The United States (US) is in socio-economic and political turmoil again. The storming of Capitol Hill last week essentially corroborates it. It is crucial to examine what took the country to such a situation, shaming it in the global community.
Globalisation and economic uncertainty
A systemic analysis of these developments has to look into what has been going on in the US since 2000 which coincides with the entry of China into WTO and the unprecedented rise of China as a manufacturing hub as well as an economic superpower. Thus, markets across the globe, especially that of the US were flooded with cheap Chinese products and resultant damages to the domestic economies in the form of closure of domestic industries and job losses.
People, especially the white working class, were highly disillusioned and angry. Meanwhile, the US was hit with financial crises created by elites on Wall Street and the administration and these elites were rewarded in the form of bail-out packages at the cost of ordinary taxpayers.
Naturally, people were angry with the economic and political elites due to such policy initiatives. The fierce attack on globalisation by Donald Trump on the one hand, and the embrace, as well as glorification of globalisation by Xi Jinping on various international platforms, echoes the sentiments in their respective domestic economies.
The Emergence of Donald Trump
The best time for a demagogue to hit the political landscape is when people are frustrated with the status quo and are looking for someone who promises to change it (or "drain the swamp" in Washington, according to Trump). The rise of conservative movements such as the Tea Party in 2009 is a good case in point that illustrates the flux in American society after the financial crisis and subsequent economic insecurity.
For instance, while describing itself, the Tea Party on its official website says: "As citizens became increasingly frustrated by "politics as usual," patriots across America began seeking a new voice, one echoing from the pages of history".
This is exactly what Donald Trump did and he plunged into this chaotic situation to tap the resentments of the people for his political power.
The polarisation of people along the lines of colour and creed has been used by Donald Trump as a political weapon. Thus, with Trump's four years in the White House, American society has allegedly undergone tremendous transformation in the worst possible direction.
Distrust among white and non-white communities and economic chaos, especially after COVID-19 has made matters much worse. In addition to all these strategies, the worst thing that Trump did to the US was undermining its democratic institutions, norms, and traditions. As mentioned above, to appease his vote bank, he has thrown several sacred norms and traditions to the wind.
The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court judge just before the election and pardoning of his friends and associates, such as Michael Flynn, prosecuted by federal agencies are some examples.
Thus, the US has been in socio-economic and political churning since 2000. All this can be traced back to the economic globalisation and emergence of an alternative superpower, China, to the US and the resultant economic mess in the latter and consequent social and political ramifications.
Donald Trump has messed up the situation further through polarisation of people and undermining of norms, traditions, and institutions. This has created a social genie in the US and what we saw on Capitol Hill last week appears to be just the beginning as top intelligence agencies have already warned of a planned violent revolt across the country in the coming days.
Lesson for India
In the backdrop of farmers' protest, countries like India have a huge lesson to learn from the US. Socio-economic vulnerabilities of the people should be addressed expeditiously without leaving a chance for trouble makers to tap such uncertainties for their personal benefits. Legislations should not be carried out in haste, even in the name of reforms, without taking relevant stakeholders into confidence.
(Dr. Anvar Sadat is Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Central University of Kerala.)
(The views expressed are personal.)