The post-January 6 Future is Ours to Decide

By now we have all been exposed to, inundated with, and educated by the flood of information on the anniversary of last year’s failed insurrection by Trump supporters’ attempting to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s decisive election victory.

Yet, despite the pundits, the polls, the stringent warnings, threats, and denunciations, the simple truth remains that the future is ours to decide and will not be decided by a single politician, political party, or cluster of alternative reality organizations.

There is nothing to cavalierly dismiss about the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s disgruntled and facetiously-informed supporters. It was, after all, the first time the Capitol had been invaded since the British did so in 1814. And yes, “invaded” is an accurate description for smashing your way into a building by breaking down the doors and kicking out the windows. It was, and remains, a horrific act of violence that resulted in death and injury to many, particularly those tasked with ensuring the security of the building and the continuance of democracy’s activities within.

But what’s really important to remember is that this first attempt at stopping the peaceful transfer of power since the nation’s inception failed miserably. The angry and violent crowd failed to halt the certification of a new president, failed to hang Vice President Mike Pence, failed to even find, let alone harm, even one of the 535 members of Congress. In short, the supporters of the Big Loser lost again — despite their now well-known planning, coordination, and violent intent.

Yet, in the continuing saga of The Big Lie that somehow the election result was illegitimate — in and of itself a massively disproven fallacy — there are very real attempts to gut shoot the longstanding and well-proven manner in which our elections are held and the results tabulated. That these intentional denigrations are flaring up in various states through the legislative process is definitely worth attention and concern. But it begs the question: what will be the result of, say, allowing a small number of individuals to manipulate, cancel, or surreptitiously report the results of every election?

In this regard, it’s useful to put the reality of the situation in perspective. And that perspective is that the delusional Trump acolytes, misled by endless lies and stoked by calls for the violent overthrow of the system, remain a small proportion of our population — and nowhere near the majority.

In simplest terms, those willing to accept the premise that we must radically alter democracy in the United States comprise maybe one-third of the population — and probably significantly less, since it’s a lot easier to answer a poll than actually take up arms to engage in activities that may result in serious personal injury or even death for partisan political ends.

If you doubt that, check out how many of those indicted and tried for the insurrection have already denounced and regretted their actions, going so far as to admit they were victims of Trump’s lies about the election being “stolen.” And you know, just as the “once burnt child fears the fire,” individuals suffering the personal consequences of taking actions based on lies are far less likely to be so easily duped in the future.

Although our democracy has been battered, it is not broken. Nor will it be. Despite their best efforts, nefarious politicians will ultimately fail in their self-centered efforts to turn the vast majority of Americans against each other — especially not now, when we need national unity more than ever to deal with many and varied challenges of the ongoing pandemic.

George Ochenski is a longtime Helena resident, an environmental activist and Montana’s longest-running weekly columnist.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.