Written by: Esther Kim, Associate Editor
The events of January 6, 2021 have raised multiple and concerning inquiries into what constitutes American democracy. The storming of the Capitol shocked individuals domestically, as well as abroad and in response, world leaders have not been shy in voicing their reactions in observance of the transpired upheaval. Internationally, politicians expressed their shared condemnations, and they called for the seemingly past ideal of what was once considered to be a peaceful transition of power.
Many leaders described the events as an “attack on democracy,” and a “horrifying” and “disgraceful scene.” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted on his Twitter, “The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.” French President Emmanuel Macron stated in a video then posted on his Twitter, “What happened today in Washington DC is not American, definitely. We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy.” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven wrote, “Deeply worrying developments in Washington, D.C. This is an assault on democracy…The democratic election process must be respected.” Others, such as European Council President Charles Michel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, placed trust and support in President-Elect Joe Biden and his new incoming administration, as they await with bated breath in hopes that a peaceful transition of democratic power will be ensured.
The violent incident, however, produced doubts as to the health of the American democracy, and for some, this frenzied demonstration was revealing of the extent to which the U.S. has already become less democratic. The refusal to accept the results of a representative election, in addition to the flagrant incitement by a now-twice-impeached President, has created a deeper divide within the nation which has become too apparent for democratic and authoritarian leaders worldwide. The absence of respect for the rule of law has allowed the foundation of the electoral system itself to be scrutinized. Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, blamed the “archaic” US electoral system, as it “does not meet modern democratic standards” and creates “opportunities for numerous violations.” Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangawga, focused his attention on the irony of America’s external fronts when preaching democracy to foreign governments, notably in comparison to America’s internal actions and treatment of its own governmental procedures. America, he stated, has “no moral right to punish another nation under the guise of upholding democracy.” In truth, it stands that incorporating democracy as the primary argument to justify the U.S.’ actions towards foreign nations has become somewhat weakened.
With the American ideal of democracy on high display, the responsibility of safeguarding the fundamental systems of the governmental process becomes a shared duty. In actuality, this has consistently been a cooperative affair, but now, there is a dire need to re-emphasize that the events of January 6, 2021 were not reflective of what ultimately constitutes American democracy. It should be noted that forming a singular definition also remains impossible, as perhaps democracy itself was meant to be adaptive and accepting of newly incoming administrations, no matter which administration that might be. In time, even change must reach an equilibrium and hopefully it can come peacefully with this new transition of democratic power. Only time can tell.
Domenico Montanaro, Trump Says His Comments Before Capitol Riot Were ‘Totally Appropriate,’ NPR (Jan. 12, 2021) available at https://www.npr.org/sections/congress-electoral-college-tally-live-updates/2021/01/12/956018842/trump-says-his-comments-ahead-of-capitol-riot-were-totally-appropriate.
Suyin Haynes, ‘Assault on Democracy.’ How the World Responded to a Pro-Trump Mob Storming the U.S. Capitol, Time (Jan. 8, 2021) available at https://time.com/5927060/world-reactions-capitol-breached-trump-supporters/.
US Capitol riots: World leaders react to ‘horrifying’ scenes in Washington, BBC (Jan. 9, 2021) BBC available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55568613