On 6 January 2021, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol Building as Congress met to certify Joe Biden's presidential election victory. On its one year anniversary, Dr Trevor McCrisken and Dr Georg Löfflmann of Politics and International Studies reflect on the events of that day and its impact on US politics today.
Dr Trevor McCrisken said: “One year on from the violent attempt by Donald Trump's supporters to stop the US Congress from formally validating the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, the political divisions still run very deep. The first anniversary of the January 6th insurrection will be marked today in a ceremony led by President Joe Biden and other Democratic Party leaders in an area of the Capitol Building that was attacked last year. In his remarks, Biden is expected to say that former President Trump holds "singular responsibility" for the "chaos and carnage" of a year ago. A Congressional inquiry is ongoing and the FBI and the Justice Department are working to identify, arrest and prosecute those that took part in the violence. Biden's comments will add to the partisan divide over the meaning of the events on Capitol Hill, where responsibility lies, and questions over the fragility of American democracy.
“After almost a year in office, Biden and the Democrats face a difficult domestic political agenda and the prospect of losing control of both houses of Congress in this November's mid-term elections, when historically the party of the incumbent president loses seats. Trump's influence over the Republican Party remains strong so Biden and his allies will do what they can to remind Democratic voters of the apparent dangers he poses and why they should turnout to vote in the November elections. Trump-backed candidates are not only seeking to defeat Democrats but also challenging for seats held by more moderate Republicans. Biden will use today's anniversary as part of a larger campaign to motivate Democratic supporters to vote in the mid-terms and protect his party's weak grip on the future direction of US politics.”
Dr Georg Löfflmann said: “One year on from the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington DC on 6 January 2021, the state of American democracy remains precarious. According to opinion polls, 40 per cent of Americans believe that the victory of Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate. The United States of America remains a deeply polarized nation at odds over key policy issues from immigration reform to combating climate change and the enduring legacy of slavery and institutional racism in the country. Since the US Senate failed to formally convict Donald Trump of charges of insurrection for his role in the Capitol riot, his renewed bid for the presidency in 2024 remains a realistic, even probable proposition. The 74 million Americans that voted for Trump in 2020 all but guarantee that Trump's style of nationalist populism and aggressive rhetorical appeals to racial anxieties, anti-establishment resentment, and right-wing conspiracy theories will continue to dominate in the Republican Party and the American Right at large. The enduring quality of Trumpism in American politics challenges the structural integrity of liberal democracy and its core institutions, and it casts serious doubts over the political stability of the United States in the immediate future, with the 2022 midterm elections as a first important litmus test to observe this year.”
6 January 2022