Faltering U.S. Capitol, decaying American-style democracy

2022-01-21 13:47:36Xinhua Editor : Zhao Li ECNS App Download

Since the U.S. Capitol was besieged by rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, the rosy filter of American-style democracy has shattered in front of the world.

Even more than one year later, the aftermath of the astounding riot can still be perceived from spiking partisan fights in U.S. Congress and constant chaos in the American society. Along the way, U.S. democracy has been decaying amid growing division and disorder.

As partisan politics keeps deteriorating in the Capitol, the U.S. democratic system can no longer represent the will of the American people, as it exists only in form, not in substance. As American news website Vox has put it, in countries where democracy is at real risk of collapse or even outright defeated -- places like the United States among others -- "the real drivers of democratic collapse are domestic."

Over the past year, Democrats and Republicans have been wrangling over an array of crucial legislative issues related directly to American people's life, including a COVID-19 relief package, new social safety programs, climate initiatives and voting reform. Once again, the gnawing divide between the two parties stuck out over the congressional investigation into the Capitol riot.

Democrats have blasted the Capitol riot as an attack on democracy as supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump violently interrupted proceedings to certify results of the 2020 presidential election.

Republicans, however, have tried to play down the incident and its aftermath, as well as understated Trump's alleged role in inciting it. While expressing his party's opposition to the Capitol riot, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has accused Democrats of using the probe "as a partisan political weapon to further divide our country."

As conspiracy theories and disinformation abound, the country's political divide appears to be widening ahead of the 2022 elections, "with each side seeing the other not as opponents but as enemies," according to a forecast report by U.S. think tank the Atlantic Council.

Unfortunately, U.S. political elections are now widely regarded as a pure game of money as their costs have registered one record after another over the years. During the last election season, the presidential campaign saw a total spending of a record 6.6 billion U.S. dollars.

While dominating state power and policy-making, those elected political elites serve almost exclusively the interests of deep-pocketed and other vested interests groups, which are the main sources of candidates' campaign donations, rather than those of ordinary U.S. citizens.

Noting America's polarization and sectarian tensions look poised to only increase, the Atlantic Council warned that the year 2022 is "shaping up to be one in which American democracy erodes significantly."

At present, public trust in the federal government remains at an all-time low and more people grew disenchanted with the deeply-flawed U.S. democracy, as ordinary U.S. citizens have borne the brunt of a cascade of social chaos and disorder.

Since the beginning of 2022, the Omicron variant has fueled a renewed record surge of COVID-19 infections, with Jan. 3 seeing over 1 million newly confirmed cases in the United States. Despite the ravaging pandemic, Republicans have mounted challenges to the White House's vaccine mandates across the country, accusing the Biden administration of overstepping its authority.

The New York Times has called the pandemic "a nearly two-year stress test that the United States flunked," lamenting that "an already distrustful populace" was exposed to "a level of institutional failure that added fuel to the angry battles over how to respond."

Across America, there is also a pervasive outcry against systemic racial discrimination and rampant gun violence. Amid an escalating anti-Asian hate crime, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has recently urged the White House to make a public apology to Asian Americans for calling COVID-19 the "China virus" and other aggressive remarks of former President Donald Trump.

In his new book "The Next Civil War: Dispatches From the American Future," Canadian novelist and journalist Stephen Marche raised the alarm about a new civil war in the United States in the near future. The author penetrates into the realities of a politically tribalistic United States, burdened by racial and economic injustice, social resentments and a surging number of guns.

For the United States, it would be better if the Biden administration gives more "humility and attention" to the conditions of its governance, suggested Douglas Paal, a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, stressing concrete progress over abstract discussions.

More than one year after the Capitol riot, America's democracy is still in shambles. One cannot help but wonder how close the Titanic of U.S. democracy is getting to the iceberg?

As the 2022 elections are only ten months away, those in the White House had better find out, for their own sake, how to prevent the Capitol from further faltering or being attacked again. And hopefully, they could learn a lesson from last year's shocking incident, so as to salvage America's crumbling democracy. 

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