by Shri Thakur ‘22
Published Feb. 18th, 2021
On January 6th, 2021, frustrated supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol building to demonstrate grievance with the electoral process. While such a riot in the heartland of American democracy created striking images and made for a great media spectacle, it simply represented a continuation of the increasingly common trend of turning to violence as a legitimate means of political recourse.
Democratic pundits argue that President Trump and Republican objectors “lied” to their supporters by challenging the legitimacy of the election and encouraged these supporters to act in a violent manner. This argument is flawed. Really, the Capitol riot was an inevitable product of the political climate that has been fermented by the events of the last year.
A certain level of voter fraud exists in every election, so the question is how impactful it was to the overall result. It is therefore not a “lie” to suspect this election was not entirely secure, and, as Republican senators did, request to set up a committee to investigate allegations of voter fraud.
President Trump and other Republicans specifically indicated that the proper recourse for concerns over election integrity was electoral, not violent. Some constituents misinterpreted his message, though, even when Trump asked his supporters to “patriotically and peacefully make [their] voices heard” and march towards the Capitol to push for stronger election laws. However, it is unclear whether Trump’s speech caused the Capitol Hill Riots and there is still an Impeachment case regarding this question.
Justice Oliver W. Holmes observed in the Supreme Court case Scheck v. United States, “The question in every [incitation of violence case] is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger.” Donald Trump, then, would need to specifically and directly encourage violence for this charge to be appropriate. Acting on the premise that lying to one’s supporters is somehow pushing them to commit political violence would demand the impeachment of every politician to ever set foot on Capitol Hill.
While Democrats tried to convict former President Trump for supposedly “inciting an insurrection,” many of them spent last year defending BLM riots. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to large scale riots by BLM activists by saying that “the point of protesting is to make people uncomfortable.” Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) excused a riot in St. Louis by claiming that “rioting was the language of the unheard.”
Similarly, left-wing violence was tacitly accepted by certain Democratic politicians in 2020, further inflaming the violent actions of BLM. This acceptance expressed the legitimacy of political violence to fringe Trump supporters, so it must be noted that the riots at the U.S Capitol did not occur without context. Political violence bears no allegiance to the left or the right, and is unacceptable regardless of its intent.
The violence that occured on January 6th, 2021 cannot be attributed solely to ex-President Donald Trump. Rather, it is a product of a brand of politics that has for too long been tolerated and condoned. To absolve ourselves from complicity in the riot at Capitol Hill is to ensure that the divisions tearing apart society deepen them even further.