Capital Riots – Year One: Has America Recovered?

Coup attempt? a riot? a rebellion? terrorism? There is a lot of ink splattered on what to call the attack on the Capitol a year ago today. The events of January 6, 2021 in Washington have been the subject of much debate ever since. (Donald Trump refers to the fatal incident as a “protest.”) And yet the strange thing about that grim and much-talked-about day is that the basic facts can’t really be disputed. How can they be? It was all played live on television. You can call whatever you call; The world was watching.

To summarize: After President Donald Trump spoke to supporters at a rally near the White House, urging them to “fight like hell,” a crowd headed to the Capitol. They stormed the building, successfully breached the security barrier, obstructed Congress’s authentication of the results of the presidential election, and took control of the Senate chamber. Some seemed harmless enough, inadvertently wandering through the building, snapping selfies and taking mementos. Other less so: He sacked lawmakers’ offices, walked around the building chanting “hang up Mike Pence” (the vice president said he wouldn’t go along with Trump’s plan to disrupt democracy). and demanded high-profile Democrats. Around 140 police officers were injured in the attack. One died in the scuffle. Police shot a Trump supporter.

The only reason the rioters were in Washington was because Donald Trump lied. He lied that day, as he lied on polling day eight weeks ago and practically every day, telling his supporters that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential race and that Democrats adored him and his Stole the election from the voters. That lie was indulged, magnified, and elaborated upon by a group of lowlies and loyalists, either cynical enough to go along with it or foolish enough to believe it.

Leah Millis / Reuters

For some time after the attack, it seemed that Trump would pay a heavy price for the violence of his supporters. Surely the horrors of the riots on the hill would put the outgoing president in the dustbin of history. Or so many of us assumed. A hasty second impeachment took place in the final days of Trump’s presidency, and garnered the support of seven Republican senators: a high number in hyper-partisan Washington, but not enough to secure a conviction that would see him in office again. will stop holding.

Speaking of returning to power, the event hasn’t diminished the former president in the eyes of his base: Trump often tops the polls for Republicans’ favorite candidates in 2024. He is concerned about whether he will run again but has not backed down from his obsession with the idea that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Other GOP politicians still find themselves tip-toe around sensitive topics, desperate to avoid offending Trump. In the most ardent Trumpist corners of the American right, January 6 is neatly folded into his conspiratorial worldview: he has sold himself on the dangerous myth that it is a sham by the Left to justify action on his movement. Flag operation.

Meanwhile, Republicans who have taken a stand against Trump after January 6 have not done well. Of the ten House Republicans who voted for impeachment, two announced their retirement, one — Liz Cheney — has become persona non grata in her own party. He and most others find themselves in a tough primary battle against Trump-backed opponents.

And yet, the former president is still a low figure for what Trump did on January 6. In a sign of the times, perhaps the attack’s most significant result is that it banned Trump from Twitter, a move that has reduced his profile to a striking degree. He’s peripheral, off-stage, distant, sad at his club in Mar-a-Largo, Florida. But he’s lurking: a ghost haunting the Washington establishment—and sending shivering down Republicans’ spines with his own presidential design. When it comes to the anniversary of the attack, Trump has decided to cancel at least one attention-grabbing press conference he had planned for today.

AFP via Getty Images

As for the broad January 6 results, the House of Representatives committee has been gathering evidence of the attack for six months. So far they have made one or two interesting revelations. When they do report their findings, however, I suspect many people will be surprised by the full story. Again, today’s facts are well established.

The crackdown on the rioters is on. More than 700 of them have faced charges related to their conduct a year ago. Further legal action will be taken. Attorney General Merrick Garland said yesterday that “the action we have taken so far will not be our last.”

For Democrats, January 6 has been a source of both righteous, justified anger, and, at times, exaggerated, partisan, and unhelpful rhetoric. The riot of a year ago is huge in terms of parties to the democracy agenda, which also includes pushing for federal legislation on voting rights. But his tangible achievements on that front are few and far between.

The really troubling thing about the American system is the bipartisan erosion of democratic legitimacy. Trump’s post-election conduct is sadly the most egregious example of a growing refusal to accept defeat, which is a necessary ingredient in a healthy democratic system. A recent poll by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland found that 29 percent of voters did not accept Joe Biden as legitimately elected president. A troubling number, to be sure. But the same poll four years ago found that 42 percent of voters did not think Donald Trump was legitimately elected. It is this vicious circle that should alert those concerned about the future of American democracy.

AFP via Getty Images

Thankfully, America’s founders designed the country’s political system with crowds and democracy in mind. The carefully designed checks and balances of the Constitution were supposed to protect against mob rule. A year ago today, the fence around the home of American democracy may have been torn down, but the architecture of constitutional rules did its job: a riot instigator ready to cling to power in defiance of the election result. failed in The system worked.