One year after the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, we now see a clear, partisan divergence in the perception of this reality — and, in the process, perhaps a clearer view of what this is all about.
When protesters, who were demanding that the Electoral College results of the 2020 presidential election be rejected in favor of then-President Donald Trump, violently invaded the U.S. Capitol a year ago, they committed the most serious domestic attack on this union since the Civil War. People were killed; many others were injured. Offices were ransacked. Property was damaged. Fear ran through the halls of this seat of our government. And a stunned disbelief spread across this nation and beyond.
Hours later, democracy prevailed as Congress resolutely reconvened to finish its task of certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election. Nevertheless, 147 GOP congressmen and senators opposed certification based on groundless claims of election fraud that, to this day, remain unproven.
In the immediate wake of Jan. 6, 2021 (1/6), condemnations came from both sides of the political aisle of what had happened. The words seemed to reaffirm the higher calling of the republic.
But one year later, the tone has sadly diverged. While Democrats have certainly hammered on the 1/6 incident for dramatic political effect, Republicans have generally turned to ignoring it completely or feverishly downplaying it, saying it’s time to move on from an incident for which there are still too few answers. During a service held last Thursday in the U.S. House to remember the insurrection and the victims, Rep. Liz Cheney and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, were the only Republicans to show up. All others stayed away, thus cementing their stand of trying to dismiss 1/6 for whatever reasons. Dismissing all this as partisan political theater, which was a big reason behind the GOP boycott (for lack of a better word) last week, does not lessen the seriousness of 1/6 or the threat that remains to our democracy.
In that respect, the actions of most Republican lawmakers since then have been alarming. After 1/6, rumors were actively disseminated that, for instance, antifa was covertly responsible for the aggression or that Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi was suspiciously slow in calling for assistance to defend the capitol. But these same lawmakers voted against a congressional investigation into the incident and have criticized the select committee, which was appointed instead to investigate the matter, as partisan. Even last week’s event was dismissed as such. Meanwhile, most of them have continued to either promote or not disavow the election fraud claims that have been debunked repeatedly. In general, they have acted as if they were complicit, perhaps unwittingly, with whatever happened a year ago — that the truth is too uncomfortable to seek, to acknowledge or to even know. This may be an incorrect conclusion, but appearances suggest otherwise.
The 1/6 incident shook the foundation of American democracy at home, and it has stirred worry among our allies abroad.
Indeed, we should all be worried, not only by what we saw a year ago but also by what we’ve seen since. More than mere political calculus is at stake.
Our democracy is not perpetual or divinely guaranteed. It can be torn down in the same way that it was conceived and defended — by our own design, and by our own action or inaction. It can be lost just as it was won. The fact that 1/6 did not unify us but, instead, seems to have further divided us may be a discouraging testament to that.
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, we must stand together, or we will fall apart. Right now, the current trend is not promising.