Before the noise starts tomorrow, I want to get something out. In the early days of last year, we watched Trump’s attempted coup penetrate Congress by force. Shots were fired in the Senate chamber. Police officers were assaulted and killed. Insurrectionists broke into offices of our elected officials and were talking murder.
The acute episode occurred on January 6th, 2021, but the insurrection is still unfolding. The party responsible for it has doubled down on anti-democratic language and policy, and our country is dangling at a precipice. We still need to take action, however tempting it may be to pretend we are back to business as usual. We are not.
For a few days, having had their lives threatened by the invasion of Congress, some Republicans spoke out. Shortly after, they mostly quieted their criticism of Trump and the violence they had witnessed. Within months, the armed riot was being reframed as tourism gone wild by almost all GOP congresspeople who were—and still are—more afraid of speaking the truth than the consequences of The Big Lie.
We currently have one of the largest investigations in history transpiring with regard to the January 6th insurrection. Some 700 people have had charges brought against them. About 20% have plead guilty, and have cited Trump’s call to action as their impetus to invade our government and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. A lot of little fish have been snared, and today Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke about this being the routine way to start, to settle the shorter sentences first and gain cooperation to build bigger cases. This is nowhere close to done, and for something of this immense scale it's actually working quite quickly.
But at the end of his speech today, Garland specifically called upon Congress to take action to protect voting rights. January 6th of 2021 was about Trump overturning an election result he didn't like, and the attempt to do so involved everything from Trump directly pressuring state election officials to treat democratic results unfavorable to him as fraudulent to the former president’s inner circle conspiring to delay congressional certification of results so that Trump’s preferred electors could be put in place to override our votes.
Since the 2020 election, Republican states have introduced a slew of laws designed to make voting less accessible to Black people in particular, for communities of color more broadly, and for Democratic-leaning urban areas especially. The entire Republican apparatus has abandoned the American experiment, and is instead setting up the dominoes to fall in their favor despite demographic changes that make it otherwise unlikely that they would be able to win elections. This is happening from the bottom to the top; state and local Republican officials are carrying water for another attempt at authoritarian rule.
It is very telling that, in the same breath as the Attorney General is reporting on the state of an enormous investigation into an attempted coup, he is imploring the legislative branch to secure our voting rights. But you have a role to play here, too.
Firstly, tune into what is happening with the January 6th investigation if you have not already. Heather Cox Richardson is doing an incredible job of generating a nightly précis on the day’s news and how it fits into our nation's history. Donald Trump brought us into a state of Constitutional crisis, and his hold on the Republican party is keeping us there, because they are actively eroding our ability to meaningfully vote in this country. This is happening now.
Secondly, stop voting for Republicans. If you ever have, now is not the time. The entire party is in thrall to Trumpism, they are engaged only in obstructionism and solidifying their power in the minority forever. Currently, Senate Democrats represent some 40 million more Americans than Senate Republicans, and the Democrats are trying to put through policy to protect children from living in poverty, ensure universal access to preschool and childcare, help make care of our elderly more affordable and comfortable, prevent cities from drowning and burning up due to runaway climate change, and invest in housing and healthcare so we can live healthier, more stable lives. Despite the widespread popularity of these ideas, not a single Republican Senator will back them. (They were all happy enough to offer tax cuts to the very rich, however.)
The midterms will be coming up, and when they do it is very important that you get out and vote all the way down the ticket for Democratic candidates. Please, do not give an ounce of power to the insurrectionist Republican party. The stakes are very high. Vote with the fervor you showed in rejecting the mania of Donald Trump, because his madness is still pulling the strings. Call your Senators and press them to vote for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act; the pressure is on to eliminate or carve out the filibuster to get this done, with Chuck Schumer having set a deadline of January 17th to take action. Call them today; the Congressional Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121, they can connect you to your state’s senators.
I’m stating all of this not because I love the Democratic party, but because they are the only thing we have right now in terms of a normal political party at the national level. For the folks out there that long to vote for a third party, that can only occur with widespread changes in how voting in this country works, and we are currently on the ropes about having our votes matter at all. Literally every vote cast for a Republican candidate at this moment contributes to the erosion of our democracy. We have to be a bulwark against this anti-democratic slide.
In 1981, the Republican National Committee used their “Ballot Security Task Force” to harass and intimidate voters of color from participating in elections. Back then, we had the Voting Rights Act, and a federal lawsuit tied the RNC’s hands until 2018. The Republican party is continuing to employ voter suppression strategies that have their heritage in massacres of Black voters in the 19th Century and poll taxes in the 20th Century.
What happened on January 6th is part and parcel of the violent history of voter suppression in this country, and the GOP is so afraid of Trump and the armed, angry terrorists they have cultivated that we can expect them to continue to walk in lockstep after their mad king. With precious few exceptions, Republican politicians will not protect this country from falling into a future of meaningless elections, and rightwing talking heads have indeed convinced a shocking number of Americans that this has already occurred--all the better to disguise the threat in front of us and disempower us from pushing back. Experts are now watching the United States much as they would any country that appeared poised to fall to dictatorship.
Fix up, look sharp, and stand ready to block rightwing extremism. History has its eyes on us.