The date Jan. 6 will always mark a sad and regrettable milestone in American history.
It's been one year since an armed mob attacked the U.S. Capitol, intent on disrupting the certification of the 2020 presidential election. The insurrection resulted in the deaths of five people, injury to 138 officers who fought hours to repel the invaders, more than 700 arrests, and millions of dollars in damage. It also revealed to the world just how poorly secured one of the most important citadels of our democracy actually was.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar remembers with a special horror that moment at 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 7 when she, Sen. Roy Blunt and then-Vice President Mike Pence picked their way through shattered glass as they walked with the two young women who carried a mahogany box filled with the last of the electoral ballots to be certified.
"I vowed that day this would never happen again," Klobuchar told an editorial writer this week. The incoming chair of the Senate Rules Committee, Klobuchar made it a chief responsibility to ensure that security would be upgraded and that leaders would never again be caught so unaware. Since that time, she said, the Capitol police chief and sergeant-at-arms in the House and Senate have all been replaced.
There is now a preparedness plan in place that, among other things, makes it easier for the chief to call in the National Guard. On Wednesday, Klobuchar's committee heard from the new Capitol police chief.
But that is far from all that needs to happen, as Klobuchar will be among the first to acknowledge. We must collectively rebuild, piece by piece, our trust in elections, our respect for the results, and our commitment to abide by those results. And yet, even a year later and with video evidence of the gruesome attack that showed officers beaten with flagpoles and being crushed in doorways, there remains a refusal on the part of many Republicans to acknowledge the events of that day.
David Hann, a former state legislator and recently installed chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, in a recent Star Tribune story referred to the attack dismissively as "a disturbance of some kind," adding that he had not "been spending a lot of time thinking about it and I don't know anybody else who has other than Democrats and I guess the media."
That is a shameful refusal to acknowledge the gravity of that day. Minnesotans should expect better from someone elevated to a position of political leadership.
No less shameful, however, has been the collective silence from most Republican officials, including members of this state's congressional delegation, not one of whom would comment for the news story that cited Hann. And last month none of the five Republican gubernatorial candidates who participated in a forum in Minnesota would unequivocally state that President Joe Biden won the election.
How can we hope to learn from such an attack when so many refuse to even acknowledge the gravity of what occurred and the lies that led to it? This cannot be allowed to devolve into just another bit of political spin. Real harm was caused here. Somehow we must find the collective will to get to the truth of what happened and why, or we risk a repeat that in the future may be more successful.
"Democracy really does rely on the will of the people," said Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips, who represents Minnesota's Third Congressional District. "We need to decide whether our institutions, the foundations of our democracy, are worthy of maintenance, cultivation and protection." Phillips said the House Jan. 6 committee investigation has been thoughtful, intentional and, thanks to key House Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, bipartisan.
Phillips told an editorial writer that new details from the investigation will be forthcoming soon, "but what's important is what we do with that information. That's what matters." The great irony so far, he said, "is that many of the insurrectionists will have their lives forever changed, while those who deliberately misled and misinformed them remain in positions of power."
Phillips said he was part of a group of 20 House members from various states who were trapped in the House gallery during those anxious, fearful hours when the mob rampaged through the Capitol howling for Pence's death. The House members have come to call themselves the "gallery group," and remain in near daily contact, offering support, sharing counseling when needed. "We have quite an array of political perspectives, but this shared experience has bound us together." Phillips said. "It's been one of the silver linings for me."
Another silver lining, he said, has been a renewed sense of gratitude. "Many of us have taken the freedom, safety and security of this country for granted," he said. "We came close to losing our democracy that day. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who serve and protect us; gratitude that we are citizens of a country that is free and prosperous and still enjoys liberties afforded to few around the world. Those things are worth fighting for."