A year ago on this day, thousands of Americans attacked the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Urged on by the former president, who told them that the election had been “stolen,” their goal was to take control of the building and force Congress to overturn the election. Meanwhile, a gallows was prepared outside of the Capitol as the insurrectionists sought to hang former vice president Mike Pence.
As Americans watched the insurrection unfold on live TV, the mob brutally attacked Capitol police and swarmed throughout the building. At the end of the day, five were dead, 140 police officers were injured and the nation’s democracy was hanging by a thread. While Congress certified the election that night, 147 members – all Republicans – voted to overturn the presidential election.
Twelve months have passed, and still, Americans are waiting to hear more details about who planned the attempted coup. To date, a House Committee in Congress has been investigating, and will eventually reveal its findings. Some will dismiss these hearings as “fake news” and follow the ex-president’s pattern of denial and disruption: denying that it was a seminal attack on democracy, and somehow justifying it as a “protest” again “a rigged election.”
But if our democracy is to survive, our judicial system needs to continue. America cannot simply forget that the goal of the day was to strike down democracy with fascism and totalitarianism. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, white supremacists present the gravest terror threat to the country. And, from what we know, these same white supremacists – who espouse antisemitism and civil war – played a key role in leading militias in the Jan. 6 attack. Many were ex-soldiers, who used military tactics to take control of parts of the Capitol.
Meanwhile, in the last 12 months, few Americans seemed to have changed their mind about the election. A recent national poll by UMass-Amherst found that 71 percent of Republicans believe that Joe Biden’s presidency is illegitimate. Another recent poll found that one-third of all Americans, and 40 percent of Republicans believe violence against the government is sometimes necessary.
The coming months and years will continue to be challenging as Americans decide whether they will retain democracy or move toward an authoritarian state. Congress needs to document who led the Jan. 6 insurrection and hold the leaders accountable. Otherwise, it will embolden these same insurrectionists to act again.