I think there are many lessons of January 6, 2021. Its difficult to forget the spectacle of U.S. citizens occupying and trashing what Americans think of as “the people’s house” in Washington D.C. The images of the insurrection horrify other democratic countries, while encouraging dictatorial ones. The assault on the United States’ democratic image, at home and abroad, will take a long time to rebuild.
However, there are two important lessons we can learn from this debacle, I believe. The first is that the democratic institutions survived the assault. The second is that if you don’t pay attention to all citizens’ concerns, they will come back to bite you.
Donald Trump is history, but the movement he has created is alive and well, and very dangerous. The old idea of mobocracy, and the warnings of the German philosophers who coined that term, have never been more pertinent. The lessons of January 6, 2021 must be learned.
The U.S. democratic institutions held firm, shown by the joint session of the U.S. Congress confirming Joe Biden’s victory just hours after the police finally cleared the insurrectionists. That is good, and encouraging.
However, the interviews with the insurrectionists, during and after their assault, point to a reality that, I believe, must be addressed.
The mob was not your normal protest movement. There were many in their forties, fifties, sixties and even seventies. There were children, and a cross-section of the nation’s demographics. The ones I saw interviewed fervently believed that they were patriots staging a coup d’etat to recover their vision of American democracy. “We had no choice,” one said, “after the election was stolen from true Americans.”
Donald Trump’s finger on the “Twitter” button might actually have been more dangerous than his finger on the nuclear button. Thankfully, he no longer has that access.
We will survive the few days left before Joe Biden’s inauguration, but the hidden discontent and division in the U.S. won’t stop on January 20th. It is insidious, pervasive and a serious threat to the country’s future. Unfortunately, it’s also a testament to what happens when freedom of speech is exponentially magnified by social media.
I’ve said elsewhere that the problem with winning is that you tend to believe you did it right, and the losers did it wrong. If the democrats look at the events of January 6, 2021, and blame them solely on Donald Trump and the republicans, they will make a serious, and perhaps dangerous, mistake.
Democracy is a fragile system that must be constantly cultivated and protected. To assume it is the normal state of human endeavor is a naive illusion that that will accelerate its downfall.
Nice, honorable, sensible people, like us, appear to be a dying breed. The miracle, however, is how we came to exist in the first place!! The problem is that all groups subscribe to this sentiment, and they can’t all be right. I’m tempted to add, “only we are”, which would put me right in the same camp as Donald Trump – a horrendous thought.