The US Capitol riot shows how fragile democracy is

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Moment pro-Trump rioters storm US Capitol captured on TV broadcast

The assault on the US Capitol building on Wednesday seems to have drawn condemnation from around the world. Many are expressing incredulity, especially those in the Republican Party, who keep insisting “this is not who we are”. I beg to differ. This is exactly “who you are”. 

For four years those in the GOP have stood back and remained silent while Donald J Trump rode roughshod over the constitution and the norms of governance. They said nothing when he cosied up to despots. They said nothing when he made statements encouraging white supremacy groups  the “fine people”. They said nothing when he attacked anyone who disagreed with him. They didn’t say a word when he used playground insults against his political opponents. Not to mention that they did nothing to correct his lies. 

And then a few of them decided to ride along with Trump when he claimed that the November 2020 election was “stolen”. And this is where the United States is now. Armed protesters taking over the Capitol building, while the president tells them that he loves them.

So what can we learn from the events of the past four years? Hopefully our politicians and representatives, wherever they are in the world, can have the courage to stand up and declare that something is not right, instead of fearing for their own political careers. That leaders of countries can refuse to offer state honours to people such as Donald Trump. The fact that no leader in the western world had the courage to stand up and state that Trump was not someone they wanted to “do business with” is truly sad. 

And while I appreciate the argument that the president is just a person, and it's the US we are dealing with, look at what has happened. Look where the enabling of Donald Trump has led the US. Be in no doubt. If Trump could get enough people behind him and support his mission he would stay in power. That is how fragile democracy is. That's why we have to start speaking up when something is not right.

Karen Brittain  

Leeds

Pot calling kettle black

The scenes from Washington on Wednesday were shocking. How could this happen in the capital of the nation many see to be the pinnacle of western democracy? It is because a large chunk of the Republican Party saw in Trump a way of gaining political power. That his beliefs, attitude and approach was anathema to its core beliefs, it was prepared to overlook, as long as he won the presidency for them. 

Once president, it adopted a sycophantic approach, turning a blind eye to his ever-increasing erratic and extreme behaviour. Last year the veteran US journalist Bob Woodward suggested that there were at least 21 Republican senators who had “repeatedly expressed extreme contempt for [Donald] Trump and his fitness” and yet in the main they did nothing.

There are clear parallels to be drawn between the US and the UK. Over Brexit in particular, the Conservative Party was happy to play to the populist gallery. Its supporters in the media, with little condemnation from the party leadership, called the UK Supreme Court “traitors” for upholding the law. There was an attempt to prorogue parliament. Boris Johnson’s chief adviser talked of “hard rain” falling on senior civil servants and the government still refuses, as a matter of course, to provide a spokesperson to appear on important news analysis programmes like Newsnight and Today. None of this is acceptable in a functioning democracy.  

I am sure that there are still many senior Conservative politicians in the UK who must view the activities of Boris Johnson and his cabinet with considerable unease and yet say nothing. Yes, Johnson won the Brexit vote and the last general election for his party, but as we have seen in the USA, winning should not be an end in itself and can come with a considerable cost. Perhaps the events in Washington will be a wake-up call for them. The old adage “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” can justifiably be applied to what has happened in the USA. Let us hope it never can be used to explain the political situation in the UK.

Malcolm Harris

Waltham, Grimsby  

Trump’s fading star

Following the disgraceful scenes in Washington DC yesterday, I wonder which so-called British patriots will be queuing up for a photo in front of that gold elevator with the ex-president of the USA - before he finds himself charged with incitement to violence?

Robert Boston

Kingshill, Kent

Bum note

It was noticeable that some of the banners displaying the president’s name during the storming of the Capitol building were unfurled in such a way to obscure the letter “T”. Appropriately, this left visible a more polite word for the slang that is increasingly being used to describe him.

Roger Hinds  

Coulsdon, Surrey

Chuck Schumer calles Capitol rioters 'domestic terrorists'

Tell us the truth

I read Ed Davey’s column (7 January) with interest, although it is relatively easy for leaders of opposition parties to wade into critical waters without actually having to make radical decisions themselves. But he is correct that Boris Johnson tries to lull people into a false sense of security, then inevitably has to whip the rug away almost immediately, with the constant mantra that the situation has effectively changed. However, this catch-up modus operandi is now beginning to grate and really concern the public.

It was catastrophic that head teachers were instructed to open primary schools and even more dire when the end result was for one day only. This prime minister absolutely hates to be the bearer of bad news, but I am afraid that goes with the territory and this in/out, shake it all about needs to stop and the country needs to be given the harsh truth and not “let’s hope for the best” soundbites.  

This is indeed a very hard remit for a leader but again he should now reach out to the opposition parties and unite proactively. Then they too must take responsibility for ill thought out actions or the reverse - especially concerning the life saving vaccine roll out - and not just say: “Well I would have done it differently.” That now will not cut the mustard.

Judith A Daniels

Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Priti hypocritical

Priti Patel’s condemnation of Donald Trump and the way his comments stoked the flames of violence would carry more weight if she herself was not so quick to condemn “do-gooder” lawyers and liberal bleeding hearts for protecting the rights of immigrants in the face of actions taken by her department. The stench of hypocrisy is always nauseating, but never more so than when the holder of one of the great offices of state is the source.

Robin J Bulow

Clacton-on-Sea

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