Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Trump…Who Wins and Who Loses?

As local authorities in several states prepare for potential protests by supporters of former US President Donald Trump against his “possible arrest” for allegedly paying a bribe to "silence" a porn star in 2016, US media outlets are trying to identify the winners and losers of this battle.

At the time of writing, New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg has not indicted Trump. I believe that if he is indicted and thereby arrested, the biggest loser would neither be the Democrats, nor Republicans; it would be the democratic process itself, both in the United States and globally.

The indictment takes place and Trump gets arrested, it would coincide at a time when the US is preparing for the start of presidential election campaigns, giving us the impression that the process has been politicized. The legal details are irrelevant to much of the American public and even many around the world.

Here, we should keep in mind that this is a battle of impressions, so to speak. These battles are far more complicated than legal or political disputes. The game of impressions is Trump’s forte, which is obvious from how he has been playing it since his emergence on the political scene.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said that he is “directing relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.” He also accused the New York County District Attorney of using his position to “pursue political vengeance against President Trump.”

This statement will not be a Republican viewpoint. Indeed, this is the impression of every observer watching the political process in the United States and the extent to which it is democratic. Most American thinkers and politicians claim that the best way to safeguard democracy is to practice it seriously at home.

Of course, Trump’s political rise was the biggest challenge to democracy, and so is the case of other populist movements across the globe. Therefore, how to deal with Trump and populists like him is the real test of the democratic process.

Here, we are not discussing a matter that only pertains to the US. Rather, the question is how the world views this superpower that wants its foreign policy to be tied to “democratic values,” especially since President Biden announced an international conference of the world’s democracies early in his term.

However, what has happened and is happening during his reign - the misconduct of his administration - has dealt a blow to democracy. We saw the shameful withdrawal from Afghanistan and how the country was handed over to the Taliban, undermining the credibility of the United States. Another example is how Biden dealt with the Iran protests, which mirrored Obama’s approach to the Syrian revolution.

Now, if Trump is charged and arrested, this image of democracy and the link between democratic values and US foreign policy will be be dealt with a real blow. His arrest would make it ridiculous for an American official in the region, for example, to talk about democracy and its significance.

And again, this is not an academic or legal debate. Rather, we are talking about a stereotypical image of the US that is becoming increasingly widespread: There is no difference between US democracy and its political disputes, and the events we see unfolding in some countries in the region.

And so, the struggle between Democrats and Republicans in the United States has dealt a major blow to the concept of democracy. Indeed, they did more to undermine this concept than democracy’s opponents, particularly during the current president’s term.