Jan 6th – A Day that shamed America and damaged the World

January 6th. A day that shook America and shook the World

Until a few years ago I believed that we were, as a world, moving slowly but surely towards a society in which democracy was spreading and flourishing and that dictatorships were in retreat against the forces of enlightenment. Then Donald Trump came along and spoiled it!!

Of course, my view was an incredible oversimplification. China practices no democracy and the democratic structures in Russia, where I have worked with councils, has always been under incredible strain. But the tren was good. In places like Nigeria and Ghana power changed hands smoothly after relatively small shifts in votes led to changes in political control. Even to some extent in Gambia a repressive Premier eventually gave way and feled to anther Country.

The example of many of the ‘advanced democracies’ including our own was not always beneficial. We propped up illegal wars such as the second Iraq war and invaded Afghanistan without any clear idea of what we hoped to achieve and how we would get out of it. We continued to supply arms to Countries in the Middle East who repressed their own people and certainly, in the case of Saudi Arabia and the Yemen, sought to deal with neighbour problems by bombs not reason. So, I’m not entirely naïve!

Democracy was advanced because there was a solid block of countries that both advocated and practiced it. Countries like most of Europe, most of the Commonwealth of Nations and the USA seemed to have proper democratic rights enshrined in not only their constitutional arrangements but in the heart and fibre of the way that they did things.

The UK has not been at the forefront of democratic improvement for the past decade. The Tory Government has continually sought to demonise legal asylum seekers as illegals. They are taking steps at present to restrict our rights to freely protest which is a fundamental right in a democracy. They are atking steps whereby certain groups of people, the poor and the young, will find it more difficult to vote. They claim that there is widespread fraud but in practice only a tiny fraction of votes cast, about 0.0001% are wrongly cast and most of thos are in error rather than fraud.

In this Country again the Right have been emboldened by their illegalities during the Referendum ballot. Our Supreme Court ruled that laws had been broken about use of data and illegal funding streams. If the Referendum had been a binding one it would be needed to be rerun. But the Court ruled that the Referendum was only an advisory one ith the decision being left to Parliament so did not set it aside.

But we are only amateurs compared to the Right Wing in the USA where a twice indicted and one term President encouraged people to overturn the results of an election where he clearly lost both the popular vote and the votes in the Electoral College and Congress. There is no way that an unbiased outsider can look at the events of January 6th 2021 and conclude that there was not a deliberate attempt to subvert a properly held election by force both in Congress and attempts to bully elected representatives and their officials doing their jobs in the States.

I don’t believe that elections should be settled by Courts, they should be settled by what goes in the Ballot Box, but I accept that the USA is a litigious country, and they have more lawyers per head than any other country in the world. You would have thought that against such a background the facts that the election was challenged and upheld in more than 50 courts throughout the USA including the Supreme Court would be enough. It isn’t! You would have thought that the sweating Giuliani would have realised that he was making an absolute fool of himself. He hasn’t although his right to practice law has been removed.

Instead, the then President and his minions sought to get officials to move votes around. When that didn’t work, they came up with a plan to ignore the votes in some states which they thought, without evidence, were wrong. When decent Republicans stood up to this the infantry were called in. A collection of thugs from organisations like the Proud Boys were assembled and urged to march on the Capitol to stop the votes.

Many of the people had guns, some of them semi-automatics. They pushed aside, threatened and hurt officials and police officers while President Trump sat and gloated and refused to call in help for more than 3 hours. But democracy held firm. The votes were counted, and Biden was declared the winner. After all that the vote continues to be challenged with ever more ludicrous audits which, partisan though they are, clearly show no widespread fraud.

Now those on the extreme Right are threatening the democratic institutions themselves. They are pushing through laws which might enable them to ignore voters. They are seeking to redistrict areas to build in Republican majorities at all levels. They are seeking to restrict voting methods which would mean that poorer people would find it more difficult to vote.

As the enquiry into Jan 6th continues people are ignoring subpoenas and refusing to attend hearings. It is clear that some people think that the laws in America only apply to ‘little people’ and not to them.

This almost makes the UK look good! In our Country its neutral officials who decide electoral boundaries. I can imagine some sort of a march on Parliament, but it would never involve guns. I cannot imagine that any politician in the UK would ignore a subpoena. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see it.

You could argue that what happens in the USA or the UK is properly a matter for the people of those Countries to deal with. That is largely true. It ignores one key factor. Others have been emboldened by what America, in particular, has done. From semi dictators in Brazil to full dictators in Kazakhakstan the Presidents can look in the mirror and see not themselves but Trump and they like what they see.

Even in our Country a very small number of right wingers have combined hatred of foreigners and the EU and a belief that our Covid vaccines are poison designs to bring about a loathsome and thuggish attempt to attack our institutions such as Parliament with violent and unprovoked protest.

As an outsider, I can only hope that the majority of Americans will fight to ensure that the democratic aims of their Constitution are not subverted by people who feel that they have a right to rule. If Americans support that view, there’s not been much point in leaving British control. They could have stayed with George III! As a Lib Dem I’ll get on with the job of fighting the Tories and their ways here.

Together the USA and the UK could be a very important part of an alliance of democracies working for enlightenment  and world peace. Let’s hope that good sense in both countries will prevail and that we will have seen only a small hiccup on the way to global democracy over the past few years.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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