Minnesota lawmakers have condemned violent attacks on American democracy in the strongest possible terms, after the longest possible debate.
On Jan. 6, a violent mob smashed its way from the Storm the Capitol rally in Washington, D.C., into the halls of Congress, attacking police officers and howling threats against the lawmakers who were about to certify President Donald Trump's defeat.
As word of the assault reached a much smaller crowd at the Storm the Capitol rally in St. Paul, the crowd cheered.
The shock waves were still echoing Monday, as the first resolution of the new legislative year came to the floor of the Minnesota House "condemning violence and violent rhetoric directed at our United States Capitol and state capitols, and affirming support for democracy, rule of law, and the certified results of Minnesota's election and the election of the other states."
We can all agree that we can't agree on much of anything these days. House Resolution 1 was no exception. For almost two hours, lawmakers talked over each other and past each other and around and around the events of Jan. 6. They couldn't agree on basic facts, phrasing or whether America is a democracy or a constitutional republic.
Rep. Susan Akland, a freshman Republican lawmaker from St. Peter who spoke at the Storm the Capitol in St. Paul, lamented the division she sees at the Legislature these days.
"I won't go into my whole story and how I accidentally ended up out there," Akland said during the debate, "and how my two-minute speech has caused me a whole week's worth of hateful e-mails, hateful text messages, hateful phone calls. … They think what I did was so wrong. [But] what we did was not wrong at all."
In the end, a bipartisan 111 of the 134 members of the Minnesota House backed the resolution, denounced the violence, affirmed democracy and confirmed the legitimacy of the 2020 elections.
Eight voted no. The rest abstained, wary of phrasing in the bill that could come back to bite them in the next debate over voter ID or changes to state election law.
"The Democrats are using the word 'democracy' in places you've never seen it before," said state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, pointing to a section of the resolution that described congressional staffers fleeing the chambers, steps ahead of the mob, with a box containing Minnesota's uncounted electoral votes. "Efforts to thwart the will of Minnesota voters are undemocratic," the resolution states.
"There's none of us that want to thwart the will of Minnesota voters," Drazkowski said. "But they included it in the resolution to be provocative."
This is a divided Legislature in a divided state in a divided country. Good things do happen here. Bipartisan bills pass. Communities get the funds they need to patch potholes; businesses get the aid they need to survive another month in the pandemic.
But this is a Legislature that can't agree on whether America is a democracy or not. If we can't agree about what went wrong on Jan. 6, we can't work together to prevent something even worse from happening next time.