The Storming of the Capitol Seven Consequences for the American Political System
It does not really matter who masterminded and orchestrated the storming of the Capitol, nor who is trying to exploit the situation. Whether it was a special operation by the Democrats to suppress the resistance of the Republicans during the certification of the electors’ votes, or it was just a repercussion of the crowd effect and a commonplace stupidity, or it was indeed masterminded by the US President Donald Trump who was trying to put pressure on the Senate (which is the most likely) – all these versions are substantial, yet all of them are unimportant altogether. What is important are the long term tactical and strategic consequences for the entire political system despite all other current media, political, and even legal effects. “Who’s to blame?” is a secondary question in comparison with the question “What to do next?”
A picture from the Capitol shows fleeing police officers, dead and injured protesters, sitting in the senators’ seats street demonstrators became not just a logical final snapshot of the four-year presidential tenure of Donald Trump – endless ubiquitous war of the two Americas – the New America and the Old America, but it also significantly extended the political “Overton Window,” and it undermined the trust to the key government and public institutions and procedures of the multi-century public architecture of power and the overall image of the future – “The American Dream.” Meanwhile, the instinct of self-preservation that is now demonstrated by the American elite (including Trump), mass arrests of the participants of the storming, should not be ignored because otherwise, the new catastrophes will happen even sooner.
The 2020 presidential election along with the vote count scandals and casualties in the Capitol obviously undermines the domestic and international reputation of the U.S. in terms of democratic globalization, effective and transparent elections, and procedures of shaping the power. The myth about the political system of the U.S., where “everything is well-tuned,” and “the high political culture” allows to find a democratic solution to any problem – has been discredited for years to come. That is why the U.S. will have to rely on power rather than reputation to show to other countries “which kind of democracy is right” in the future, and such an approach will reduce the real opportunities.
Undermining of the American authority, in turn, entails the weakening of one of the key influence tools of the U.S. in the world – “soft power,” which has been effectively exploited for decades overseas. “Such a victory” of Biden – marred by the accusations in falsifying the election results and blood drawn in the Capitol can prevent the further comeback and power restoration of the nominal “George Soros boys1” (as expected), these people can become ‘toxic’ and informationally helpless overseas. Moreover, numerous sincere (but not professional) supporters of America (especially those who support Trump and the Republican Party) currently become the critics of America.
The divide deepens between the two Americas. First America runs financial markets, supports globalization, relies on the “deep state,” runs the mainstream media, the social media, and the government. This America buries the criminal-recidivist with presidential honors in the “golden” coffin. Second America is traditional, industrial, provincial, marginalized, yet having millions of supporters and paying their last respects to the U.S. Army veteran that had been defending the country overseas and was killed in the Senate. The problem becomes worse because first America controls the government, whereas second America preserves traditions and justice (likely). First America celebrates the victory, whereas second America mourns, feeling helpless and wronged. Dozens of injured and arrested protesters are the new elite of the protest. At least one-fifth of Americans support the storming of the Capitol. The Post-Korean-War period of the relative political and social stability in the U.S. is the most likely to have come to an end.
“The Overton Window” goes wider, i.e., the limits of what will be tolerated by the society go wider. Primitive technologies of falsifying the election results, penetrating the Senate chamber, and shooting down the peaceful protesters in the Capitol were “unthinkable” just recently, but now all these events become just “radical,” and in the perspective, they can become “acceptable.” If so, “The House of Cards” within the American political class will be replaced with “The Hunger Games” – the games with ever simplified and rough rules. Society has been getting ready for this for the last several years. The BLM movement enabled these changes with its “freedom zones” and storming of the municipal institutions.
The unprecedented crisis of legitimacy of the branches of the government in the newest history is on the rise. The crisis touches not only on the President but the Senate as well. One-third of Americans believe the 2020 election was rigged. This is a “Pyrrhic victory” for Biden, depriving him of the political perspectives, and making him a “half-lame duck” from the very first day of his presidency. The worst thing for the American political system is that the discrediting of the ruling party takes place simultaneously with the discrediting of the opposition (that turned out to be ideologically the part of the ruling party) -- the public discontent, caused by the election, loses its channels of expression.
The Women’s Marches, the teachers’ protests, BLM were not enough to get rid of Trump. Hence, the American financial and political establishment -- the “deep state” (concealed consensus of the elite) often had to act tough and openly, ignoring the declared and imposed rules and norms both inside and outside the country (for example, the mainstream media activity, the major social media, and the vote count). As a result, the 2020 election and entailing events worked out as the “wake-up call” for Americans that is familiar to the residents of the totalitarian nations -- the sense of “fake facade” of the government and the sense of helplessness. The level of social alienation, mistrust of the political system, and the media (the public channels of information) will grow stronger. Trump’s phrase to “drain the Washington swamp” first turned into “the election is rigged,” and now it becomes “deep nation against the deep state.”
The concentration of absolute power in the hands of Democrats (presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives -- the coalition) can mean the last election cycle for the old Republican Party. Trumpists and Democrats created an existential crisis for the future of the Republican Party. As a result, the U.S. legislative branch can either turn into the one-party system or the Republicans will be replaced by another party. It is highly likely that the 2020 presidential election and the following Senate election were the swan song for the Republicans. The Republicans did not just lose the election, but they also lost the trust of the Republican supporters who favored Trump over Pence. The transition to the popular vote model is also highly likely in the nearest future along with reinforcing the Congress and politically weakening the President.
The current political instability can cause economic repercussions. The tremendous budget deficit of the U.S., the stock market ‘bubble,’ the crisis caused by the COVID-19, and many other problems can be solved with the power of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Up to 75 percent of the world’s transactions and reserves are in US dollars. The trust in the US dollar is based on the trust in the American political stability that is currently at risk. Even a partial loss of trust in the American political system and the US dollar (as a consequence) can cause a new economic crisis that has no match in the twenty-first century.
Certainly, there will be many more consequences, but not all of them must be highlighted right now, and the American elite still can fix the bipartisan balance. But for now, the Capitol is being torn with fear and anger.
Ruslan Bortnik, political scientist, UIP.
1 “George Soros boys” is a term used by some Ukrainian media to depict the pro-American politicians and activists that are connected directly or indirectly to American philanthropist George Soros and his Open Society Foundation