This week marks the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection. There will be some commemorations of the day in Washington and pro-democracy groups will hold vigils for democracy while pro-Trump groups will be holding vigils to support the insurrectionists. Donald Trump plans to hold a press conference on that day where he says he will discuss in-depth the "stolen election" of 2020, citing several states where "the numbers don't work for them." Feel the magic:
"Remember, the insurrection took place on November 3rd, it was the completely unarmed protest of the rigged election that took place on January 6th."
Over the holiday break, the Department of Justice released more shocking footage of the allegedly "completely unarmed protest" which showed three hours of bloody violence raining down upon the capitol police that day. Trump's attempt to reframe January 6th as an unarmed peaceful protest may be his greatest act of chutzpah yet — and that's saying something.
Several news organizations released polling this past weekend looking at the public's attitude toward the 2020 election and January 6th one year later. The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 68 percent say there was no evidence of fraud and that includes huge majorities of Democrats (88%) and Independents (78%). Republicans, however, are still living in denial. 62 percent of Republicans still believe that the election was riddled with fraud, a number virtually unchanged since this time last year. That adds up to a massive 30% of the nation that still believes the election was stolen from Donald Trump.
An ABC-Ipsos poll found pretty much the same thing. They also asked if Americans believed that the people who stormed the Capitol that day were "threatening democracy" and 72% said "yes" while 25% say they were "protecting democracy." That last number includes 52% of Republicans, which is stunning. I'm sure you will recall those ancient times when the GOP prided itself on being the party of "law and order." 78% of Republicans now believe that Trump bears only a little or no responsibility for the attack, which is contradictory since they also profess to believe that the mob was protecting democracy. Surely they don't think Trump was against that, do they?
A CBS Poll delved into public attitudes about political violence and it's isn't comforting. Two-thirds of Americans believe that the events of January 6th were a sign of increasing political violence and that American democracy is threatened. Most have not changed their minds about that violence in the ensuing 12 months. 87% disapproved then and 83% say they disapprove now. But lest you think that Republicans understand what happened that day, CBS reports that "the intensity with which Republicans disapprove softened over the summer and has stayed softer."
They no longer strongly disapprove – they seem to have reconciled themselves to seeing it some kind of minor infraction. Four out of ten have persuaded themselves that it was actually leftists who committed the violence. Apparently, they think the Trump supporters were all standing outside sweetly singing "What a Friend We have In Jesus" as red-hatted Antifa members hit cops over the head with American flags.
Most disturbing in the CBS Poll was the question of whether there will be political violence from the losing side in the future. 62 percent of Americans believe there will be. And that's not all:
We then followed up and asked, "If that's your side that loses and there is in fact violence, would you be in favor of that or not?" It's an abstraction right now, of course, and a mere 2% would favor it. But another quarter left it open, saying it depends on the circumstance — and in that, we start to see political differences, with 2020 Trump voters twice as likely as Biden voters to say that it depends
30 percent of Republicans are open to violence if their side loses.
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All of that indicates that the GOP is very dug in on The Big Lie and the ensuing insurrection. It's unlikely they are going to change their minds. If there were decent leadership in the Republican Party and a moral compass among the right-wing media, all of whom know the truth but refuse to speak it, there might have been a chance to walk back from the precipice. But there is not and so we are facing the increasingly uncomfortable reality that tens of millions of our fellow Americans see violence as a reasonable response to losing elections. Because of that, two-thirds of Americans now see democracy as being threatened. And they are right.
All of this new data shows that the ideas expressed in a remarkably unvarnished, year-end New Yorks Times editorial speak for a large majority of Americans:
[T]he Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends. No self-governing society can survive such a threat by denying that it exists.
It is clear that Republicans refuse to accept reality and they are primed to fight to preserve their delusions and the large majority who know otherwise are going to have to step up. The good news is that there seems to be many more of them. In all that polling about January 6th, the Big Lie and the willingness to use violence to obtain power, Democrats and independents are in lock step agreement, which is unusual. On this, the country isn't polarized. A large majority of Americans are opposed to this anti-democratic impulse — the Republicans are very much in the minority.
That means that as we go into this election year (yes, I know, I'm sorry) it's incumbent upon the Democrats to ensure that this issue is front and center. The Washington Post's EJ Dionne made a good case for the Democrats to run on a democracy platform by quickly passing the democracy bills pending in the Senate, with the president himself taking the lead and championing democracy far more forcefully than he has until now, pushing legislation and using executive action wherever possible. Most importantly, he writes:
It also requires invoking the evidence from the House select committee's Jan. 6 investigation to make clear that the threat to democracy comes not just from Trump but also from a Republican Party complicit in undermining democratic institutions, both overtly and through its silence.
It is not just Trump, far from it. The entire Republican Party is complicit in this ongoing assault on democracy: from the wealthy donors to the powerful Washington officials all the way down to the grassroots. Democrats must pull out all the stops to explain the stakes and activate the vast majority of Americans who want to save it. This could not be a worse time for complacency.