The Evolving Legacy of January 6th

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

On January 6, 2021, live coverage of Congress counting the electoral college votes was juxtaposed with Donald Trump’s “Save America” Rally …turned protest march …turned violent mob storming the Capitol. Images flooded social media in real time from every angle, one more disturbing and terrifying than the next. But there is one arresting image which tells the who, what, where, when, and why like no other: a gallows erected on the grounds of the Capitol.

The presence of a gallows puts an end to any whitewashing about the rally being “filled with so much love,” an impromptu protest march which got out of hand, and/or “they were only tourists.”  No, a gallows is not order on an app and delivered in 30 minutes or less; it is planned, materials purchased, and built with deadly intent.

In this case, it was to stop the counting of electoral votes and break the Presidential line of succession. Though it’s difficult to imagine Speaker Pelosi surviving to the gallows had the murderous mob laid hands on her.  Donald J. Trump is responsible for calling his MAGA supporters to Washington DC on January 6th and inciting them to deadly insurrection.


Or so we thought.  While the image of the gallows tells us so much about one of the darkest days in our nation’s history, it does not answer the remaining question. How did it come to this?

As the work of the January 6th Committee proceeds, staggering and harrowing revelations have immerged.  While it seemed clear from the outset that the failed insurrection could not have been attempted without significant prior planning and financing, the public is learning it was only part of what is coming into focus as an attempted coup.  Indications are that it involved several governmental departments as well as members from both Houses of Congress, possibly dozens.  It also may have involved one of the most influential right wing media networks vital in spinning how a successful coup would have been received or how the failed one is perceived.



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Therein lies the ongoing reality of January 6th, a significant part of this country believes “what they cannot prove but know is true.”  What’s more, 60% of Republicans believe Biden stole the election without any evidence.

Almost immediately after the insurrection, Republicans began introducing “voter integrity” bills in statehouses to “resort confidence in elections,” nearly 400 so far.  Many have passed as in Georgia and Texas which have been decried as racist voter suppression laws.  To be sure they are, but the more insidious parts of those laws which is often overlooked are the backend provisions, the changes to counting and contesting elections.

It’s been said, “it’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.” The avalanche of these “voter supplantation” laws is being coupled with an onslaught of attacks by ultra-conservative and MAGA vigilantes threatening poll workers and election officials bent on removing non-partisan election supervision.  In Georgia, the Republican controlled state election board began purging Black Democratic election officials from local county boards just as Stacey Abrams announced her run for Governor.

If American democracy is to survive then Congress must pass voting rights protections immediately.  The astonishing fact is an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans agree our democracy is in peril. The irony is they believe it for opposite reasons, so no Republican senator will vote for it so it can pass.

If the 2020 election was for the “soul of America,” then the 2022 election is for the “life of America” as a democracy.  With the future of our nation at stake. it’s beyond all reason why two Democratic senators are standing in the way.  Someone needs to remind Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema of the words from the man who gave his life for voting rights.

What happened on January 6th has not stopped. It’s continued to evolve, strengthen, and has spread from the Capitol across America.  The former President’s megalomania and lies corrupted American’s trust in our free and fair elections, persuaded his acolytes to attempt a coup, and converted the Republican party from upholding democracy to embracing the principles of autocracy at every level of government.  This is the legacy of a President who never won the popular vote in either election yet profoundly damaged our democracy without regard for the oath he took to our Constitution or for our nation.

There are great questions that remain as we move forward from this solemn anniversary. Will the former President be held accountable for the obvious and numerous crimes he committed?  If so, how will his millions of rabid, irrational followers react?  Is America prepared for that?

Perhaps the best thing to do today, is get civically involved now. Whether it’s voter registration, poll working, volunteering for a candidate, getting active in civil rights issues, there is place for everyone and everyone together can make difference. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Our President, elected officials, Service members, and new citizens all take an oath “…to support and defend the Constitution of the United States…” But as this nation stands at an inflection point in history, all Americans should take a moment to reflect on the Constitution under attack one year ago.  Read the preamble and decide if you still support those ideals and are prepared “to protect and defend it from enemies both foreign and domestic…”


(main image via twitter)

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