A profoundly divided Congress is likely to present the world with a very uneasy perspective from the United States Capitol: rather than bringing the country together, the tragic riot on Jan. 6, 2021, appears to have driven legislators further apart.
Some lawmakers want to observe a minute of silence on the anniversary of the Capitol insurgency. Others will spend the day educating Americans about democracy’s workings.
Others believe the worst domestic attack on Congress in American history does not deserve to be recognized at all.
Where people stand on commemoration is mostly determined by their political party, a startling divergence that demonstrates the country’s leaders are still at war over how to bring a divided society together.
Donald Trump, who had been fairly and rightfully defeated, ordered his supporters to “fight like hell” to prevent Joe Biden’s victory from being certified, and stated he would march with them to the Capitol, albeit he did not. In the aftermath, there was violence and mayhem, with five people killed, hundreds facing prosecution, and millions of dollars in property damage.
However, the lack of bipartisan resolution to assign blame or recognise the threat presented by the siege has damaged confidence among members, turning routine legislative disagreements into potential crises, and opening the door for greater violence after the next contested election.
All of this leaves Congress stranded in a critically unclear future: Did January 6 mark the end of an era or the beginning of a new one?
“People should think about the fragility of democracy when thinking about Jan. 6,” said Joanne Freeman, a Yale history and American studies professor whose book “Field of Blood” examines violence and carnage in Congress in the years leading up to the Civil War.
“We’re at a point where things that people have taken for granted about the workings of a democratic politics can’t be taken for granted longer,” Freeman cautioned, citing few historical parallels.
The fallout from Jan. 6 looms large over a snow-covered Capitol Hill, in the deepening of connections between politicians who feared for their lives that day and those who have been irreparably strained.
The Capitol, which was a symbol of American democracy’s openness before the riot, is still closed to most visitors, in part due to public health concerns about the coronavirus epidemic, but also due to an increase in the number of violent threats against politicians. Representatives must go through metal detectors because Democrats claim they can’t trust their Republican counterparts not to carry weapons to the House floor during debates.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., said he checks the corridors every time he leaves his office for potential threats, a sensation he said he is used to as a Black American but never imagined as a member of Congress.
“At the Capitol, there is no shortage of freedom of movement – without fear.” “And I’m a Congressman,” Bowman said.
Bowman has requested that Biden proclaim January 6 as a National Day of Healing.
However, Texas Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Republican leadership, has no plans to commemorate the day, and he believes that others should not either.
“This has already been far too politicized,” he continued, “and that would just worsen the situation.”
Trump’s phony charges of voting fraud have stoked discord, with Republicans in Congress mainly remaining silent rather than contradicting his account of events.
After police had fought the rioters for hours, often in hand-to-hand conflict, two-thirds of House Republicans and a handful of GOP senators voted against recognizing the election results that night. After all of this, Democratic colleagues were taken aback by the Republicans’ persistence in their arguments. Views become more jaded.
Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who pursued measures to deny certification after the incident, brushed off inquiries about it, saying he’d had enough of it.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican, said he had no regrets about voting to reject certification.
Cruz stated, “I am proud of spearheading the campaign to safeguard voter integrity.” The siege was described by him as “unacceptable” and a “terrorist act.” However, he said that Democrats’ and the media’s insistence on no widespread voting fraud “just exacerbated the differences we already have.”
In the six key states contested by Trump, The Associated Press uncovered less than 475 incidences of voter fraud out of 25.5 million ballots cast, a small figure in percentage terms.
Unlike other national tragedies, such as the 2001 terrorist attacks, the country has emerged from January 6 without a clear plan for what comes next.
People have often recalled “in these sort of befuddled tones” how unified the country was that day — compared to now, said Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot whose New Jersey-area district just observed the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It feels like a significant departure from our past,” Sherrill remarked.
The outcome is a loss of national commitment to democratic laws and norms, as well as a breakdown in trust among colleagues.
Routine disagreements in Congress may easily develop into threatening threats, as some Republican senators experienced after voting for an otherwise bipartisan infrastructure bill that Trump opposed and getting violent comments, including a death threat.
Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both Republicans on the House panel investigating the incident, are facing calls to resign from their party.
Despite scores of court judgments and published papers demonstrating there is no widespread voter fraud, Trump’s unfounded accusations have become the party standard, leading to a “slow-motion insurgency” as his followers manipulate local election apparatus in ways that terrify voting rights activists.
Democrats are redoubling their attempts to pass delayed election legislation that would expand voting rights and safeguard election officials from abuse. However, in order to overcome a Republican filibuster in the equally divided Senate, they are considering major rule changes.
Many of Trump’s fans have said that they are battling for democracy’s survival. According to an AP-NORC poll, two-thirds of Americans thought the siege was very or extremely violent, while only 4 out of 10 Republicans did.
The bogus idea that the election was rigged or stolen has been “been twisted and spun and spun,” according to Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.
“The risk comes when individuals act on it,” she explained.
Unlike the hundreds of Americans facing criminal charges as a result of their activities on Jan. 6, many members of Congress are likely to be rewarded for their conduct.
Both Hawley and Cruz are considered possible presidential candidates in 2024.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who went to Mar-a-Lago to mend fences with Trump after originally condemning the uprising, is on pace to become the next House speaker if Republicans reclaim control of the House with Trump’s aid in November.
And Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has seen her fame — and money — soar as she adopts Trump’s unfounded views and rails against the punishment of those imprisoned for their roles in the assault.
“We’re in this no-land man’s where virtually anything happens,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. “It’s a very unnerving position to be in a legislative body.” “And it’s a really worrisome situation for the country.”