Leeds School of Social Sciences

Colleagues discuss the storming of the Capitol building and the implications for the US

Colleagues from Leeds School of Social Sciences have contributed to discussions on BBC Radio Leeds and Yorkshire Evening Post about the storming of the Capitol Building and what is next for American democracy.

Professor John Craig, Dean of School, and Dr Tom Houseman, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations have recently offered their perspective to local news outlets on the implications of the momentous attack which took place on 7 January.

In his interview with Nick Ahad from BBC Radio, Professor Craig emphasised the magnitude of this occurrence, likening it to the equivalent of an attack taking place on the House of Commons. He highlights that the events of last week have called into question the stability of the political landscape in America, particularly in view of the upcoming inauguration of Joe Biden on 20 January. Washington is the location of many significant political protests however the storming of the Capitol has resulted in discussions as to whether restrictions need to be applied, and whether these will impinge people’s ability to speak on current issues.

Professor Craig continues that if Trump does not accept the legitimacy of the election this could be increasingly problematic. However, he asserts that this is the time for senior members of the Republican Party to demonstrate honest and sincere leadership. To progress forward they should disassociate themselves from the denial and violence taking place. His BBC interview can be found here (between 3:15-3:25).

In his Yorkshire Evening Post article, Dr Houseman acknowledges that although the events taking place were a spectacle they are only exceptional if we romanticise US history. He asserts that the US has never been a democracy in the popular sense but rather a constitutional republic. This ideal strays from the one typically taught in US schools. Houseman continues that the structural crisis of American society has been left out of electoral politics due the political elite’s cultural norms of liberal respectability. Trump and his supporters have demonstrated how frail these norms are. Instead of waiting for "a return to normality" after these events, this instead is the symptom of normality that has been building for decades.

Since both discussions, the House of Representatives has voted to impeach Trump for a second time. Professor Craig however believes that this is not the end of the story: "Whatever the outcome of a Senate trial, the question for the Republican Party is whether it chooses to continue on the course set by Donald Trump or reject this. For the Democrats, the challenges will soon be those of a party coming to power in a deeply divided country at a time of crisis. They will want to build broad support for measures to tackle the pandemic and implement their policy programme”.

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