Is the future of democracy at risk? by campbell small
The Jan 6th committee hearings matter for the future of democracy. Here’s why.
On January 6th of 2021, the United States Capitol was attacked. The Associated Press reported that there were over 10,000 insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol protesting the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election results. The event caused 1.5 million dollars’ worth of damages to the Capitol. It forced elected officials to fear for their lives, and it killed 5 people. These casualties alone are horrendous and how close this event got to interrupting the sacred tradition of a transfer of power is terrifying. This is why we must understand it.
The goal of the Select Committee Hearings of the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is to give a behind-the-scenes explanation of the insurrection. The highly televised hearings are being conducted by a bipartisan group of 9 congressmen voted on by the House of Representatives. After the hearings, the committee will make legislative recommendations to Congress. These hearings have power because they provide the platform to tell the full story of January 6th to citizens and decision-makers in the US.
Considering all of this, it is apparent that not all people are paying attention. According to the Marist Poll in July 2022, 50% of Americans believed that the insurrection was a great threat to democracy and 58% of Americans are paying a lot or some attention to the committee hearings. This reflects that January 6th is important to some people, but the question of why these numbers aren’t higher still stands. After all, this January 6th could’ve stripped democracy from all of us.
One explanation is that the media has failed to tell the most accurate story. To fully understand the events that led to and arose from insurrection, I interviewed Dr. Maria Puerta-Riera a political scientist at Valencia College who specializes in democracy and autocratization (the process of regime change towards autocracy). She expressed that the media “keeps treating political actors as equal, failing to underscore the behavior that results in the erosion of democratic institutions.” which illustrates that there hasn’t been an accurate portrayal of the differences between conventional political actors and those who are threatening democracy.
Party polarization also has a role to play. The Marist poll found that 56% of republicans have not been paying close attentionthe hearings. Only 12 % of them consider the insurrection to be a threat to democracy, and 85% think that Trump shouldn’t be charged with crimes based on the evidence presented at the House January 6th hearings.
Clearly, a large number of individuals do not consider a president who said “I don’t want to say the election is over” when practicing his speech on January 7th of 2021, well after the election results were clear, to be a threat to democracy. They don’t think that he had influence even though during the insurrectionist Stephen Aryer testimony he suggested that he was “hanging on every word” the president said. Although individuals have autonomy, the words they are told can influence their actions and organized violence matters. Donald Trump is a threat; there are people who do not see him as such, and they will gladly re-elect him as president in 2024. Despite this, it is important to remember that a transfer of power occurred. This was the result of courts and election officials who upheld the standards and morals expected of them in an environment that asked them to do otherwise. In saying this, it is ignorant to suggest that this should be the guardrail we rely upon. As Dr. Maria Puerta-Riera explained, changes in legislation have occurred, there has been increased harassment against poll workers and local elections have been won by the former president’s followers “The future of elections looks grim.” This is why the hearings need to matter to all Americans because we all vote, and the hearings tell a story of a time when the rights that come with democracy were almost stripped from all of us.
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