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Looking Back at January 6th: We Can Do Better.

Originally published with the Rowan County Democratic Party on January 6th, 2024

“We can’t sweep what happened under the rug. The American people deserve answers. So I come before you this evening not as a Democrat, but as an American who swore an oath to defend the Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t protect just Democrats or just Republicans. It protects all of us.” – January 6th Committee Chair Bennie Thompson

The events of January 6th, 2021 marked a profound moment in American history. It’s a day that – at least for a little while – will live in infamy. Americans around the country watched a mob descend upon the Capitol as then-Vice President Pence oversaw the certification of Biden’s electoral win. By all rights, what should have been a fairly procedural and mundane day fell completely into chaos on live television. 

The aftershocks of January 6th continue to loom over us today, and the legal precedents set by the resulting court cases will do so in perpetuity. The insurrection was not only an attack on our Capitol, but an assault on democracy – the same process that allows each of us to have a voice, regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum. Democracy is one of those fragile, precious things that’s only as strong as we are, after all. Those scenes of chaos, often whitewashed as a ‘legal protest’ despite the bodies left in their wake, serve as a solid reminder of what Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and all of us  stand for. Even if we disagree, I think we’re living in a time where we all can at least respect and honor the ability for someone to choose who they vote for without mob rule dictating it.

The essence of a functioning democracy relies on the integrity of its institutions, accountability of its leaders, and the faith of the everyday citizen that they will do what they say. When elected officials can’t be held accountable for their actions, or bare minimum, be truthful about pivotal events, the promise of honest, responsible governance becomes hollow. A dangerous precedent has already been set, but we can still turn things around.

So what can we do to prevent it from happening again?

For me, that means starting with my own voting habits. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year learning to really look at candidates I vote for, trying to piece together what they actually stand for from their past record. For others, that might be looking at what a candidate is saying and asking ‘do I really want to be associated with this?’ For all of us, that means we’ve got to move into 2024 with a renewed interest in our own responsibility to the civic process and elect folks that actually represent us, and aren’t going to waste their time continuing to cling to proven falsehoods. If their version of the truth is subjective, so too will it be when it comes time to tell us, the voters, what they’ve been working towards. If transparency isn’t a priority, we’ll never have a chance to know what’s going on. And the lynchpin is accountability – if we let it become a casualty of the current political climate, the consequences for all of us are dire.

Three years later, I believe we’re finally able to look back and see what that day did. We’re also able to see what we need from our leaders to re-instill trust, and prevent it from ever happening again. The only question is: will we?

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