Sunday, January 24, 2021

An independent judiciary saves American democracy

The Sunday Star
by Roger Tan

Image: I Got This by Sousa & Machado
Image: I Got This by Sousa & Machado

CONGRATULATIONS to Joseph Robinette Biden Jr and Kamala Devi Harris for having been successfully inaugurated as the 46th president and vice-president of the United States respectively. It almost did not happen on Jan 20, or at all, if not for the US judiciary. 

On Jan 6, the losers fomented mobs to storm the US Capitol to stop the certification of the 2020 US presidential election results. To former President Donald Trump and his acolytes, this was perhaps their last hope to get rid of what they called the “rigged result” after American courts, including the US Supreme Court, twice refused to overturn the results in battleground states. Despite five deaths, the incident could have been a calamity had any elected legislator been taken hostage or killed by the insurrectionists. 

For a moment, the 245-year-old American republic almost became a banana republic devoid of the rule of law. On that day of infamy, democracy as the best form of government almost died in a country which has always prided itself on being the world’s greatest democracy. 

In the words of national youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman – who wowed the world at Biden’s inauguration ceremony with her poem – “This effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.” 

The free world heaved a huge sigh of relief at this irenic victory for democracy, though this embarrassing episode has now diminished America’s moral authority as the keeper or beacon of democracy. 

Before I go on, I need to pause here to say that I have not been watching too much CNN. In fact, I watch the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel too. 

To the world at large, Biden did secure an emphatic victory. The world was just simply astounded to see how Trump, who was unable to accept defeat in an electoral democracy, could lie that the elections were rigged and urge his supporters to “Stop the steal”. It is even more mind boggling to see how some Americans could so easily turn cuckoo overnight, deluded by misinformation into believing in conspiracy theories. 

This reminds me of the tactic employed during World War II by the Nazi minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels: Turn a lie into the truth just by repeating it often enough. He reportedly said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.... It thus becomes vitally important for the state to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the state.”