historian | journalist | peacebuilder

The Capitol Lesson

Date

Important American events were pushed off stage by videos of the hideous January 6 bid to prevent the US Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. America’s response will be watched with interest, but a focus on what was removed from view is also called for.

Only an hour or so before the Trump-incited attack occurred, Democrats had wrested control of the US Senate: Their nominee, Jon Ossoff, was projected as the winner in the final Georgia runoff. Then, a few hours after the attack, top Republicans in the Senate openly broke with Trump. Enlisting most of their party colleagues, they ensured certification.

Both Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s veteran leader, and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, until that moment Trump’s most persuasive ally, told the Senate that the Congress was obligated, by law and the facts, to certify Biden’s win.

Frontally addressing Trump’s repeated falsehood that “thousands of dead men” and “thousands of felons” had voted for Biden, Graham said he had asked to see just 10 Biden votes from dead men or criminals. He hadn’t been shown even one.

“Enough is enough,” Graham shouted in videos anyone can access, “Joe Biden will be the president and Kamala Harris the vice-president.” Possessing no role in auditing the vote, the Senate did not need this assertion. But, bombarded by Trump’s falsehoods, everyday Republicans across America required it.

For true believers in Trump’s infallibility, men like Graham and McConnell no longer matter. They merely join those who should be “hanged”, a list that already includes vice-president Pence. However, frank reiteration of electoral facts helps others who voted Republican to accept the result and move on.

Some Republicans are starting to express another political fact: Their party cannot expect to win future nationwide elections with only the white vote, which in percentage terms is steadily shrinking. In many individual constituencies, on the other hand, as also in several states taken as a whole, white supremacy remains an appealing message, and one which can be conveyed without using precise words.

Like most other states of the American south, Georgia thus far was reliably “Red” (the Republican colour). Currently, the state’s electorate is 52 per cent white, 32 per cent Black, 10 percent Latino and 4.4 percent Asian. Jon Ossoff, a Jew, and Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Black preacher, defeated their Republican rivals because a crucial slice of the white vote plus an overwhelming share of the Black vote came to them.

Black percentages are distinctly larger in the American South, which means that their political future should be bright if, while retaining Black support, Democrats can modestly widen their appeal among Whites and Latinos. Such a goal may not be beyond reach for people like Warnock, Ossoff and Stacey Abrams, the remarkable woman who has steadily bolstered Black voting and the Democratic Party in Georgia.

The state has other strengths. For 33 years until his death last July, John Lewis, the civil rights hero possessing numerous white fans, represented a Georgia constituency in Washington. His autobiography reveals that Lewis had closely studied Gandhi and satyagraha in the 1950s and 1960s. Also closely connected to Georgia and its largest city, Atlanta, were Martin Luther King Jr. and his father. In fact, Warnock, the new senator, is the pastor at the Atlanta church where “Daddy” King and his more famous son had both served.

In any long-term contest in the US between white supremacy and what King saw as his “beloved”, multiracial America, most observers would pick the latter to win. Still, the attack on the Capitol exposed an ugly reality, which is that some or many of the 74 million who voted for Trump (as against the 81 million for Biden) believe that whites own America.

“This is our house,” attackers told the police as they forced their way into the Capitol with Confederate flags, Trump banners, guns, explosives, at least one noose, and “Jesus” placards. Without their permission, Blacks and other non-Whites should not enter or inhabit this house of theirs. Persons like Speaker Nancy Pelosi were trespassers.

In India, Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis, taken together, form the equivalent of America’s Blacks. Counting Dalits and Adivasis in the Hindu fold, Hindu radicals reserve their public ire for Muslims. “Hindu consolidation” against Muslims is the political equivalent in India for the American call, open or subtle, for white supremacy.

Who are the Hindu leaders who will speak frankly to India’s cow vigilantes or “love jihad” militants the way Pence, McConnell and Graham finally spoke on January 6 to America’s Trump backers? If “enough is enough” will not escape the lips of a Narendra Modi, an Amit Shah, an Adityanath or any principal colleague, everyday Hindus must utter the words, in their homes to kith and kin, outside their homes to fellow citizens.

“India belongs as much to her Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, Jews, atheists or others as to her Hindus.” With such words, Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar inspired free India to commence an impressive journey. Hindus unable or unwilling today to utter these words are India’s counterparts of the enablers of the January 6 attack on America’s core and constitutional meaning.

But Kamala Harris, Raphael Warnock, Jon Ossoff and Stacey Abrams too have their Indian counterparts: Leaders from minority communities, and weaker castes, who feel connected also to other Indians, including caste Hindus and high-caste Hindus. When their voices ring out without fear, as also the voices of everyday Hindus offended by the coerciveness of Hindu supremacy, Indian Trumpism will find its nemesis.