With congressional elections looming, America can’t afford another Jan. 6
It was an unprecedented attack, but it wasn’t the leading edge of a larger coup attempt. However, if similar things happen after the election in ’22 or ’24, the nation would be in grave danger
One year later, Americans can’t agree even on the basic facts of what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Was it a violent attempt to change the official results of the 2020 election? A recent AP-NORC poll found that only 39% of Republicans classify the events that day as extremely violent, compared to 64% of American adults as a whole and 87% of Democrats.
Even the dead and injured are a source of dispute, with some people claiming the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, from a stroke, had nothing to do with the chemicals rioters sprayed on him.
The medical examiner said he died of natural causes. Sicknick’s family, however, publicly lobbied Congress to begin a formal investigation into the events of that day. His mother said, “He just was doing his job and he got caught up. It’s very sad.”
This obfuscation and confusion over an event that largely was broadcast live, and of which many graphic videos were made available after the fact, illustrates the dangers of hyperpartisan politics. Spin and propaganda remain strong weapons, even in the information age.
Americans are not done studying the events of that day, nor of former President Donald Trump’s involvement as a potential instigator, or why he took so long to react despite the urgings of friends and allies. Americans deserve to know the details of what happened and why. Democracy can function only with transparency as a fundamental underpinning.
But people can know the truth only if it comes free from political baggage, which makes the current, mostly one-sided, investigation seem somewhat less than hopeful.
America also must look forward. At the heart of the Capitol riot was the premise that the 2020 presidential election was riddled with fraud, and that Congress that day was ratifying the wrong winner. It was not riddled with fraud. Congress ratified the election winner.
Despite losing every court challenge, including at the hands of some judges appointed by President Trump, those who believe the false narrative persist. Polls have consistently shown that about two-thirds of Republicans believe the election was rigged, compared to about 30% of all Americans. More concerning, a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that about one-third of all Americans believe violence against the government can sometimes be justified. Only the cause at-hand seems to separate the justification for violence among various parties.
Even in Utah, some state lawmakers are preparing to support an independent audit of the state’s results in 2020, despite no one having raised any complaint of trouble. Supporters say scrutiny, even in the absence of evidence, is healthy. But under the current political climate, it also could heighten suspicions and increase cynicism.
2022 is another election year. The nation must reclaim its age-old respect and confidence in its election process in order to continue to prosper. Examinations and reexaminations of the 2020 results, including a much-criticized audit of Arizona’s results, have vindicated the nation’s election system but failed to quiet the charges of fraud. Facts seem to gain little traction in this debate.
Some political experts say Republicans appear poised to retake control of Congress this year. The peaceful transfer of power was a hallmark of American democracy prior to 2020. Will it become so again?
What we do know about the riot of Jan. 6, 2021, is that it was a deadly serious matter. Some in the crowd had erected a gallows and were calling for Vice President Mike Pence to hang if he didn’t try to decertify the Electoral College results. He and his brother, Indiana Rep. Greg Pence, were whisked to safety.
We also know, with strong video evidence, that the crowd sprayed chemicals on police and, in some cases, used police officers’ own weapons on them. Property was damaged. The offices of elected officials were breached and vandalized. Police shot and killed a woman as she attempted to enter the House chamber. Some rioters wore armor and were carrying various weapons.
This was an unprecedented attack, but it wasn’t the leading edge of a larger coup attempt. Government continues to operate effectively on all levels in the United States.
We now know this is not something to be taken for granted. No matter the year and no matter the election, a peaceful transition of power must be the hallmark of American elections. That should be the focus in 2022 and beyond.