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Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

January 6th Is Just the Beginning of the Assault on American Democracy

What happens in 2022 is what will make the difference between free and fair elections and Trump and the far-right stealing the presidency in 2024.

Christina Baal-Owens

One year ago, millions of Americans watched as white supremacists and domestic terrorists, emboldened, funded and organized by then-president Donald Trump, his staff and elected officials at every level of our government, attacked the heart of American democracy. 

Calling for justice after an attempted coup should not be controversial. 

Domestic terrorists carried guns, knives, pepper spray, zip ties and baseball bats into the halls of Congress. They sought to hang then-Vice President Pence from makeshift gallows, attacked law enforcement, ransacked offices, threatened the lives of elected officials and Capitol Police, and attempted to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Five people died, hundreds were injured and Americans watched as Members of Congress ran from a violent mob, forced to evacuate the Capitol. 

In the days following January 6, 2021, Democrats and Republicans across the country swore to never forget this day and to hold the perpetrators responsible. 

One year later, the promise of accountability is in jeopardy as the attack fades from our collective conscience. Public Wise, an organization fighting to secure a government that reflects the will and protects the rights of all people, recently conducted a poll that found that 47% of Americans said that January 6th is "something the media has made too big of a deal of."

The poll also asked whether Americans think it is important to remember recent significant events in American history. There is near universal agreement across Democrats, Republicans and Independents that it is important to remember the events of 9/11 and of the 2008 financial crisis, but 68% of Republicans and 36.5% of Independents say it is not important at all or not too important to preserve the events of January 6th. Americans want to forget January 6th, just another piece of our dark history that we choose to ignore in the name of false unity and to protect the fragile egos of white America.

Calling for justice after an attempted coup should not be controversial. 

That's why, on the one year anniversary of January 6th, Public Wise launched The Insurrection Index, an online database of public records of the individuals and organizations in positions of public trust who were involved in the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol. The database has records of over 1,000 total records, including 221 current elected officials or individuals running for office from across the United States who participated in the insurrection. 

January 6, 2021 was not just one moment in time, it is a multi-generational toxic agenda rooted in the same lies that established enslavement, advocated for Jim Crow and upheld segregation, and is now spreading dis-information and powering the subversion of democracy across the United States. Insurrection participants are running for elected office, enabled by this racist ideology and the continual perpetuation of the "Big Lie." Insurrectionists in elected office is the most significant threat our democracy faces. They make decisions at every level of government about what is taught in our schools, how we fight a global pandemic, the right to choose, our ability to vote, our laws and our elections.  At least 13 insurrectionists ran for office in 2021. Ten won their elections, joining state legislatures, city councils, school boards and city and town governments. At least 221 insurrectionists already hold or are seeking public office in 2022. 

This isn't accidental; Donald Trump is actively working to endorse, support and elect state legislators in key swing states who believe lies about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. He is installing allies in states like Michigan, Arizona, and Colorado, in positions of electoral administration ahead of a potential 2024 run and in anticipation of another close race. He is stacking the deck and plotting how to steal the presidency in 2024. 

Public Wise is launching a campaign in 2022 to ensure that these insurrectionists stay out of local, state and national public office.

The Insurrection Index is designed to shed light not just on the people who participated in the insurrection, but on the roles elected officials and people in positions of public trust played on January 6th. Elected officials at the highest levels of our government and their staff planned, supported, and even funded portions of the insurrection in partnership with the Trump administration. It is critical to identify and demand accountability from all participants, but we must acknowledge that insurrectionists running—and winning—public office is the single biggest threat to our country. 

Public Wise is launching a campaign in 2022 to ensure that these insurrectionists stay out of local, state and national public office. Elections are not only about the future we want, but acknowledging the past we have. We cannot move forward as a united country without facing our history and the realities of the divisions that exist in our country. The effort will support key grassroots organizations in Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan, among other states. 

It is too late to sound the alarms; the fight for our democracy is already here. What happens in 2022 is what will make the difference between free and fair elections and Trump and the far-right stealing the presidency in 2024.


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Christina Baal-Owens

Christina Baal-Owens is the executive director of Public Wise.

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