[Note from BenIndy: This post was first published on Stephen Golub’s blog, A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. There, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations. If interested, you may sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog. The images showing featured in this post were added by BenIndy editors and are not original to Steve’s post.]
By Stephen Golub, January 5, 2024
December 7. September 11. And as we recall the third anniversary of the U.S. Capitol being seized by rioters, January 6 has joined the ranks of the most horrible days in American history. In the words FDR applied to Pearl Harbor, it is a “a date which will live in infamy.”
Thankfully, the January 6, 2021 insurrection did not wreak nearly the massive deaths nor physical havoc of those other two days. But in one crucial respect, it’s proven even worse.
How so? In the wake of December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001, the country came together in the face of massive challenges to our democracy and way of life. In contrast, the time since Insurrection Day has seen us more divided than ever. What’s more, we face the distinct prospect of the person who prompted the insurrection – and a wide array of other attempts to subvert the 2020 election results – being returned to the presidency this year.
Lies have been piled on lies, to portray the insurrectionists as heroes. A quarter of Americans believe that the FBI probably or definitely organized and encouraged the attack; fewer than half of us say that it probably or definitely did not do so.
The original, underlying sin of the insurrection and Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election was his misbegotten claim that Joe Biden stole it. Yet, as former Rep. Liz Cheney has pointed out, “There were over 60 court cases where judges, including judges appointed by President Trump and other Republican presidents, looked at the evidence in many cases and said there is not widespread fraud.”
To further hammer home this same point, eight leading Republican legal luminaries published a 2022 report that explained that the 2020 election was lost by Trump, not stolen by Biden. The group included two former U.S. senators, two former federal judges and a former chief of staff to two Republican congressional majority leaders. As he explained in asserting the Biden’s election was valid, “I’m certainly not a ‘Never-Trumper.’ I voted for Donald Trump twice for President.”
Trump’s legal allies failed in 61 of 64 cases. Even their three “wins” were minor, technical exceptions to the rule, all in Pennsylvania and none of them undercutting the validity of Biden’s victory there: They “threw out 270 provisional ballots lacking signatures, separated Election Day provisional ballots from those cast afterward, and moved back Pa.’s deadline for absentee voters to present voter ID by three days.”
I’m belaboring the point about these lawsuits because the conclusions by Republican judges and attorneys constitute key parts of the overwhelming proof that Trump has misled his followers – the over a thousand insurrectionists and the many millions of others – about 2020. Yet an August CNN poll found that two-thirds of Republican still attribute his loss to voter fraud.
Which brings us back to the insurrection, and the one respect in which January 6 was worse than December 7 and September 11, for all of their horrors.
Here’s how it’s worse: The drive to undermine our democracy continues. It includes Trump’s election denialism, as well as his Hitleresque attacks on political opponents as “vermin” and on undocumented aliens as “poisoning the blood of our country.”
But it also includes so much more. Just a partial compilation of Trump’s anti-democratic attitudes, actions statements and online activity includes his: excusing the January 6 insurrection; suggesting that the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff deserved execution; accusing NBC of treason and threatening to deny it airwaves access; threatening and otherwise attempting to intimidate judicial system personnel and witnesses; stating that he has “no choice” but to lock up certain political opponents if elected – even contemplating indicting Biden; praising Hungary’s authoritarian leader (as well as like-minded figures such as Vladimir Putin); and planning to politicize the federal civil service to do his political bidding.
However, there’s another compilation we can take into account as we ponder January 6. It lists what we can do to prevent that date of infamy from defining not just our recent past, but our impending future. It’s what we can do to help save democracy. Here are a few such actions from that lengthy list:
First and foremost, voting for democracy, which means for Biden (or, in the unlikely event he does not run, whomever else the Democrats nominate). Personally, I believe he’s accomplished a lot. But you don’t have to be a fan of Joe to cast your vote for him. Recognizing the threat that Trump represents, a very conservative friend of mine (who thinks that Biden is lousy) intends to do so.
Not voting for a third party candidate, and not simply sitting out the election, even if you’re a progressive who feels Biden has fallen short. The choice is either/or: not voting for Biden only helps Trump. This election will be decided by voter turnout and whom people turn out for – we need only bear in mind 2000 and 2016 to recall the consequences of third party candidates’ impacts.
Finally, a biggie: Becoming politically active, whether it’s through donations, phone banks, canvassing, writing letters to editors, helping out in toss-up states or seeking to influence friends and relatives on the fence. Democracy is not a spectator sport.
Once more, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations, at A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. We recommend you sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog.
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