Trumping Democracy

Astonishing scenes have been reported over the last 48 hours. Supporters of an outgoing president have stormed government buildings. Shots have been fired, people killed. Only this isn’t some South American banana republic with el presidente a mere puppet of a moustachioed military junta. Nor is it some corrupt, adolescent African democracy, still smarting from colonial rule. No sir, it’s one of democracy’s sweetest cradles, the United States. Brandishing Confederate flags and fake horns, angry protestors marched to the Capitol, attacking police and barging into the chambers. It’s remarkable that a nation which spends eleventy trillion dollars on defence each year wasn’t able to save its civic temples from desecration, unable to stop angry rednecks slouching in the Speakers’ chairs, while others almost literally swung from the chandeliers. Egged on by Mr Trump, his supporters cannot believe he won't be in power for another four years; both they and he cannot accept electoral defeat. He loved democracy when it put him in the Oval; he despises it when it removes him.

Are there any world leaders and rulers who have gracefully and tactfully relinquished power’s reins? Vladamir Putin and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan altered their respective countries’ constitutions to lengthen their terms of office. Some of us recall the 1990 footage of Margaret Thatcher sobbing in her Jaguar as she sped away from Downing Street one final time. Cameron, Blair, Eden, Churchill, Macmillan and Wilson won their respective elections, yet all were forced out of office one way or another. Having grasped power, few have the courage, grace and humility to willingly release it.  Providence itself had to discharge them.

This week, Mr Trump disgraced himself. By launching his army of morons into attacking venerated symbols of democracy, he merely exposes himself as one more washed-up princeling on the beaches of obscurity. All rulers, kings and presidents’ times come to an end, their terms of office limited and shortened.

Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. (Is 14:9)

There’s another ruler for whom days in office are strictly numbered. Though he rages and froths, his doom is determined and sentence pronounced:

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. John 12:21

And were this world all devils o'er,
and watching to devour us,
we lay it not to heart so sore;
they cannot overpower us.
And let the prince of ill
look grim as e'er he will,
he harms us not a whit;
for why? his doom is writ;
a word shall quickly slay him.

-Martin Luther, translated by Carlyle. 

Image by Rogier Hoekstra from Pixabay