Editor's note: Three years ago on January 6, the Capitol Riot shocked not just America, but the world. Three years have passed, has America learned any lesson from it? This episode of Reality Check answers that question.
On January 6, 2021, the divisiveness, chaos and hatred in American politics turned physical. Five people died. Hundreds were injured or traumatized.
Unfortunately, that was a lesson unlearned. Three years have passed since the Capitol Riot. Today, according to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, nearly half of Americans believe democracy isn't working well. The Public Religion Research Institute's 14th annual American Values Survey shows 23 percent of Americans agree with the use of political violence because they believe the country has gone far off the tracks. This figure has grown 8 points over the last two years. The Navigator's poll finds a whopping 83 percent of Americans are concerned about the threat of it.
Peter Eisler, an investigative reporter at Reuters, said that "we are in this incredibly divisive period right now where you have political opponents who are no longer just divided by their positions on particular issues. Now you have people in each party sort of demonizing the other, characterizing them as enemies of the people, as traitors against the country."
America is in another election year. And things have been going off the track even before the first vote has been cast. Last December, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Joe Biden. They accused him and his family of personally profiting from his position of vice-presidency under former President Barack Obama. Only, that seemed more like an excuse than an accusation. When asked about what does he hope to gain from an impeachment inquiry, Republican Congressman from Texas Troy Nehls replied: "All I can say is Donald J. Trump 2024, baby."
Well, Donald J. Trump 2024 is in trouble as well. As of this moment, Colorado's Supreme Court and Maine's Secretary of State have declared Trump ineligible to run for the Presidency again. The declaration relied on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which stipulates officials who have previously taken an oath to support it cannot hold office in the future if they have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" or have "given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." A little note here: Colorado Supreme Court was packed with justices all appointed by Democratic governors. And Maine's Secretary of State visited the White House twice in 2023 and met with Biden once.
Whether Biden really profited from his position or not or if barring Trump is legitimate or not have already become irrelevant the moment when people believe these things are political pawns to get one of them into the Oval Office, which, brings us back to January 6.
Darrell West, the Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, said that "it revealed the strains in American politics. We have a high-level of polarization, hyper-partisanship is out of control. And so, the mob violence was just a reflection of some of the underlying problems that we have in American democracy."
Washington D.C. is a clown town. In 2023, the House of Representatives voted 749 times, but only passed 27 bills that became law. This is the least productive Congress in decades when it comes to legislating. But it has been very "productive" in generating historical news. It voted over 15 rounds to elect a speaker, then fired him, and spent more than 3 weeks trying to find a new one. The White House has been plagued by low approval ratings. Biden went into 2024 with a net approval of 38.9 percent, only a little over one percentage point higher than his all-time low.
This is American politics: Paralyzed and disliked, with politicians more focused on sniping at each other than actually governing. Some thought that January 6 was a venting of popular discontent, but it turned out to be a temporary display of anger and frustration that kept building up. Americans will be taking another vote in 2024, and another certification will happen in January 2025. One can only hope that history doesn't repeat too much of itself.
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