Democracy under attack: because Washington’s assault affects us all

“The gift of freedom”. Thus in its preamble the Constitution of the United States defines the civil and moral heritage of the country, a common good that must be safeguarded, together with justice and social tranquility, by the institutions and by “us, the people”. It is what we commonly call democracy, the system of mutual guarantees that we exchange every day with each other living, while in our differences of opinion, in different aspirations, in freedom of criticism, in small and large infidelities to principles, however we all recognize ourselves under the same republican sky, inhabited by rights and duties.

These values, defended and reconquered with the defeat of the dictatorships, in the daily organization of the contemporary state have given shape to a democratic mechanism that is based on the contestability of public power, therefore on the possibility of alternating command, therefore on pluralism, on free electoral game, and on the guarantees of the rule of law, on the control of legitimacy by the constitutional courts, on the control of the legality of the judiciary, on the political control by the free information. The combination of these procedures and principles gives life to a continuous process that is never concluded, because democracy is not an ideological superstructure but a human construction – as such fragile, and in need of care -, that is, “it is not one state, but it’s an act, ”as new vice president Kamala Harris recalled.

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The assault on the Capitol is just the latest chapter of deep divisions that come from afar and have been deepened by the last president. The American crisis seen by the historian Jill Lepore


It is exactly this conception of democracy that is hurt by the Trumpist subversion: and for this reason the meaning of the rebellious desecration of the American parliament goes beyond the borders of that country, and affects us all. What else do we still have to wait to understand that the new 1920s begin with democracy under attack, after the 10s devalued it until it emptied it like a hollow tree and then withered it of any value in the conscience of citizens instigated to revolt?

This is not a popular insurgency, but a real conservative revolution, the most classic rebellion of the elites, which is staged in a new form. Nationalist populism, a modern expression of right-wing extremism, has summoned up all the anger, frustration, exclusion, social revenge, resentment of the country, not to emancipate these instincts in a project of change, even a radical one, but to keep them in an incandescent state, in order to set a permanent fire on the political and institutional system. Up to involving the real target, democracy, in the populist fire. The joint grip of the three crises – economic, health, labor – is in fact presented as proof of the failure of the democratic mechanism, indeed as its death certificate. And as a conspiracy to expropriate the people by the globalized ruling groups who are the privileged of democracy – the exclusive prerogative of the guaranteed ones – in the interest of the alliance of new transnational powers that today dominates the world.

Nationalism thus becomes the doctrine of defense of selfishness in revolt, the leader becomes an avenger of the oppressed, and it does not matter if he is a billionaire: the “ethological” recognition of a rebellious species counts more than the class spirit, in hatred anti-establishment, in a social and political revenge on the Palace. Because salvation can only come from outside, from a new, unknown counter-state that has anti-politics as its currency, led by an outsider who does not want to govern the system to change it, but conquer it to revolutionize it. If the outsider wins, the national-populist revolution takes place within the surface of the old democratic form, profoundly changing its substance, and therefore its nature. An illiberal democracy, which denies itself while transforming the regular power of government into the arbitrary disproportion of domination.

Here we are. The halt to Trump with the democratic impeachment proposal, with the growing dissociation of moderate Republicans, with the condemnation of world leaders, certainly concerns the criminal behavior of a pro tempore president in Washington, but at the same time denounces the whole world. encirclement of the new extreme right to democratic civilization, chasing a new power. How to call it? We know that a metamorphosis is underway in the concept of sovereignty in supremacy, which feels “destined” to exercise command, which considers itself released from the obligations established by the law, which imposes its supreme right to assert itself without the conditioning of the Constitution, elections , of popular consent. We are outside the democratic conception of authority, and faced with the typical case of power with the unconsciousness of the limit, willing to answer only to itself, a power that political theory defines as authoritarian and absolute.

In the heart of the liberal systems, an undemocratic neo-authoritarianism, a populist absolutism, has thus reappeared. We are in a titanic device, as is evident: the leader against all, with the charisma that founds a pagan ideological sacredness and breaks through the traditional categories of public discourse by demanding the invulnerability of the Chief, entering a meta-political dimension that tolerates any abuse and justifies excess as a habitual practice, absolving any improper behavior and any violation of the rules with the exceptionality of a leadership that cannot be reduced to the norm, a living anomaly that is justified while it is carried out.

This unprecedented exercise of political primacy necessarily entails a dissociation between power and the state. The leader comes from elsewhere, and is elsewhere, lives in institutions but feels alien. It is a sort of programmatic institutional undressing, a rejection of the traditional vestments of democracy, discarded as caste symbols to grasp only the scepter, the staff of command. Indeed, democracy is debased in the bureaucratic practice of yesteryear, with all those control systems that prevent the leadership from unfolding its saving power. An embarrassment.

So when it comes to the final exit from the system, with the resounding head-tail of the president who denounces the corruption of American democracy with rigged elections, his people are ready. Educated to curse democracy and believe in conspiracies, he easily puts two and two together, accepting the disclosure of the last belief, which closes the magic circle of otherness to the system: democracy is a conspiracy, the proof is precisely in the claim to expel the Head from the White House and to reduce the Trumpian anomaly to a parenthesis. Only a scam is in fact able to divert the fate of the nation, because in the new revolutionary mysticism defeat is an unpronounceable taboo that can only arise from a plot against the people, an expropriation of destiny: in which the leader is in any case innocent , victim but never responsible, outraged when he is wounded, however inviolable in the immovable crib of the perfect charisma.

The elements of post-democratic metamorphosis are ready: a leader willing to do anything, a culture of the far right subversive, a populist language that exploits the crisis, a people who believe in anti-politics as revenge and compensation, the feeling of perennial injustice on the part of the state, the belief a permanent credit with the system, a modern creed that establishes the anti-state.

It is the abuse of the original gift of freedom, perverted into an excess of authority, in a new conception of public affairs in which a minority can deny the popular will of the majority because it feels invested by the general destiny, by the true will of the nation that goes beyond politics, elections, the Constitutions, and borders on an anti-institutional overthrow of the sacred, a new sacrilegious faith. On the other hand, America a century ago dictated the prophecy to Alexis de Tocqueville: “Wanting to stop democracy will then seem to want to fight against God.”


Source: Rss l'Espresso by espresso.repubblica.it.

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