't teach lessons about democracy after you have been led by a president surrounded by a deeply corrupt nomenklatura, who shamelessly practiced nepotism and abused his power to pardon convicted associates and friends. ... Authentic autocracies like Russia or China have every reason to rejoice. The likes of Putin will be delighted to exploit the insurrection in Washington and the excesses of the Trump era to proclaim the failure of the democratic model in general and of the American one in particular.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The US can do it

We shouldn't underestimate US democracy, counters Corriere della Sera:

“To storm a parliament building you have to have one in the first place. Many large countries have no representative system - which is also criticised throughout the West. America remains the country of reference for the world, not only because of its military bases, cultural industry and Internet giants. It is and remains the first superpower precisely because it's a democracy, fuelled by humankind's best energies: scientists - the only available vaccines against Covid are American - created by immigrants, by minorities. ... America's strength is precisely the complexity that Trump and his followers seek to deny or simplify. ... Now that everyone has understood the extremists' strength and the threat they represent, their decline can begin.”

Echo Moskwy (RU) /

Turbulent dynamic better than rigid stability

Although the US is currently experiencing some turbulence, the US political model is more successful than the Russian one, Echo of Moscow believes:

“A festival of idiotic political correctness, discontent among blacks and various minorities, a conflict between an elite that is out of touch with reality and blue-collar workers and farmers, and one odd president after another since the start of the century. But the US is still moving forward, because although every cog is creaking, the system still works. We, with our eternal stability, on the other hand, are falling ever more stably behind the US and everyone else. And our stability could suddenly end far more tragically than with four deaths and a few arrests, as has just happened on Capitol Hill.”