Like many Americans, I viewed the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, as a source of national embarrassment. It was an event marked by violence, chaos, and disorder. It was also the culmination of a post-election, pre-inauguration period characterized by serious claims of election fraud that were not substantiated.
That doesn’t mean skeptics didn’t have legitimate issues. An essay in Time magazine entitled, “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election” detailed efforts by a group of business leaders, left-wing activists, and political operatives to “save” the election by, among other things, changing voting laws and pressuring social media companies to censor content.
The essay made it clear that a bipartisan coalition of the country’s most powerful people did not want another four years of a Trump presidency. But at a time when we needed seriousness, sobriety, and specificity to instill confidence in our elections, the public was bombarded with spectacle and silliness about rigged voting machines and promises to “release the kraken.”
As the nation reflected on those events one year later, I was reminded of another reality from that day.
Jan. 6, 2021, was also an inflection point in American politics that was more about political inversion than insurrection. It was the day that the protest went from laudable to condemnable, violent mobs went from agents of liberation to foot soldiers for fascism, and fatal police shootings went from racist to righteous.
Prior to that day, Democrats described riots as the “language of the unheard,” which is why their response to political protests that occasionally turned violent in the summer of 2020 was very different. From the time of George Floyd’s death until the 2020 election, Americans were bombarded with images of angry mobs getting into violent clashes with police, statues being defaced and torn down, businesses being ransacked and destroyed, buildings being burned, and citizens being assaulted.
All of this was done in the name of racial justice, and all of it was minimized by the people whose only concern was getting President Trump out of office.
Conservative politicians and media figures condemned the behavior, but the response from their political peers across the aisle and leading voices in the culture was a mix of defense and denial.
Democrats spent the summer of 2020 condemning the police as systemically racist and using terms like “defund,” “disrupt,” and “dismantle,” in reference to America’s political, civic, and cultural institutions.
Sen. Tom Cotton’s op-ed in the New York Times argued that the Insurrection Act could be invoked to deploy the military to assist local law enforcement to quell the unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd. The paper later disavowed the op-ed after writers at the Times claimed Cotton’s idea would endanger the lives of black staffers.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Times and creator of the 1619 Project, appeared on CBS and stated, “Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence.” She also tweeted that she would be honored to have the violent protests of 2020 called the “1619 riots.”
Elected officials on the local level also played a significant role in legitimizing 2020 chaos and anarchy for political ends. Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan allowed activists to overrun a police station and establish the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) zone in her city. She shocked former CNN host Chris Cuomo when she said Seattle could have a “summer of love” in response to a question about how long she would allow CHOP to exist.
People who use political violence to disrupt the normal functioning of government or achieve a political goal – regardless of the cause – inject chaos and disorder into a stable society.
We are a nation whose government was created of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our republic only exists to protect and preserve the safety, freedoms, and interests of its citizens. We elect people to office to serve those interests.
Our political culture has been completely inverted.
Politicians and their advocates in the media behave as if the citizenry exists to serve them. People, families, and small businesses are not individuals and institutions worthy of legal protection and cultural preservation. They are merely opportunities for more votes and more tax revenue, both of which give our rulers more power.
In an election year, all that power had to be marshaled to defeat Trump. He is the star of our idolatrous political culture – whether as an object of adoration and fealty on the right or contempt and scorn on the left.
Jan. 6 epitomized everything that is wrong with the American ruling class. Its members only care about things that directly impact them and serve their interests. As long as the chaos, disorder, and destruction achieved their political goals, it didn’t matter who suffered. Journalists stood with straight faces and told viewers that a protest where buildings were set on fire was “mostly peaceful.”
Liberal politicians and pundits accused the Trump administration of using excessive force when law enforcement cleared Lafayette Square after protesters clashed with police near the White House. The same people mocked Ashli Babbitt after she was shot and killed in the Capitol.
John Adams stated, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
This is why the secularization of American culture has had such a corrosive effect on our society. We rarely talk about morals, values, and principles. Our debates are all about material goods, resources, and votes. Nothing is transcendent. Everything is transactional.
The book of Proverbs says, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Dishonest, intemperate, self-interested leaders – regardless of party – who defend chaos and disorder will only make our groaning grow louder.