It’s been a year since a mob wandered the halls of Congress, trying to subvert our democracy.
It’s fashionable to wring your hands about that and cluck about how nothing has really changed, and how nobody’s being held responsible.
I don’t agree. I think a lot has changed, and people really are being held to account. I think we as a country are forever changed, not necessarily for better or for worse, but there’s a chance that the democracy is stronger than it was. When you learn how fragile something is, you can do a better job of protecting it.
For one thing, 700 people have been arrested. Those include, by the way, a K-State grad student and a man from St. Marys. About 225 have been charged with attacking the police. About 275 have been charged with obstructing Congress’s duty to certify the election – which is of course the main crime being prosecuted. Another 300 or so have been charged with relatively minor matters such as trespassing or disorderly conduct.
The guy who threw the fire extinguisher at the cops has been sentenced to five years in prison. The guy with the Viking helmet was sentenced to 41 months.
People in the mob are paying a real price.
For another, there’s forever a cloud over the elected officials who condoned, promoted or subsequently minimized what happened.
No, neither Donald Trump nor the Lauren Boeberts of the world have been arrested, and Ms. Boebert still holds elected office
But history cannot – and will not – forget that they came down on the side of subverting the democratic process. When push quite literally came to shove, they supported a coup. They sided with the methods of tinpot dictators. They decided – decided! – to ditch the Constitution, and the 200-plus-year history of a peaceful, orderly transfer of power, the only thing that really distinguishes us from, say, Chile. The trouble is, once you decide that, everything else is on the table, including throwing your political opponents into volcanoes.
Mr. Trump is suffocating without the oxygen of Twitter. He might or might not be held responsible for the insurrection, but clear-thinking people – including those in the political party he hijacked, the great party of Bob Dole and Abraham Lincoln – know for certain that he made it all happen. They know this. All of them.
He might resurface. We don’t know yet what the Republicans will do about that in the next presidential election cycle. Optimism hasn’t been a great betting strategy lately. (By the way, the Republicans have plenty of material to work with. Condemning Mr. Trump and his allies for Jan. 6 does not mean siding with President Biden over policy.)
Whether he’s charged or not, and whether he runs again or not, the reality is that history will not judge Mr. Trump kindly for what happened a year ago. That will, in the end, be his legacy.
The longer legacy, the bigger story, is that our republic survived that assault. Perhaps, because of that survival, it is stronger than it was before.