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As we reach one year since the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, remembering what happened that day, and why, remains vitally important. That’s why the ongoing work of the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol and attempts to disrupt the certification of the presidential election results must be taken seriously, especially by Republicans, too many of whom have been hesitant to criticize former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
As Trump and others continue to downplay what happened on Jan. 6, it is important to remember what we saw with our own eyes and the palpable fear it created, some of which is revealed in the urgent messages that were being sent that day.
We must remember that the siege came as Trump and his supporters were scheming ways to delay the certification of election results with plans to install him for a second term even though he lost the popular and Electoral College votes.
As we wrote at the time, Jan. 6 “was an awful day for anyone who believes in law and order, and who believes in America’s brave democratic experiment.
“This was not a protest. It was a siege. It was an attempt at political intimidation. The attackers may have done it under the guise of free speech and free assembly, and they may call themselves ‘patriots.’ But violently delaying a constitutionally mandated process of counting certified electoral votes wasn’t patriotic. It was idiotic. It was dangerous. It was decidedly un-American.”
Beyond remembering what happened on Jan. 6, the ongoing work of the House committee is vital to expand our understanding of the planning — and who was involved in it — that happened before the mob arrived at the Capitol.
Perhaps more important, however, is recognizing the scope of the ongoing, quieter efforts to potentially undermine election results going forward. These efforts gained fuel from Trump’s repeated claims that the November 2020 presidential election results were fraudulent and that he actually won re-election. Nearly every claim that has been made by Trump and his allies has been deemed false. Audits in several states, including those overseen by Republican officials, have confirmed the presidential elections results. Judge after judge dismissed Trump’s “strained legal arguments.”
Still these falsehoods have taken hold, with nearly a third of Americans continuing to doubt the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. More than half of Republicans said they do not accept the outcome, according to the latest NPR/Ipsos poll.
Some Republican-controlled legislatures are trying to gain more power over election outcomes. In Arizona, lawmakers passed legislation that shifted the authority for defending election-related lawsuits away from the secretary of state, currently a Democrat, to the attorney general, now a Republican. The law, however, expires before the 2024 presidential election.
A law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in Arkansas gives greater power to the State Board of Election Commissioners, which is largely filled by political appointees, to investigate violations of election laws and “institute corrective actions.” It is unclear what those actions could be.
As many election officials, tired of handling ongoing — and mostly unsubstantiated — claims of malfeasance in the 2020 election, have left their jobs, or where election oversight officials are elected, there is a concerted effort, in some locales, to replace them with partisans. In Pennsylvania, for example, supporters of Trump actively recruited candidates for little-watched elections for judge of elections and inspector of elections. Many won their elections this November, The Atlantic reported. In close elections, these election oversight positions increase in importance.
“All of those things set us up for a scenario where the candidate who loses by every measure, not just by the popular vote, but by the Electoral College, the candidate who loses by every measure will nevertheless be installed as president of the United States,” Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder told NPR last month.
We truly hope that Snyder’s scenario is hyperbolic. The events of Jan. 6 and the continued work to change election laws and personnel remind us that the work to weaken our democracy is ongoing and, therefore, remains as dangerous as it was on Jan. 5 when few of us foresaw the chaos and fury of the next day.