Herald View: Death threats to Republican members of the US Congress must cause concern
Chilling reports from US that death threats were received by US Congressmen and women warning them against voting for impeaching Trump point to an uneasy future for democracy in the US
Chilling reports from the United States that death threats were received by US Congressmen and women warning them against voting for impeaching President Trump signal threats to democracies around the world. The last four years saw leaders across the world adopt a cavalier approach to truth and a willingness to twist and even part with democratic norms. Some of them, including President Trump, have actively encouraged violence or ignored threats posed by vigilante groups. As a result, the spectre of a civil war looms over the world’s most powerful democracy with Trump supporters threatening to storm state capitols on Inauguration Day next week. The open letter signed by ten former US Defence Secretaries reminding serving officials that their allegiance should be to the Constitution and not to an individual is yet another stark reminder of how real and grim the threat to US democracy is.
Similar warnings have been repeatedly issued in India by former diplomats, bureaucrats and leaders with little or no effect. Despite the threats, it is worth noting, that as many as ten Republican members of the US House of Representatives did vote in favor of impeachment. The New York Times also reported that as many as 20 Republican Senators are inclined to vote for his impeachment when it moves to the US Senate. Longer deliberations and trial are expected to take place in the Senate and will almost certainly be put to vote after Donald Trump demits office on Tuesday. If the impeachment is upheld by the Senate as well, Donald Trump may find himself debarred from holding public office and prevented from contesting again. There is also the possibility that once he demits office and becomes a private citizen, there will be other grounds on which he will be prosecuted. His age and his health may also come in the way of making another shot at the Presidency. But even as he fades into oblivion and is a spent force, his disruptive policies and functioning will continue to cast a shadow over the next incumbent of the White House and, indeed much of the world.
It is difficult to read what is going on in the mind of the Indian Prime Minister as his ‘friend’ leaves the White House in disgrace. Prime Minister Modi had invested considerable time, money and energy in backing the US President, going so far as to endorse his re-election bid. Whether he feels any embarrassment or not, the impeachment does prompt a reflection on the Indian PM’s misjudgment, misadventure and misplaced priorities. Trump is the first US President to support and encourage armed extremist groups. How this encouragement will play out in the US is hard to imagine. But in case violence does break out next week across the country, the fear of a civil war voiced by several commentators will become frighteningly real. An unstable United States racked by violence is not something that the world needs. But while the world will hope for healing under President Joseph Biden, his task is undoubtedly made more difficult by the present incumbent who has made no secret of his preference for ‘chaos’
The coming weeks will undoubtedly reveal a lot more about the deals he made and the decisions he took. But what is certain is that his, and the Indian Prime Minister’s, penchant for personal likes and friendships to drive policies and their readiness to part with norms have been both disruptive and dangerous.
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