More than 25,000 troops guarding the Capitol Hill in Washington DC for the oath taking ceremony of 78-year-old President-elect Joe Biden is in many ways symptomatic of the decline of the American empire.
Till four years ago, the superpower US took pride in its democracy and despite assaults like 9/11, it did not feel as threatened. But today, Biden and his team, who are to assume office later on Wednesday, will be taking oath under unprecedented security in the capital city that looks like a fortress.
The ceremony has been scaled down and made out of bounds for the general public with tall iron barricades erected in the Capitol Hill area. This security arrangement has been made in view of the January 6 mob violence by the supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, who stormed the Capitol to protest against the alleged fraud in the Presidential elections.
Despite the outrage against Trump on media and predictions of the US political pundits and pollsters that Team Biden will sweep the polls, around 75 million Americans voted for Trump. The irregularities in the voting and counting process left over 77 per cent of Republicans believing that there was major fraud in the 2020 elections, as per a recent survey.
The vicious election campaign and the subsequent developments demonstrate that the US is completely polarised today, in ways different than it used to be in the past.
In pre-Trump America, politics often revolved around the government, taxes, abortion, guns and economy. Even as these issues remain, identity politics and culture wars have taken the centre stage in American politics.
The Left in the US sees both wealthy and working class traditionalists as White bigoted supremacists, racists and Islamophobes. The Right, on the other hand, sees the Left as amoral crony capitalists with enormous influence and power over media, academics, promoting woke culture against Christian values.
The reasons for this unprecedented polarisation are the overwhelming and exceptional power the ruling elite groups enjoy in the US. Thanks to these groups, in the last three decades after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the US found itself outsourcing jobs and living off cheap Chinese imports while spending trillions of dollars on wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The US appeared like a war machine feeding on the Third World.
As a result, the working classes hit by globalisation, the families of the US soldiers killed in wars and the Christian traditionalists looked down upon by liberals, assumed critical mass. They all found themselves in agreement with Trump's inward-looking vision to ‘Make America Great Again'.
In the last four years, as Trump fulfilled his poll promises, one after another by turning protectionist, he reduced America's interventionism considerably.
The US establishment-institutions, media and technology, which remain in the grip of the powerful elite groups, believe that the American withdrawal from the world is an indicator of America's decline.
But this view does not address the internal corrosion of the US system caused by the exorbitant influence the powerful lobbies wielded in the last 30 years. Instead, it seems to indicate that the US empire thrives only on the chaos and unrest in the rest of the world, using its interventionist policies.
Holders of this opinion pushed back against Trump's vision. No other American President got as much bad press and open defiance from both the state and non-state institutions within the US, as Trump did. Yet, the close contest in the Presidential elections demonstrated that his supporters remained unaffected by the amplified voices. That they stormed the Capitol Hill and resorted to violence not only undermined American democracy, but also the legitimacy of the empire which the Biden administration resolves to rebuild.
No empire can flourish without social cohesion, internal peace and soft power. The fact that Biden's oath ceremony is taking place under intense security because of the fear of violence from one section of the society shows that something is terribly broken in the United States of America.