On January 11, in Georgia, President Biden delivered a speech on civil rights to boost a new federal election law. He said that there are “moments so sharp that they split all that preceded ….”. And they force us to confront hard truths about ourselves, about our institutions, and about our democracy.”
By a juxtaposition of names and themes, Biden went on to imply that the January 6 demonstrators were spiritual descendants of the Ku Klux Klan. In line with the media prophets who have called that event a “Reichstag Moment,” Biden also affirmed that the “battle for the soul of America is not over…. We must be strong and united to ensure that January 6th does not mark the end of democracy, but rather a “renaissance.”
Most reports on the speech were struck by Biden’s characterization of his own radical change of perspective: “I’ve been having these quiet conversations with the members of Congress for the last two months. He said, “I’m tired being quiet!” and he ended by asking if anyone would like to join the side of George Wallace or Dr. King. Are you ready to stand on the side Bull Connor or John Lewis? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
The practical correlative of these statements is President Biden’s aim to overturn (if necessary) the Senate filibuster rule in order to assure passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021.
The majority mood of Congress is not far different. The first anniversary of January 6th riot was marked by Democrats with an inspiring program, policy briefings and musical performances. This was followed by a candlelight ceremony and prayer. Biden stated at the Capitol that he did not seek to fight this battle, but he said, “But I will not shrink away from it.” I will stand in this breach.” Stand in this breach was a speechwriter’s garbled memory of Henry V (“Once more into the breach”) and George H.W. Bush (“This won’t stand”); but, the intent was what really mattered and the words conveyed a sense that purpose. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry opened the Capitol Steps Vigil with a prayer asking God to heal “all those who have been traumatized.” Chevel Shepherd concluded the day’s strange ceremonies with her renditions of “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” (God Bless America).
That would have been enough–as the Passover song has it–but the Democrats, these days, don’t know when to edit, and Shepherd had been anticipated by another musical interlude. Nancy Pelosi introduced Lin Manuel Miranda, who introduced the cast of Hamilton to sing “Dear Theodosia” via Zoom. Theodosia was the daughter of Aaron Burr, as the website genius.com helpfully explains: “Burr and Alexander Hamilton both had children very soon after the Revolutionary War. Here they take a moment to coo, and to realize the human element of the country they are just beginning to build.” The relevance of the song may have been allegorical–the traitor Burr being the prototype of Trump–but the moment was so ripe a specimen of kitsch that even Mediaite affixed to the story a customer warning: Not a Parody.
During the business portion of the January 6th anniversary, Democrats presented a summary of all new laws that they had drafted to prevent the anti-constitutional behavior from Trump (or any successor in demagogy). Adam Schiff spoke in support of the Protecting Our Democracy Act. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler also spoke for the Protecting Our Democracy Act. Zoe Lofgren, Zoe Lofgren, and Carolyn Maloney did the same thing for the No President Is Above the Law Act. Mary Gay Scanlon and John Yarmuth added some humorous miscellaneous comments. Yet the overall mood was typified by Kamala Harris, who said (with a rehearsed gravity): “Certain dates echo throughout history…dates that occupy not only a place on our calendar, but a place in our collective memory.” She placed January 6, 2021, alongside December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.
According to a Quinnipiac Poll released on January 12, President Biden now enjoys an approval rating of 33 percent. A more striking number comes from a group we have worked with for a while. The extreme mutual distrust that prevails between the barely 50 percent of voters commanded by the Democrats at election time and the 40-plus for Republicans stems from a divided awareness of two recent episodes of popular protest and violence. The well-known Trumpian outbreak came on January 6, 2021. Although it has been called an attempted coup or insurrection by most Republicans, it is absurd to refer to it as a sort of picnic-gone-wrong.
The left-wing outbreak was more diffuse; it impressed by duration and fecundity. But for those who pieced together the evidence unassisted by the liberal-corporate media, these attacks–week after week, in city after city–were bound to make onlookers wonder what country we were living in. The riots of 2020, done under the legitimate cover of mask-wearing citizens, started as a protest against the k