The gravity of the situation is elsewhere. The gravest concern is not that a few hundred morons were able to force their way into the Capitol and that five people lost their lives. Many newspapers and prominent American figures saw this as an “attempted coup d’Etat”, but where were the forces – regiments, police or armed militias – ready to take power by substituting a dictatorship for American democracy?
There were none because, even before this farce, Donald Trump’s vice-president, the president of his senatorial majority and many elected Republicans had already turned away from him. This January 6 was rather the day when this man finished shooting himself in the foot by pretending to march on Rome before he hid behind the skirts of his lawyers, but this moment of humiliation of the United States says two things that are extremely worrying.
The first is that it took until the very last days of this mandate for senators and Republican representatives to start distancing themselves from a man who has, among other things, stubbornly denied the seriousness of a pandemic that is now ravaging his country, tried to trade American aid to Ukraine for a indictment of Joe Biden’s son and cultivated an all too obvious complicity with all the dictators of this world.
The elected Republicans had lain down at the feet of this modern-day Nero for four years out fear that he might oppose them at the primaries, candidates at his mercy. They had swallowed it all because the popularity of a demagogue can overpower the dignity of men and women who would prefer any alternative to losing their seats.
Much more than the “Grand Guignol” of January 6, it is the structural weakness of democracy that is frightening, and what is even more frightening is that the reasons that allowed the election of a Donald Trump have not faded away but persist, in the United States as in all developed democracies.
Factory closures and relocations in pursuit of the lowest possible production costs continue to spread social despair and anger. The major post-war parties have been considerably weakened by the desertion of their mainstream voters who blame them for betraying them by embracing Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s economic rationales. This destructuring of the political chessboard benefits the new social-nationalist extreme right-wing movements, which are at the same time reinforced by the anxiety created by the scale of migration to Europe and the United States and by the economic and demographic decline of the Western worlds.
On both sides of the Atlantic, social and cultural disarray is mounting, intensified by the speed at which new technologies and the revolution in lifestyles are changing even the most entrenched habits and conventions. There is no longer a single Western country, including Russia and Turkey, where one half of the electorate is not desperately seeking a return to the familiar order of times past, or at least a pause in the on-going disruptions, and above all, the establishment of a new, fairer and more reassuring social contract.
Mr Trump is now destined for political oblivion. The new European extreme rights also seem to be running out of steam, but if Joe Biden and the European leaders do not know how to reassure and protect the weakest, if priority is not given to reinventing social protection and raising the lowest wages, there will soon be far worse than Mr Trump, Orbán, Putin or Erdogan, and the democracies will then experience a new era, that of the real coups d’Etat.