It is hard to believe it has been nearly a year since the greatest assault on American democracy since the Civil War.
Jan. 6, 2021, was one of the darkest days in America’s history, the day a group of supporters of former president Donald Trump decided that the Constitution no longer mattered.
The only thing that mattered to them, it seemed, was to keep Trump in power, no matter that he was beaten fair and square by Joe Biden the previous November.
These people, this anarchic mob, bought into the lie that the election had somehow been rigged and thus the presidency had been stolen from Trump.
To that point, the Associated Press has conducted a study of the vote in six battleground states called into question by Trump and his allies. The AP found a total of fewer than 475 disputed votes in all six states, far too few to make any difference in the 2020 presidential vote.
The disputed votes were not all for Biden, and not all were even counted. There were 198 disputed votes in Arizona, 64 in Georgia, 56 in Michigan, 98 in Nevada, 26 in Pennsylvania and 31 in Wisconsin.
But of course that will be dismissed as fake news, as is most every bit of information that is not favorable to the ex-president.
Jan. 6, 2021, was the day a joint session of Congress met to count the electoral votes and thus certify the election of Joe Biden. In most election cycles, the official electoral vote count is a mere formality and slips into history, making hardly a ripple in the public consciousness.
But not Jan. 6, 2021. That was the day a group of Mr. Trump’s supporters decided they knew more than the framers of the Constitution, the day they aimed to take America from a democracy to a dictatorship.
Vladimir Putin cannot lose an election in Russia, just can’t. He served two terms as president, then term limits forced him to serve as prime minister. He ran for president again in 2012, was reelected in 2018 and, last April, called for a referendum on certain amendments to the Russian constitution, including one that will allow him to run for president twice more, meaning he will likely be in power until 2036.
Similarly, President Xi Jingping of China doesn’t lose elections, either. He was first elected March 14, 2013. He, too, has seen to it that term limits have been removed, thus effectively making him leader for life.
This, apparently, is what those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, would like to see happen in the United States. Apparently, a representative form of democracy is no longer to their liking, instead they would prefer authoritarian rule.
The framers of the Constitution set up America’s form of government expressly to avoid the kind of dictatorial rule the colonies rebelled against. George Washington was afraid his new position as president would be seen by some as somehow king-like. The Senate at the time even suggested that the country’s new leader be referred to as “His Excellency” or “His Highness the President,” which he rejected over the more prosaic “Mr. President.”
As Mr. Lincoln so eloquently said, the American government is one “of the people, by the people and for the people,” all the people, not for one man, no matter how rich, powerful and charismatic he may be.
Some of Mr. Trump’s followers can find heroes among those who laid siege to the Capitol Jan. 6, 2021, but they are wrong. The only heroes that day were the Capitol policemen who did their best to protect the historic building and the people’s elected representatives who were only trying to do their Constitutional duty.
Perhaps the Constitution is outdated. Perhaps it has outlived its usefulness. Perhaps it has no place in modern America, what with the abundance of social media and the role of so-called “influencers.” Perhaps the old document, the very foundation on which this country was built, should be modified. I don’t happen to subscribe to that theory, but those that do are welcome to try and change it through legal means like amendments — not illegal ones, tainted by the stink of tear gas and the sounds of smashing glass.
Fifty years from now, when future generations pause to commemorate the events of Jan. 6, 2021, I pray they shake their heads in disgust as they recall a dark moment in American history. And I pray also that the America we know, and that has existed since July 4, 1776, continues to thrive, not suffer under the heel of some two-bit despot.