Why they are important and what we can do

After the second in a series of hearings yesterday by the House bipartisan select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, uprising, I am more optimistic that the compelling evidence documented by the committee over the past 11 months will will emerge and capture the public’s attention.

These hearings are a critical step toward transparency, accountability, and real consequences for the planners and perpetrators of the Capitol assault — and those who inspired and funded their activities. But we must complement the crucial work of the committee with our own.

Here’s what we know.

First, the violent insurrection at the Capitol was not the start. Former President Trump and his allies declared their intention to deny the results long before Election Day and carried out that intention knowing full well that they had lost. The lies of a stolen election, extremist ideologies and conspiracy theories that fueled the attack were the culmination of a months-long coordinated strategy by Trump and his allies to void the 2020 election and steal the presidency. .

Second, the attack on the Capitol was not the end. The events of January 6 and the concerted effort to nullify the 2020 election were a prelude to efforts to undermine the 2024 election. Trump and his allies continue to wage a disinformation campaign designed to sabotage future elections.

Trump allies in state legislatures have enacted dozens of racially discriminatory voter suppression laws. And across the country, right-wing lawyers have worked to gerrymander state redistricting maps to reduce the representation of black and brown communities and allow partisan politicians — not voters — to control election results.

Dozens of Holocaust deniers report to state offices that have the direct power to oversee elections and certify final election results. Overturning free and fair elections by sowing mistrust and expanding the ability of partisan poll watchers to harass and intimidate voters is undemocratic.

Third, we know that far-right groups have played a significant role in the violence.

The SPLC met with committee personnel and submitted written testimonies documenting the involvement of extremists in planning and preparing for the insurgency. The committee spent its first night focusing on violence on Capitol Hill, conspiracy theories about voter fraud and alleged coordination between Trump, his allies and two extremist groups that the SPLC has tracked for years.

The committee presented testimony regarding the involvement and cooperation of the Proud Boys – one of the most violent extremist groups in the United States at the time of the insurgency – and the anti-government extremists Oath Keepers. According to the committee, their goal was to stop the peaceful transfer of power through violence and intimidation, allowing Trump to stay in power despite losing the election.

The SPLC Intelligence Project’s senior research analyst, Cassie Miller, provided testimony to the committee regarding the violent history of the Proud Boys. The Department of Justice has charged Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes and 10 other Oath Keepers with seditious conspiracy. The DOJ also charged Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and four of his lieutenants with sedition.

Fourth, we know that the threat of political violence has increased. Mainstreaming hate and anti-government thinking and willingness to engage in political violence is now widely accepted on the right, according to a poll jointly conducted by the SPLC and Tulchin Research.

The investigation revealed that:

  • More than three-quarters of those who think the 2020 presidential election was ‘fraudulent, rigged and illegitimate’ also at least somewhat agree with the racist and anti-Semitic ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory that liberals intentionally replace white conservative voters with people of color — the same conspiracy theory cited by the man who killed 10 black people in Buffalo, New York, last month.
  • Forty-one percent of Republicans agreed with the statement that “some violence may be necessary to protect the country from radical extremists.” More than half of Republicans also said they believed the country was heading towards a civil war.
  • The poll also found that 70% of Republicans think the government has become “tyrannical.” Partisanship is also high. Republicans ranked the Democratic Party as the “most pressing” threat to American democracy, while Democrats ranked Trump and Republicans second and third after Russian President Vladimir Putin.

What we need to do together

The ongoing threat to our democracy and our democratic institutions is clear. The attack on Capitol Hill underscores the urgent need for legislation to protect our democratic electoral procedures and to combat hate, extremism and misinformation.

Here is what should happen:

  • We must support and help elevate the vital work of the select committee.
  • Congress must protect the right to vote. With key voting rights legislation now stalled due to Republican filibuster in the Senate, the Justice Department must use its authority to challenge discriminatory anti-voting laws. And grassroots activists and organizations must engage in the fight to protect and advance the right to vote with all the tools we have in our communities.
  • We must protect frontline election workers, the key to administering free and fair elections. Congress must address this mounting fear of political violence against voters and election officials by sharply increasing state funding for election administration to advance a safe and secure electoral process.
  • Congress must enact legislation to raise the threshold for contesting Electoral College votes and clarify the vice president’s role in the process as exclusively ministerial, with no authority to overturn election results. Congress must also pass legislation to address the erosion of the Voting Rights Act and other reforms aimed at strengthening our democracy.
  • We need to step up our advocacy by urging the Biden administration to deliver on the promise of its June 2021 National Strategy to Combat Homegrown Terrorism – particularly Pillar 4 of the Blueprint, which outlines the need to address long-term contributors. end extremism by “eradicating racism and bigotry and advancing equity for all Americans.
  • We need to fund prevention initiatives to steer people away from hate and ideologically motivated violence. Stopping extremism in our country must be a holistic effort involving not only law enforcement, but also parents, caregivers and educators. In partnership with American University’s Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Laboratory (PERIL), we are developing new approaches to counter-radicalization that start from a public health perspective, rather than a national security perspective.
  • We need to ensure that everyone – and especially young people – learn critical thinking skills and digital literacy so they can fight misinformation, misinformation and radicalization online.
  • We need to promote online safety and hold technology and social media companies accountable. Tech companies should develop — and enforce — terms of service and policies to ensure that social media platforms, payment service providers, and other internet services don’t fund or amplify ideas white supremacists or to provide a safe haven for extremists who promote disinformation or plan political violence.

No one is above the law in a democracy. The committee hearings provide a critical opportunity to prove that the January 6 attack on American democracy and the ongoing effort to sabotage future elections will not succeed – and that the people’s right to choose their own leaders will prevail.

Top photo: US Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, injured in the January 6 insurrection, and filmmaker Nick Quested testify during a hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol, Thursday, June 9. 2022, in Washington, DC (Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA/AP Images)

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