Let us not rejoice over the assault on Capitol Hill on Wednesday (1/6/21) because the bastion of democracy has been over-run by a mob instigated by a sitting President, who was supposed to be the Leader of the free world! The “insurrection” exploded like a volcano while Congressional Representatives, Senators and staff ran for shelter, as rioters scaled the building with reckless abandon and destroyed property in their path, with one of them nonchalantly taking over the seat of the Speaker. It took several hours to get the situation under control.
The temporary reign of anarchy has been rightly condemned by all lovers of freedom and adherents of democracy, including major world leaders, who have been calling for a peaceful transition of power, something for which the US has distinguished itself. America has had worst challenges in the past (like 9/11) and has been able to bounce back with fortitude. It is expected that the Biden administration will quickly rise to the occasion and restore the country’s lost glory.
The assault on the impregnable symbol of democracy, Capitol Hill, incapacitated Congress but only for a few hours. The members and their staff returned to their chambers to continue the people’s business when they certified the election of Joe Biden as President-elect and Kamala Harris as Vice-President-elect.
Guyanese have been watching the situation very carefully and some have been quick to repudiate America for duplicity about their position on elections and democracy. For example, they blame America for the role they had played in the 2020 Guyana elections. They even claim that their party (PNCR) was robbed out of power because of American interference. They hold the mistaken view that with the Democratic party coming into power in the US, they might have a good chance of reversing the 2020 election results.
They believe that history may be on their side. When Proportional Representation (PR) was imposed to remove the PPP from power in 1964, it was the US Democratic administration at the helm; but it was during a Republican administration that democracy was restored in Guyana in 1992. A couple of decades later, when the PPPC lost power at the 2015 elections to the PNCR+AFC, it was the Democratic administration in power. The US Charges D’Affaires Bryan Hunt played a significant role in steering the election results in the PNCR’s favor. It was good then for America to actively support the PNCR+AFC to capture political power in 2015, but not good for America to play a role, equally along with other nations (UK, Canada, EU, OAS, CARICOM, Commonwealth) in ensuring the integrity of Guyana’s 2020 elections process!
Notwithstanding, the most fascinating thing about the storming of Capitol Hill is the striking similarities in position and values that pop up between President Donald Trump and President David Granger. Because of space constraints, I will tabulate these.
(i) Both Trump and Granger have launched a brutal assault on democracy. They have polarized their societies further. (ii) Both men have challenged the election results in courts. (iii) Both Trump and Granger were denounced by World leaders for their post-election gymnastics. (iv) Trump and Granger have strong authoritarian credentials with a propensity to flout the constitution and the rule of law.
(v) Both men have undermined their country’s international relations. Trump America left the WHO and the Paris Climate Agreement, while Granger alienated the entire international community with his election’s charade. (vi) Trump will not attend Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ inauguration. Likewise, Granger did not attend President Dr. Irfaan Ali’s inauguration. (vii) Trump and Granger have been distorting reality by pedaling a surfeit of lies to their supporters. (viii) Despite losing, both Trump and Granger have claimed victory. (ix) Trump took no action to stop the assault on Capitol Hill, neither did Granger take any action to stop social upheavals at the Ashmin’s Building in Georgetown as well as at the WCB mayhem. (x) Neither Trump nor Granger could cause the democratic foundation to falter.
The main differences are reflected in the application of political principles. (I) Trump has lost many of his staunchest supporters, allies, and aides, who spoke out eloquently against his lies, incitement, and violence. With Granger, all his supporters and allies, except Dominic Gaskin, remained silent and refused to condemn electoral rigging or violence. (ii) In Trump America, the election results were publicized by independent bodies. In Granger Guyana, the election results, as captured in SOPs (Statements of Polls), have never been made public by the PNCR nor the so-called independent GECOM.
(iii) In America, Trump has no power to control the election machinery. In Guyana, Granger had control through his unilateral appointment of the GECOM Chair. In bewilderment, Granger’s party is defending GECOM staffers in Court on election fraud charges. (iv) Trump’s successor Joe Biden will be installed on the constitutional due date of January 20, 2020, while Guyana’s new President Dr. Irfaan Ali was installed on 8/2/2020, 5 months after the constitutional due date.
Donald Trump and David Granger have many things in common. Are they on the same journey? Are the similar attributes of both men characteristic of authoritarian leaders who view power as an end in itself?