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Editorial: Tragedy and farce on Capitol Hill

THE old joke has it that there can never be a coup d’etat in Washington DC because it doesn’t have a US embassy.

The most significant event two days ago at the Capitol of imperialism’s global policeman was not the failure, contrived or accidental, of routine public order policing but the decision of Vice-President Mike Pence to throw his bloated boss overboard and line up with the Republican leadership in saving as much of their brand as is possible.

It was this, as much as anything else, which so enraged the mob and sharpened their sense of betrayal. In this, they have more finely tuned political instincts than the host of liberal commentators on both sides of the Atlantic who saw an existential threat to US “democracy” in the day’s events.

Take a step back and think about a real challenge to elected authority and constitutional order. A sitting president commands an insurgent force to assault the seat of constitutionally elected authority. The president wants to dissolve the assembly even though the constitution gives him no such powers. He imposes his will by ordering an elite tank division to assault the White House — as the parliament building is known. One hundred and forty-seven people are killed and over 400 wounded.

To general acclamation by Western liberal opinion these events took place in October 1993 in Moscow at the orders of Boris Yeltsin, a man distinguished from Trump only by his habitual drunkenness as contrasted to Trump’s somewhat surprising sobriety.

The difference between these two events is that Trump’s insurgency constituted no threat to the capitalist system in the USA while Yeltsin’s victory hastened its restoration in the former Soviet Union.

That same liberal opinion is reflected in a media that cheers on such manifestations if they are contrived in places like Hong Kong, which has a police force more responsive to elected authority than Washington DC, or Venezuela, where to become president requires a majority of votes.

When the present Republican House leader Mitch Mitchell condemned the incursion onto the sacred turf of legislative power in the US he was giving out a warning to Trump’s ragtag and coonskin rabble that their ersatz insurrection by a stage army of Davy Crockett lookalikes is over. Imagine the police response if the demonstrators were from Black Lives Matter.

Even so, it is well to take note that the discontents of the US people really do threaten the two-party stasis that enables two bourgeois parties of corporate power to alternate in office. A third party challenge to the bourgeois duopoly that erodes the Republican vote threatens to disrupt the foundations of corporate rule no less than does the emergence of an independent working-class force to transform US labour’s supplicant role in the Democratic Party.

The Republican party leadership — whose ties to corporate power in the US are no less intimate than those of the Democratic Party — rightly sees a threat to its future access to office. They took note that the rising tide which gave Georgia two senators elected from an insurgent tide of Democrat voters spelled an end to their domination of Congress.

The capitalist class in any society in crisis can always call into being an army of the discontented and angry. And such a force is necessarily racist and incoherent, contradictory in its desires, riven with competing tendencies and, in the absence of a compelling ideology, condemned to life on the political fringe. Unless that is, the country can no longer be ruled in the old ways.

There is no evidence that the US has reached that point. 

However dangerous Trump’s emboldened fan base proves in its ongoing readiness to stage violent outrages that will be encouraged by the lax police response on Tuesday, Joe Biden’s succession was never threatened; Trump’s belated recognition of the fact was, after all, the denouement to this tragic farce.

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