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Tipsheet

Commentary: Reflections on January 6, 2021

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Exactly one year ago today, around this time, my national radio show went on the air. Our plan was to open the show with an analysis-driven monologue on the previous evening's Georgia runoff elections, in which Republicans suffered costly losses in a pair of US Senate races. But as the broadcast began, shocking images of rioters storming the US Capitol building were splashed across television and social media platforms. I did my best to relay what I was seeing on my screen to our radio audience, and we supplemented our coverage by speaking with a number of members of Congress who were holed up in their offices during the siege. It ended up being a memorable but extremely disturbing program on an extremely disturbing day.

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In the aftermath of that horrible spectacle, I laid out my thoughts in a Townhall post, and I stand by those sentiments. Now that 365 days have passed, I'll offer a few additional comments because it's important to tell the truth and communicate clearly about what January 6 was – and what it was not: 

(1) The Capitol riot of 2021 was a national disgrace that must never be allowed to happen again. It was not merely an over-the-top protest. It was not a tourist gathering that went a bit haywire. It was a violent and chaotic effort to derail the constitutional process of certifying the 2020 electoral college vote. It was an attempt to disrupt a core element of America's sacred tradition of peacefully transferring power. Those who broke the law, especially those who savagely assaulted police officers and engaged in other forms of violence, are being held accountable. They should be. They are criminals (who are, of course, entitled to due process). They were inspired to commit their criminal acts by a series of lies about the 2020 election – namely, that results in a number of states were illegitimate, fraudulent, or rigged. This was and is false. Joe Biden won the 2020 election. He carried every state awarded to him in the formal electoral count. Donald Trump lost. Trump could not countenance a loss, so he cried foul, without substantiation, over and over again. He and some of his most reckless supporters repeatedly advanced claims in the public square that his own attorneys could not even come close to establishing in court. 

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These fantasies continued on January 6 itself, at a rally the soon-to-be-former president convened to amplify his conspiratorial grievances. The date was not chosen by accident. It was selected to coincide with the counting of the electoral votes on Capitol Hill (usually a formality), and to heap more pressure upon Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump had lobbied to violate his oath by indulging a wild and cockamamie legal theory under which a lone constitutional officer could somehow freeze or help overturn election results. The vice president rightly refused. Trump publicly lambasted Pence for his honorable decision, even while the vice president was potentially in harm's way, and some of the rioters infamously reacted by chanting their desire to assassinate Pence by hanging. The president reportedly watched the hours-long spasm of violence on television, transfixed. His public admonitions urging peace were delayed, belated, and qualified, despite a deluge of desperate requests from political allies begging him to forcefully demand an immediate end to the havoc his lies helped unleash. Eventually, order was restored, and the constitution prevailed. The vote counting proceeded. Our institutions held. But they were strained from within by a mob whipped up by powerful people, including the president himself. Again, a national disgrace that must never be allowed to happen again. 

(2) January 6 is not the most important story in the country, which might come as news to consumers of various media outlets that have been treating it as such for months. There is a fixation on this event, and on the former president generally, that is plainly driven by ratings, clicks, and fan service, not news judgment. Outlets across the spectrum are guilty of this phenomenon, of course – and in some ways, that's a fixture of our political media landscape. It's reality. But the obsession with 1/6 has been particularly outsized among certain left-leaning news organizations who've hyped it relentlessly. It's also worth noting that some of these same outlets have exhibited rather different standards on other election- and democracy-related lies, from Stacey Abrams' outrageous claims in Georgia (embraced or flattered by nearly every leading Democrat in the country) to wild-eyed rants about the supposed illegitimacy of the Trump's 2016 election (a widely-held belief among Democratic partisans) to hyperbolic declarations that American democracy will die if election results go the "wrong" way. 

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(3) Last year's attack does not furnish Democrats with a compelling justification to ram through partisan, hobby-horse legislation under the guise of "saving democracy" or protecting "voting rights." If people are serious about remedying some of the factors that fueled the January 6 mess, there are bipartisan steps that can be taken. This one comes to mind. Plenty of elected congressional Republicans rejected the insanity of 1/6 by harshly condemning the riots, refusing to play along with weak objections to certifying the electoral count, or even voting for impeachment. Tellingly, none of these Republicans – zero – favor the Democrats' so-called "solutions," which Democrats had previously offered using different arguments, prior to January 6. Democratic leaders would like to exploit a serious affront to our republic in order to grab power by jettisoning the filibuster and imposing a radical federal takeover of our elections, all while falsely crying "Jim Crow" over reasonable and defensible election reforms implemented via the democratic process in various states. It's so transparent. Misleading claim, fact check: 

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The Democrats' cynical machinations are unserious and cheapen the gravity of what happened a year ago. They are willfully making this choice, so they should not be surprised when many Americans – including persuadable ones – ignore their protestations and warnings as typical political games. They have no one to blame but themselves. I'll leave you with this footage. Watch it. You've probably seen much of it already, and perhaps it simply washes over you all these months later. But try to remember how sickening that day was, in the moment. It's wrong to overstate or exploit what happened for nakedly partisan ends. It's also wrong to minimize or dismiss it: 

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