One year on, has America learned a lesson from the Capitol riot?

Jacob Chansley, known as QAnon Shaman (right) and other protesters outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol. File Photo

Washington, U.S. | Xinhua | The United States fell into a state of shock and shame exactly one year ago when an angry mob broke into the Capitol and interrupted proceedings to certify results of the 2020 presidential election.

Broken glass, damaged statues, and vandalized offices inside the “seat of American democracy” constituted one of the darkest days in U.S. history, along with scenes of frightened lawmakers hiding in the House gallery and Capitol Police officers pointing guns behind a makeshift barricade at violent intruders.

There was no shortage of scrutiny and reflection across most of America’s political spectrum after the Capitol riot. U.S. political figures also swarmed to issue statements on the anniversary on Thursday. However, little if any progress has been made to adequately address the issues that prompted the riot in the first place.

To begin with, unsubstantiated theories that the White House race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was rigged, which was believed to have directly resulted in the homegrown attack, haven’t faded away. Instead, they have firmly taken root.

According to a new NPR/Ipsos poll, a majority of Trump supporters and nearly half of Republicans cling to the view that there was major fraudulent voting in the presidential face-off, as the former Republican president, banned from major social media platforms but still backed by a bulk of his party, continues to push the politically-charged notion to keep energizing his base.

“I’ve never been more scared about American democracy than I am right now, because of the metastasizing of the ‘Big lie,’” Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California Irvine, has recently said, referring to the assertion that the election was corrupt and stolen from Trump.

Furthermore, the political divide remains sharp in the United States. Over the past year, intensifying partisan battles, which have unfolded at various levels, are chipping away the possibility for different political camps to come together to beat the pandemic, push forward voting rights and police reforms, pass major economic packages, and tackle climate change.

Take the impact of escalating political tribalism on America’s performance to curb the pandemic. The United States just reported more than 1 million new cases in a single day, setting a grim new global record, as more than 832,000 lives have been lost to the disease. Top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has deplored political divisiveness in the country contributed significantly to the stunning death toll.

On Capitol Hill, the relationship between different sides of the aisle has grown more bitter and contentious. Several months ago, a U.S. lawmaker went as far as to post an animated video of him killing a colleague of the opposing party.

“The tone gets, you know, tougher and tougher. It is a pretty toxic place. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” U.S. Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan, who has served in the legislative body for 35 years, recently told CNN during an interview.

A House committee made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans is investigating what they have characterized as the siege on the U.S. Capitol, the worst attack on the country’s Congress in more than 200 years. Many of Trump’s closest allies and staunch supporters have charged the inquiry as a political “witch hunt” designed to tar the former president and the GOP as a whole.

As the U.S. midterm elections are only ten months away, the committee, whose existence simply hinges on Democrats’ control of the House, is widely expected to make to the headlines more frequently as the probe moves forward on a tight timeframe, pouring fuel to the partisan fire bound to tear the country further apart.

Last but not least, the United States has yet to truly face up to the issues plaguing its democracy.

The United States has long pretentiously portrayed itself as a democratic role model and spared no effort to export its values and systems. However, history and reality have proven that American-style democracy, dominated by money politics and vested interests while incapable of fully channeling the will of the people, is broken and clearly far from a model paradigm.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said in 2015 that the United States is “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.” Echoing the point of view, American-Swiss historian Alfred-Maurice de Zayas recently told Xinhua that America’s democracy is not functioning and is run by an oligarchy. The same NPR/Ipsos poll also showed nearly two-thirds of Americans believe U.S. democracy is in crisis and at risk of failing.

Despite such decaying domestic politics, the United States went on to hold a so-called “Summit for Democracy” last month. At the virtual forum, the White House spent little time talking about the Capitol riot and other issues consuming America’s own political system despite growing questions from the international community, including America’s allies, about its self-proclaimed leadership in promoting democracy.

Exactly one year ago, the Capitol riot led to the death of five and nearly 140 injuries. They were only some of the immediate victims of America’s crumbling democracy, along with the tens of thousands of lives lost to the deadly pathogen, rampant gun violence, and systemic racial discrimination inside the United States. And the almost countless souls perished in Washington’s so-called democratic adventures overseas will also go down in history as the indelible evidence for the hazards of a tottering, sclerotic, and narcissistic political system.

At the moment, the outcries to save the American democracy from its dire threats are heard loud and clear from the country’s different political tribes except that they mean different things by those threats. Yet what has happened during the past few years in the United States has indicated that America’s biggest threat lies within its own borders and that the hope for a self-salvation seems to be increasingly drifting away.

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