One year ago today, on Jan. 6, 2021, the U.S. Capitol faced a violent attack from a mob allegedly aiming to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Although time has passed since the harrowing events, the mark they left on American democracy still remains. Former President Barack Obama’s comments about the Jan. 6 anniversary point out just how delicate American democracy still is, even after the dust from that chaotic day has settled.
“One year ago, a violent attack on our Capitol made it clear just how fragile the American experiment in democracy really is,” Obama wrote in a Jan. 6 post shared to Instagram and Twitter. In his full statement about that day, he noted that “while the broken windows have been repaired and many of the rioters have been brought to justice,” the nation’s democracy is “at greater risk today than it was back then.” Obama pointed to the politicians who “fanned the flames of violence” on that day, stating that, while Americans have typically been seen as defenders of democracy around the world, it’s difficult to maintain the integrity of our own governing systems when “leading figures in one of our two major political parties are actively undermining democracy at home.”
After the Capitol riots were quelled, President Donald Trump was impeached for the second time for his alleged role in inciting the riot. The mob which eventually made its way to the Capitol had started at Trump’s “Save America” rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in which he claimed without evidence that he had actually won the 2020 election. Multiple fact-checks and reports have proven that Trump did not win the 2020 election.
“We will never give up. We will never concede,” Trump told the crowd at his “Save America” rally. “Together we will drain the Washington swamp and we will clean up the corruption in our nation’s capital,” he added. “It’s a dirty business.”
“Anyone you want, but I think right here, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them,” Trump continued. “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
On Feb. 13, 2021, only 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump for his role in allegedly inciting the violent riots, including Representatives John Katko, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Fred Upton, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Anthony Gonzalez, Peter Meijer, and Tom Rice. However, according to The New York Times, all of these politicians are still dealing with the consequences of voting against their party leader. “It was increasingly clear that staying as conference chair was going to require me to perpetuate the lie about the election,” Cheney said in interview with the Times, published Jan. 6., 2022. She realized denouncing Trump would make her politically vulnerable. “I was simply not willing to look the other way and accept what he did,” she added.
However, several politicians in Congress have continued to stand by Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the November 2020 election was stolen from him — a falsehood now often referred to as “the big lie.” For his part, Trump planned (and then canceled) a Jan. 6, 2022, event in which he reportedly planned to defend the rioters on the anniversary of the insurrection.
One year after the deadly assault on the Capitol, there’s still a mountain of evidence to sift through when it comes to charging individuals involved in the riots. As of Jan. 6, 2022, over 725 people have been arrested, 165 have been charged, and only 70 have received official sentences, per NPR. On a higher level, a select committee in Congress is still running internal investigations against Trump and his allies for any direct involvement in the Jan. 6 riots.
“We can’t set an example when our own leaders are willing to fabricate lies and cast doubt on the results of free and fair elections,” Obama continued in his statement. “If we want our children to grow up in a true democracy,” he added, “we need to nurture and protect it.”