Rewind three months and two days. It's November 8, 2020, and the front pages of virtually every newspaper in the world announce Joe Biden's victory in the U.S. presidential election, settled after several tense days of vote-counting — and in spite of Donald Trump's continued refusal to concede defeat.
There's a straight line from those headlines to the Jan. 6 assault in Washington on the Capitol, as Trump spent the next two months spreading lies and rage in an unprecedented attempt in American history to subvert the results of a national election.
Going back to November 8, there was also important news unfolding more than 8,000 miles away, as a much younger democracy was going to the polls that day in their own much anticipated election. The voters of Myanmar would wind up overwhelmingly choosing the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, defeating politicians more closely linked to the military that had brutally ruled over the Southeast Asian nation for decades.
It wouldn't be long before the Myanmar military began spreading its own campaign of lies and misinformation about would-be election fraud that, much like Trump's, are hard to disprove simply because they are fabricated from thin air.
The story lines of these two very different countries are crossing again. Last week, Suu Kyi was arrested, along with President Win Myint and dozens of other politicians, as the military took over in a swift coup d'état that ended a fleeting eight-year flirt with democracy.
"The UEC [election commission] failed to solve huge voter list irregularities in the multi-party general election which was held on 8 November 2020," declared Myint Swe, a former general and vice president handpicked by the military to stand in as president.
Back at the U.S. Capitol, meanwhile, the Senate trial of the now twice-impeached Trump is again putting on display the deepening fault lines of what Americans like to proudly call "the world's oldest democracy." There was the question Tuesday about whether Trump, now out of office, can constitutionally be impeached. There are questions to come about whether his words actually amount to incitement and insurrection.
They will say a functioning democracy must take into account Trump's popularity.
With at least 17 fellow Republicans Senators needed to join the 50 Democrats, Trump will most likely not be convicted — and will remain a major presence in U.S. politics.
Republicans will say that a functioning democracy must leave ample space for free speech. They will say that a functioning democracy, and their own party, must take into account Trump's popularity with voters. And yet just a glance across the world at Myanmar is a timely reminder of what now seems clear: If Trump had the military on his side, he would still be sitting in the White House today — taking the world's oldest democracy down with him.
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