Thursday, January 6, 2022

Democracy Isn't Dying

I've been saying this all year. Basically, despite the disruptions and violence, the system worked.

The rest is just politics.

At WSJ, "Jan. 6 was a riot, not an insurrection, and U.S. institutions held":

The Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, was a national disgrace, but almost more dispiriting is the way America’s two warring political tribes have responded. Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi seem intent on exploiting that day to retain power, while the Donald Trump wing of the GOP insists it was merely a protest march that got a little carried away.

We say this as a statement of political reality, not as a counsel of despair. Our job is to face the world as it is and try to move it in a better direction. So a year later, what have we learned?

*** One lesson is that on all the available evidence Jan. 6 was not an “insurrection,” in any meaningful sense of that word. It was not an attempted coup. The Justice Department and the House Select Committee have looked high and low for a conspiracy to overthrow the government, and maybe they will find it. So far they haven’t.

There apparently was a “war room” of motley characters at the Willard hotel and small groups of plotters who wanted to storm the barricades. But they were too disorganized to do much more than incite what became the mob that breached the Capitol.

The Justice Department says some 725 people from nearly all 50 states have been charged in the riot, linked mainly by social media and support for Donald Trump. About 70 defendants have had their cases adjudicated to date, and 31 of those will do time in prison. The rioters aren’t getting off easy.

They also didn’t come close to overturning the election. The Members fled the House chamber during the riot but soon returned to certify the electoral votes. Eight Senators and 139 House Republicans voted against certifying the electoral votes in some states, but that wasn’t close to a majority.

The true man at the margin was Mike Pence. Presiding in the Senate as Vice President, he recognized his constitutional duty as largely ceremonial in certifying the vote count. He stood up to Mr. Trump’s threats for the good of the country and perhaps at the cost of his political future.

In other words, America’s democratic institutions held up under pressure. They also held in the states in which GOP officials and legislators certified electoral votes despite Mr. Trump’s complaints. And they held in the courts as judges rejected claims of election theft that lacked enough evidence. Democrats grudgingly admit these facts but say it was a close run thing. It wasn’t. It was a near-unanimous decision against Mr. Trump’s electoral claims.

None of this absolves Mr. Trump for his behavior. He isn’t the first candidate to question an election result; Hillary Clinton still thinks Vladimir Putin defeated her in 2016. But he was wrong to give his supporters false hope that Congress and Mr. Pence could overturn the electoral vote. He did not directly incite violence, but he did incite them to march on the Capitol.

Worse, he failed to act to stop the riot even as he watched on TV from the White House. He failed to act despite the pleading of family and allies. This was a monumental failure of character and duty. Republicans have gone mute on this dereliction as they try to stay united for the midterms. But they will face a reckoning on this with voters if Mr. Trump runs in 2024.

As for the Pelosi Democrats, the question is when will they ever let Jan. 6 go? The latest news is that the Speaker’s Select Committee may hold prime-time hearings this year, and the leaks are that they may even seek an indictment of Mr. Trump for obstructing Congress...

Still more.