The attack on Congress by pro-Trump rioters on January 6, 2021 shook not only the United States, but also observers of the United States from around the world. Everyone is currently digesting what really occurred, and everyone is reflecting to a certain extent on what occurred to make sense of everything. Ironically, the “law and order” president – namely, Donald Trump – has now proven to be one of the most lawless and disorderly presidents in the history of the United States, alongside George W. Bush.
But Trump’s lawlessness and disorderly conduct is merely a reflection of a long-standing pattern of behavior within the Republican Party that has caused immense distress to the American people at-large. There has long been a separate set of rules for the white patriarchy on one hand, and another set of rules for ordinary people. Under the administration of George W. Bush, the course was set for corruption, political decay, and overextension overseas. Under the Obama Administration, the Citizens United case at the U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates for corruption in government. As a result, the very center of American political life was left vulnerable on January 6th.
Anyone who has studied the history of the Ancient Roman Empire knows that corruption, political decay, and overextension overseas leaves the capital and homeland vulnerable. As Mark Twain once suggested, history may not repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes. Also, political violence is something we are accustomed to seeing only in the Third World. But to see political violence on display in the epicenter of the American empire is quite startling. The last time such political violence was on display was in 1812 when the British laid siege to Washington. The general fear is that the events of January 6 has only emboldened the people who perpetrated the attack on Capitol Hill.
Trump has merely taken advantage of the lawlessness and disorder in American political life which began with the Bush Administration in 2001. Trump beckoned civil strife for personal benefit for more than five years. The backlash came with the takeover of the House of Representatives by Democrats after the riots in Charlottesville in 2017. To put a check on Trump’s behavior, Democrats proceeded with impeachment in 2019, which only widened the political divide in the United States between the North and the South. But the culmination of the back and forth between Trump and the Democrats was January 6th. By obsessing over Afghanistan and adventurism overseas, the political elite in the United States forgot the history of civil strife in their own country.
But like everything else he has done in his life, Trump will most likely get away with his antics on January 6th because of white privilege, like how Bush 43 and his administration got away with their illegal actions overseas. If Barack Obama laid siege to Congress the way Trump did on January 6, the reaction from American government and society would be much different. But Trump merely exacerbated something that was not only long-standing in the Republican Party, but in government in general, which is corruption. All my research after graduating with a master’s degree in 2013 – first as a book author and then as a blogger – was to understand the concept of “order” and how to preserve it. The basic conclusion I derived along with other researchers on government corruption such as Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson were that law and order breaks down because of corruption in elite institutions, not because of external factors or the people.
However, as Hans Morgenthau once argued, the goal is not to establish “the absolute good.” Rather, the goal is to live with the “lesser evil.” Thus, we must determine whether the greater evil lies within the machinations of the state or within the autonomous operations of the market and individuals. It is important to note that the modern state was borne out of ethnic and nationalistic strife and wars, whereas the aim of the individual and market is commerce. But as Immanuel Kant argued, war and commerce cannot coexist. Thus, the question is whether the interests of the state can be reconciled with the interests of the individual and the market. In the end, Trump merely exacerbated the Islamophobia, racism, and white supremacy which the Bush Administration exported to the world beginning in 2001 based on a false pretext and a lie. But Trump brought it all home. As Malcolm X once said, the chickens have come home to roost.
If the Biden Administration wants some semblance of “American Exceptionalism” to return, it must develop a strategy to combat Islamophobia, racism, and white supremacy here at home which both Bush 43 and Trump unleashed overseas and domestically respectively. In October 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concluded that “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists – specifically white supremacist extremists (WSEs) – will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.” It is not an issue that the Biden Administration should take lightly. Biden must have a clear-eyed approach to this issue. Otherwise, the United States will end up being just like any other country that is subject to the natural law of generation and decline due to civil strife. As students of American history, many of us were under the impression that civil strife in the United States ended in 1865 when General Robert E. Lee laid down his arms against the Union army and negotiated a settlement to America’s historic four-year civil war. What if we were wrong?