Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
The lesson of Jan. 6: Jan. 6 still isn't over
0 Comments

The lesson of Jan. 6: Jan. 6 still isn't over

  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}

Lucky countries have celebrations that remind their citizens of what binds them together — think Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.

Unlucky countries do the opposite: They commemorate the divisions that drive them apart.

In Northern Ireland, Protestant militants march noisily on July 12 to remind the Catholic minority which side won the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbs march on Jan. 9 to assert their independence from the groups they fought in their country’s war.

After the U.S. Civil War, Southern states celebrated Confederate Memorial Day on a different date than the North’s Decoration Day; the holidays didn’t merge until World War I.

Last week, with the anniversary of the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, the United States slipped onto the list of unhappy countries.

The day turned into a festival of national division — not a single, unifying commemoration but three very different observances.

President Joe Biden gave an unexpectedly fiery speech, blaming Donald Trump for inciting the mob that attacked the Capitol and for continuing to stoke the poisonous myth that the 2020 election was stolen.

“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies,” Biden said. “He’s done so because he values power over principle … and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy.”

Predictably, Trump rose to the bait, issuing four angry statements from his exile in Mar-a-Lago, all renewing his spurious claims.

“The Big Lie was the election itself,” he wrote. The election outcome was “the real insurrection,” he said. And he accused the Biden administration of “appalling abuse of political prisoners,” an apparent reference to defendants held on federal charges after the riot — a favorite cause of his fringiest followers, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

Caught in the middle were Republican leaders who know Trump lost the election but don’t want to say so because it would enrage the vengeful former president.

They observed Jan. 6 by offering muddled statements that disapproved of the riot but blamed Democrats for “politicizing” the issue — as if there were any way to avoid connecting the invasion of the Capitol to politics.

“The actions of that day were lawless and as wrong as wrong can be,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said. The problem now, he complained, is that Democrats “are using it as a partisan political weapon.”

It’s a difficult straddle to execute, as Sen. Ted Cruz discovered when he incautiously described the riot as “a violent terrorist attack,” a phrase he has used in the past.

Heresy! Cruz, who ran against Trump for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, was assailed by Trump supporters and subjected to interrogation by Tucker Carlson of Fox News. “It was not a violent terrorist attack,” Carlson insisted.

In a scene reminiscent of the show trials of Mao Zedong’s China, Cruz promptly recanted his deviation from party doctrine.

“It was a mistake,” the Texas Republican said, referring to his statement, not the riot.

Lesson to other Republicans who seek reelection: Don’t deviate from Trump’s views, or you may be a victim of the GOP’s own form of cancel culture.

Trump, who gloried in watching the mob rampage through the Capitol, doesn’t appear to want the battle to end. And that’s the chief obstacle to getting over the division that remains. It’s not about whether sacking the Capitol was right or wrong; even McCarthy can answer that question accurately. It’s whether the myth Trump used to rile up the mob — his infinitely debunked claim that the election was stolen — should be embraced or repudiated.

That’s not a debate that offers ground for compromise. Either Trump is right, and the current president of the United States is illegitimate — or Trump deliberately set out to overturn a democratic election and is bending the rest of the GOP to his will.

So far, he appears to be succeeding, at least when it comes to radicalizing his party.

That’s why Biden, after months of pretending that Trump was no longer there, escalated last week.

“We are in a battle for the soul of America,” he said, reviving a slogan from his 2020 campaign. “I did not seek this fight … but I will not shrink from it, either.”

Trump’s continuing campaign to deny the president’s legitimacy — no ground for compromise there, either — left him little choice.

For a few weeks after Jan. 6, 2021, it was possible to hope that the trauma of the day might unify the country. That didn’t happen; the ensuing year only confirmed our division.

The lesson of Jan. 6, 2022, is that Jan. 6 isn’t over.

0 Comments

Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Experts warn that a big, dangerous disaster is coming. But a large segment of the population decides to disregard it because, people reason, it surely will not affect them. But the problem arrives and hits the community anyway, causing widespread calamity, fear and anxiety. The situation seems to have no end in sight. Due to the nature of the disaster, ...

Under well-established law, the Biden administration’s vaccination mandates are clearly legal. But the politicization of the pandemic and vaccines makes it doubtful whether the Supreme Court will uphold them. Cases involving two regulations that impose vaccination requirements on workers will go before the court on Jan. 7. One rule calls for employers with more than 100 workers to require ...

RALEIGH — When the news broke on January 3 that one of North Carolina’s largest school districts, Cumberland County, was considering a shift t…

As Joe Biden nears the first anniversary of his presidency next week, he faces the same main challenge that confronted him at the outset: end the COVID pandemic and restore normalcy to American life. His administration has succeeded in improving the nation’s health by vaccinating a majority of adults and many children against the virus. But its inconsistent messaging about added shots, its ...

Back in July, while performing at the Hollywood Bowl, the Grammy-winning artist Ledisi shared a story about the day in 2003 when Nina Simone saved her life. Ledisi was in her late 20s, depressed, newly divorced and struggling with money problems. One day, while sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of her Oakland home listening to the radio, she started "thinking how to leave the Earth." ...

How does a nation commemorate an anniversary like this one? How will America, which has yet to fully process or understand what happened last Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, push back against future insurrections of its kind? The nation was attacked on that date. The rules of law and diplomacy, the officers in charge of protecting them and America's tradition of peaceful transitions of power were ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News

News Alert