Why January 6 matters

January 6, 2022

“One of the curses of history is that we cannot go back and change the course leading to disasters, no matter how much we might wish to. The past has its own terrible inevitability. But it is never too late to change the future.”
– Heather Cox Richardson

Our precious democracy is at a tipping point. 

As states make it harder to vote and disinformation is rampant, I worry deeply about the core of our democracy being able to survive. The foundation of democracy is this: eligible people must be able to vote, the votes must be counted and the results must be respected.

And no matter who wins, we must agree to let the winner hold the seat of power until the next election. The losing party and candidates must agree to the rules of the game.

The delegitimizing of our elections leads people to think that violence and physically thwarting the certification process is justifiable in the name of patriotism. For democracy to survive, we must all agree that it is not acceptable.

The United States Capitol Building, both a symbol of our democracy and the place were democracy happens, was breached on January 6, 2021 in the worst attack on our capitol since the War of 1812. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez, Washington Post.)

The insurrection at our nation’s capitol last January 6 showed us that efforts to topple our democracy and attack our American symbols of are not just fringe efforts. My biggest concern is that the delegitimizing of elections that led to this attack will become more coordinated and infiltrate deeper down into our system. Local city council races, supervisors and state level electeds could also have similar attacks on their legitimacy.

It’s important to recognize and thoroughly examine the dark events of January 6 so that we can shore up our institutions and our commitment to restoring and protecting our civic fabric.

Our cherished system of government is what makes our nation great and enables the people to lead. We are closer than we think to becoming an autocracy, ruled by a minority led by a dangerous megalomaniac. I can imagine no worse fate for America than that.

According to various sources, a year after President Joe Biden legitimately won the election, there are now 21 million Americans who believe the election was from stolen from Donald Trump and that violence is justifiable to return him to power. Up to a third of the Republicans running for Congress this year are running on some version of the Big Lie. This is truly and deeply alarming. The stakes are very high. 

There are some who will say that this warning is alarmist and exaggerated. I’m generally not prone to hyperbole – I believe our democracy has not been in such jeopardy since the Civil War over 150 years ago, and I must speak out. I call on each of us to speak out and demand that our elected officials participate in our democracy with faith to the Constitution. 

This evening on the January 6 anniversary, I’ll be attending a Vigil for Democracy, and I invite you to join us. We’ll be on the northwest corner of Neighborhood Park at 7 p.m. It’s located at at the corner of Union Street & West F Street in downtown San Diego. More information can be found here.

I’ll leave you with some insightful thoughts from the invitation to tonight’s vigil: 

The promise of democracy is not a partisan issue but a calling that unites us as Americans. To prevent this kind of attack from happening again, our elected leaders must pass urgent legislation that will protect this country from anti-democratic forces who are continuing their efforts to destroy it.

Coming together, we can prevent another January 6th attack and realize the promise of democracy for all of us – no matter our color, zip code, or income – so we all have an equal say in the decisions that shape our daily lives and futures.

With hope,

P.S. If you are as concerned about the potential unraveling of our democracy as I am, or just want to learn more, I highly recommend these sources:

•  “Biden condemns Trump as a threat to democracy in speech marking one year since January 6 attack” from CNN this morning. “For the first time in our history, a President had not just lost an election. He tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob reached the Capitol,” Biden said in a speech from the US Capitol that lasted just under 30 minutes. “But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.”

•  Jan. 6, Part 1: “The Herd Mentality” podcast from The Daily at the New York Times, hosted by Michael Barbaro. A sample: “If there is ever going to be another January 6… it is not going to be because of far right extremist or people with violent histories. It is going to be… people who harbor some doubt, resentment or anger and decide to show up and become just part of the herd.”

•  “America’s Most Urgent Threat Now Comes From Within,” an opinion piece by Cynthia Miller-Idriss in the New York Times.

•  “The Attack: Before, During and After,” a devastatingly revealing interactive investigation from the Washington Post.

•  “Recalling Jan. 6: A national day of infamy, half remembered,” by AP reporter Jake Coyle.

•  Former President Jimmy Carter writes in his New York Times opinion piece, “I Fear for Our Democracy,” “Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss. Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy. Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late.”

•  And for a clear-eyed, incisive perspective from a respected expert on American history, sign up for a free subscription to “Letters From An American,” a daily missive from Heather Cox Richardson, a professor at Boston College. 

She writes of her newsletter, “I’m a professor of American history. This is a chronicle of today’s political landscape, but because you can’t get a grip on today’s politics without an outline of America’s Constitution, and laws, and the economy, and social customs, this newsletter explores what it means, and what it has meant, to be an American.”