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How Do You Grade America’s Response to Last January 6th?

How do you grade America’s response to the coup attempt that occurred one year ago, on January 6 2020?

By at least one metric, it must be a passing grade.  The coup failed.  Further, it failed for several reasons.  It failed because the Capitol Police and the DC Police and Hill staffers showed courage and resolve in the face of a violent insurrection that left 5 dead and 140 police officers injured.  It failed because the Congress of the United States was not deterred in meeting to certify the electoral ballots submitted by the states.  The Vice President did not succumb to pressure from the president to punt the ballots back to the states so new slates of electors could be chosen.  Joe Biden’s massive election victory was certified.  Two weeks after the coup attempt, Biden was sworn in.

That said, the wake of the attack on the Capitol has also seen some deeply disturbing developments.  Just hours after the attack and despite the complete lack of any evidence supporting accusations of electoral fraud, 121 Republican members of the House of Representatives and six members of the Senate voted to support the “Arizona challenge” to the election results.

Bad as that result was, it presaged much worse.  While for the first time in US history we did not see a peaceful transfer of political power and while it was clear to all with eyes that former President Donald Trump was the primary architect of and cheerleader for the coup attempt, expressions of outrage in the wake of the bloody attack from members of one entire US political party, the GOP, were short-lived.  197 Republicans in the House voted against Trump’s impeachment.  Only 10 Republicans joined the Democratic majority in voting for the impeachment.  Only 7 Republicans voted to convict Trump in the Senate.

Worse, in the weeks and months that followed, members of the GOP leadership have sought to defend the attackers on Capitol Hill as mere “tourists,” they promoted easily debunked conspiracy theories that blame the attacks on “Antifa” or even the FBI.  They also flocked to Trump, kissed his ring, and repeatedly underscored his role as the leader of the GOP.

Recent polls have shown that nearly three-quarters of Republicans don’t believe Biden was rightfully elected president.  Even though there is no evidence to support this assertion and a massive amount to contradict it.  Only 6 percent, 1 in 15, say Biden was definitely the victor in the 2020 elections.  80 percent of the Republicans polled called what happened on January 6th just a “protest” as if it were a natural form of political expression.

Polling results like these don’t just happen because voters are gullible.  A massive machine has been communicating the “Big Lie” since before the last election when Trump warned the Dems might “cheat.”  The whole party and the GOP megaphones like Fox News, OANN, Breitbart and others have then amplified that and if they make up the bulk of the news you consume, coming to such bogus and dangerous conclusions is only natural.

Further, the GOP has not only been perpetuating this toxic message but they have introduced hundreds of measures across the country predicated on the idea that the last election (called the fairest in US history by members of the Trump team) was actually fraudulent.  These measures have had the goal of tipping the balance of power in future elections toward the GOP.

For these reasons, other polls released in the past few weeks have shown that young adults by a margin of 55 to 44 percent are more fearful than hopeful about the future of America.  Other polls have shown that nearly two-thirds of Americans now feel that our democracy is in crisis in America.

In other words, while the U.S. rebuffed the attempt to steal the last election, the forces behind that attempt have actually gained strength in the year that has ensued.  Further, while hundreds of rioters have been arrested, none of the event’s top planners or funders and no one in the political leadership that supported the effort have been held accountable.

For these reasons, though the country deserves a passing grade for its handling of the coup, that is as far as the credit goes.  The damage done has been compounded and the risk is greater today to our system than it was when the rioters first stormed the Capitol complex.  So, our grade has to be a D—at best. Near failing. Which is appropriate given that if we do not recognize the current threat and respond to it we are likely to discover that we were much nearer to failing today than many may think possible.

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