That American polity, and society, is a deeply fractured one sounds like a truism in 2021—the November elections bore it out, and so did the long drawn out Black Lives Matter protests in recent years. It all seemed like a rerun of the fractious 1960s. But it took the active, persistent goading of lame duck US president Donald Trump to bring hordes of rightwing, White, overwhelmingly male malcontents to the very heart of American democracy. Their unruly, violent rampage—by turns angry, sneeringly sarcastic and jubilant—on the US Capitol sent shock waves across the globe. That America, the world’s oldest democracy, a beacon of hope for the free world, should have descended to the level of a banana republic, with wild-eyed protestors out to negate the results of a legitimate election, kept the world riveted to television screens.
On hindsight, it was a logical outcome—a grand finale, if you like—of the Trump presidency, with the president bent on breaking rules and allowing White supremacists to come to the fore. Trump’s support base was founded on such canards as that about Barak Obama’s birth, and through his presidency he gave a nod and a wink to right-wing groups like The Proud Boys. Even before the November polls, he had made clear his intention to challenge the results if they went against him; after it, he made good his promise spectacularly. Bellowing from every forum that the elections were stolen from him, he filed lawsuits to overturn them; one by one, they were thrown out by the courts. As a last resort, to ensure that the US Congress did not endorse Joe Biden’s election victory, he called his supporters to gather in large numbers in Washington—“Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted. Trump’s billing hit its mark. The storming of the Capitol complex degenerated into what Americans are terming an insurrection.