Updated: Jan 10
Trump’s presidency exposed American democracy as a fragile house of cards. The January 6th Committee was an attempt to stop it from fully toppling.
Trump’s election shocked the mainstream institutions to their core and with good reason. In all the years of democracy to this point, the voices in Washington D.C. that quietly whisper the winners and losers of elections by way of swaying institutional and financial support have been able to ensure that each winner was someone who could be controlled.
When Trump was elected this was far from the case. Initially, the D.C. political institutions gained their composure and attempted to play the game with Trump. It wasn’t long before they realized there was no playing with Trump. Yet Trump had such a hardcore stranglehold on the core voters of the party, party hardliners were forced to form alliances with him.
At first it seemed this was all a song and dance. Surely Trump had some alternative motive that had nothing to do with the presidency. It was all to expand the brand and he wanted to secure financing for resorts and hotels with leaders around the world. Or he wanted to ride the waves of a successful presidency into becoming a media mogul. No one knew quite what it was, because one of Trump’s greatest tactics was his ability to keep everyone guessing.
Then he shifted from not playing their game to learning how the game was played. At this point most savvy politicians would look for loopholes to exploit the rules and bend the game in their favor. The first-time politician Trump had advisers who told him to do just that. Trump’s response? How can we break the rules without breaking the law?
After a series of norms and rules were broken, Trump erased centuries of precedent and rewrote the composition of the federal courts overnight. He placed his family and friends in the highest seats of power and erased longstanding federal careers in favor of newbies who supported his policies. He whispered to the divisiveness and anger simmering beneath the makeup of decency many Americans were covered in. The result? The country was broken. The thing was, Trump didn’t break the country. He just exposed the damage that was already there. He also realized something. It was usually lying that got politicians into trouble. If he simply did in the light of day what other politicians only did through complex untraceable backroom deals he could get away with anything. It almost worked. Then January 6th happened.
January 6th was the culmination of everything Trump learned in his presidency and business career stacked up against the largest test he’d ever faced. The result was more dangerous that many realize.
The thing we must realize about the January 6th run on the Capital is even though the police had the rioters well under control, in the end the vice president was inches away from potentially serious harm. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, something that hadn’t taken place in our country’s history happened. American citizens had shown a willingness to openly violate every norm of their countries opening centuries in an attempt to violently overthrow the government.
Americans, primarily Republicans who traditionally respected the police, who for years reliably acted predictably when it came to how they would treat the transition of power between presidencies, were suddenly willing to go to war with the police to keep President Donald Trump in office. Something mysterious was happening and happening fast. It called into question the sustainability of the status quo of the American political system.
The reason American democracy is so fragile, is because society itself is equally fragile. The only thing that holds either together is a silent contract to abide by a set of agreed upon rules. We live and we follow laws, but we never signed anything saying we agreed to follow those laws. It’s just forced on us from the time we are born and we agree to it because we know the benefit to us is that a society is formed. Social contract.
In four years, Trump not only upended centuries of precedent and reliance on rules he proved to be feckless, he showed that one man had the ability to make a large portion of this country’s citizens doubt the need to continue to follow its norms or its laws because they were already doubting the benefit they were receiving from doing so. Once a sliver of that thread is torn, the unraveling can make it hard for our shared experience as Americans to be the same again.
Shocked to its core, the Washington institutions created the January 6th Committee to stem the bleeding and ensure American democracy would immediately survive.
That’s where the January 6th Committee came in. They were established by the establishment to ensure that our Democracy didn’t fall apart. Their mandate was to investigate the January 6th attacks on the capitol, but it seems the focus of their investigation was narrowly directed at Trump. Making it seem the goal of the committee wasn’t necessarily to investigate the attacks, but rather to punish Trump for instigating them.
It would be one thing if this committee was formed to investigate Trump’s role in the attacks, which it certainly feels like it was. Or if the Senate committee’s bid hadn’t failed. At least then we’d be able to have another committee investigating the broader source of the attacks. Since the House January 6th Committee was the only committee investigating the attacks, and the scope of their investigation was so limited, they didn’t do nearly enough to ensure the pressing issue was fixed. Trump was only the symptom of the attacks, not the root cause. He’s a master manipulator who thrives on getting away with breaking rules and appealing to certain personalities with a very sophisticated and effective form of schmoosing. He understands humans and has used that to make himself successful. Whether or not you think his methods are unscrupulous, they only work with a willing audience. Trump is a master at playing on what already exists within people.
Which means this nation already had an insurrection inside of them. This makes sense because the people have been given the short end of the stick for too long. There’s only so long all of the assets can be concentrated in the hands of 2% of the population while most citizens were made promises and told to dream only to have both simultaneously broken. Those citizens no longer trust their government blindly and are looking for answers. None have come from said government, so it was easy for Trump to get the people to believe the reason he gave them.
When our country needed true leadership the most, all they got was a show of power from the January 6th Committee.
Real leadership was needed in the wake of the Capitol attacks. A post-COVID 19, post-Trump America needs healing badly right now. What we got from the January 6th Committee was a show of power intended to ensure nothing like this happened again and to wrap Trump in so much controversy and corruption the stench prevents him from getting back to the White House where he’s proven he’s unpredictable and capable of anything. Including wielding more power than is traditionally permitted in the office.
We need to get to the root of the problem. How was Trump able to lead so many citizens into behavior that is landing many of them with steep prison sentences? We need town halls, we need to summon leaders and members of the groups that orchestrated and executed these actions. Offer them compassion and reduced sentences in exchange for finding out what led them to take these actions. Let’s finally get to the root of the issues destroying this country. It’s the only way forward.
The fact of the matter is, Americans were promised opportunity that doesn’t exist anymore and it’s not for lack of effort. Americans work multiple jobs only to be met with poor wages, inflation, and offsetting childcare costs. All the wealth that was promised to Americans is being redistributed to a few people and the majority is angry. That feeling isn’t going away until something changes. The issue must be resolved or the people will continue to revolt.
There’s always an answer, even when that answer doesn’t come in the form you’d expect it to.
If Washington chooses not to act on this and solve this problem, it seems the only alternative is that we watch our country collapse. We as citizens can’t leave that up to the government. If they won’t act to fix the problem then we need to. It’s our country and ultimately it’s our responsibility to fix it. If not us, then who?
We must let the change start at home and spread from there. Change that includes daily acts of leadership and change that includes holding present leadership accountable for not keeping its promises and solving our problems. If you feel that change is taking too long, remember that slow progress is better than no progress. Lack of progress is the act of going backwards as time is always propelling past us.
It’s time to exemplify the lives we want to live by leading them. The question is where do we start? It starts with each of us. We the people must choose to solve these issues plaguing our communities.
If not, us then who? Do we wait for the Senate to change its vote on forming a January 6th committee, or for our country to implode further before we decide to take action beyond showing up at the polls? We can do better. We must do better. Our country’s survival depends on it.