BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The President of the United States was impeached for a second time—an unprecedented reality in U.S. history. The House of Representatives voted on charges of “incitement and insurrection” after last week’s deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol.
The riot, the violent break-in, the destruction and the death that took place last Wednesday was an affront to American democracy. It was also a culmination of four years of reckless disregard for democratic norms and principles.
We, as Americans, had a front row seat and watched as the President one-by-one defamed and dismantled democratic institutions beginning with the press and ending with his attempts to rob the American people of their votes, laying bare the cracks in our democracy, which often times gave way to partisan politics that was driven by the rabid desire of some elected officials to hold on to their seats—and levers—of power.
The president and his supporters brushed off the serious charges levied against him when he was impeached by Congress the first time—the withholding of Congressionally-mandated funding to a foreign government in return for information he could use against his political opponents.
The fervent support he received from his allies then and throughout his presidency empowered him to push the envelope further and farther, with his last act being the belligerent lies he spread about the results of last November’s elections, which he lost by all—and many—counts.
His disdain for the rule of law and the constitution pivoted him to embrace despotic leaders, such as his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan who governs his country without any consideration for human rights and democratic values.
One glaring example of the U.S. administration’s disregard for democracy was the slow and anemic reaction to the beating endured by American protesters by Erdogan’s bodyguards, who were from Turkey, during a peaceful protest in 2017. The fact that a foreign leader got away with inciting and ordering violence against Americans in their own country where they were exercising their constitutionally-guaranteed democratic freedoms of expression and assembly demonstrated the president’s lack of understanding of democratic norms and showed how far he was willing to go to appease a despot, whom he sought to emulate.
The attack on and erosion of democracy has been on the rise in recent years around the world where leaders are using violence and subversion to quash the people’s right to vote and self-determination. Last year, we saw Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus crush his opponents and force himself back into power. Unfortunately, a similar scenario is playing out in Armenia, where Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was elected in what can be deemed as the first democratic election, is relying on and deploying the country’s security apparatus to silence opponents in order to maintain his grip on power, despite leading Armenia to a crushing defeat during the Karabakh war this fall.
American democracy has its flaws. What our founders put on paper was an ideal whose implementation has become murky as financial, economic and self interests have rocked the system, which has spurned loopholes for the powerful to advance. Despite this, American democracy, as practiced here in the U.S., remains a true beacon for the world.
This is why organizations such as the Armenian National Committee of America have been expending resources to educate and empower our community to vote and make our voices heard in the halls of power in America, always underscoring that one’s vote is one’s voice, and no one has the right to silence it. That simple concept has helped catapult issues of importance to the Armenian community on the agendas of city halls, state houses and Congress. Our community’s advocacy and engagement has also helped us achieve successes in advancing justice and our national aspirations.
When the president lost the election in November, he used lies, threats and intimidation to advance a fictional—and false—narrative, egging on his supporters to adopt and use the same vile tactics that culminated in the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol.
This past week I spoke to some staffers who work for some of our allies and advocates in Congress. They recounted in horror what they witnessed as the attack on Congress unfolded and spoke of the dangers if decisive action is not taken to punish those who organized and incited the violence against America’s symbol of democracy.
Despite witnessing and living through last Wednesday’s events, some are still wavering in their condemnation and the need to preserve, protect and advance democracy, setting a dangerous precedent for future generations of Americans.
Democracy is the bedrock of this country. Whoever—regardless of the position they hold—attempts to breach that must be held accountable, in order to strengthen those principles and ensure that no one can shake the foundations of the country.