Point-Counterpoint: Capitol Riots
January 26, 2021
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece belong solely to their respective author(s). They do not necessarily represent the opinions of South Forsyth High School or Forsyth County Schools.
More than just one man
On Wednesday, January 6th, an act of domestic terrorism shook our nation’s political system. Supporters of President Trump went to the Capitol in droves, climbing the wall and overpowering the police until both chambers of Congress had to shelter in place. They replaced an American flag with a Trump flag, delayed the constitutional task of certifying the Presidential election, and ended the lives of over five people.
Prior to the violence, President Trump told the protestors to “walk down to the Capitol” and that “he would be with them.” Even during and after the riots, our President posted videos sympathizing with them instead of condemning them. While these words could have come from a place of wanting a fair election, their effects were violence and even trauma for some members of Congress. But how could one man cause this much violence and conflict in a country like America?
The answer is, he can’t. One of the most beautiful things I’ve admired about America is its checks and balances system, where no one entity has too much power. That is why cabinets and administrations move in, not just presidents. That is why laws follow intensely harsh processes before passing. Positive change, whether that’s winning an election or passing a law, requires a team in this country. But on the flip side, so does negative change.
At the end of the day, violence is violence. It doesn’t matter whether it comes from democrats or republicans, from people protesting election fraud or burning a mall. We have to treat it equally and justly and that means appropriately prosecuting everyone involved, not just the face of the protests. If this had been just a matter of the first amendment, I wouldn’t have complained. While people may not agree with the election fraud theories, they have a right to voice their concerns. What they do not have a right to do is storm our Capitol, and there are several ties linking the senators, lawyers and news involved to not just the protests but the violence itself.
As easy as it is to blame this on President Trump, we have to remember that this could not have been possible without a team of enablers, officials, and senators who fanned the flames of the President’s claims and dangerous statements. There were three main branches that allowed the President’s actions to escalate this far, and we have to call them out as a nation if we want to stop such a horrible event from repeating itself.
The Legal Team
It all started with lawyers such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who took Trump’s claims of election fraud and translated them to courts and official documents. They went to courts and made arguments that were rejected by a record of 42-0 according to Business Insider. However, their statements in these hearings gave supporters arguments to hold on to, a reason to fight, and hope that their logic would maybe hold up in court. In reality, several of these cases were dismissed because they “failed to withstand basic scrutiny,” according to an article written by the Associated Press. In the same article, the AP says that the big Texas lawsuit was “widely expected by legal experts to fail,” but that 18 Republican Attorneys signed it anyways. These lawyers are the reason that Trump’s claims had any legitimacy at all. They gave the rioters false hope that they weren’t fighting a losing battle from the start. Even though they were aware of their poor track record, they kept pushing, projecting this attitude on the citizens. However, this interactive graphic from USA TODAY shows exactly how small the possibility of the lawsuits withstanding was, and the extremely poor record they faced in courts.
Individually speaking, Giuliani spoke to the protestors personally before the violence started, calling them to have “trial by combat” to solve the dispute. Sidney Powell retweeted baseless claims that Antifa members disguised as Trump Supporters caused the riots, even though Trump personally set the date for it. It was statements like these that gave them hope that violence would solve everything and took the blame away once it hurt people. These lawyers told Trump his actions were legal, and they should be held just as accountable.
Another factor in Trump’s claims of election fraud and the essential motive behind many of the rioters were the Congressmen and women who backed these claims. Take Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri who not only raised a fist to the rioters on his way to the Capitol but also held a fundraiser during the event. Or Senator Ted Cruz, who told supporters at the Georgia senate rally that they were patriots, comparing them to those during the American Revolution. And later, when interviewed by news outlets, several rioters claimed the sedition was “like 1776.” He propagated a sort of savior complex characterized by feelings of “being the last hope” and “needing to save democracy” that led to the deaths and violence on the 6th, and we cannot allow him to pretend like he took the moral high ground.
And perhaps the most egregious example of how these senators enabled Trump and the violence? They, along with eleven other senators and over a hundred house members, still voted to dispute the electoral vote count despite the violence that these claims caused. While several other members like Kelly Loeffler rescinded their claims of fraud, these congressmen chose to sustain them. If Trump’s lawyers gave him a false sense of legitimacy, these senators gave the rioters a reason to riot, and it’s made obvious by Trump’s claim in his speech: “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators.” These senators made themselves out to be the “last hope” for both Trump and the protestors, and that’s why his words about them matter. Trump implied that the senators would already vote to challenge the election no matter what, which is why they needed “cheering on.”
The final branch is extremely biased news sources such as Newsmax and One America News Network (OANN) that not only refused to call the election when Joe Biden won the 270 electoral votes he needed for the Presidency but gave the senators, lawyers, and other election fraud believers a megaphone. They continued to cast doubt on the election and write biting articles that made Trump supporters feel like they were being wronged when in reality, they were just going through the democratic progress. Even after the protests, OANN’s page was filled with headlines such as “Far-Left Infiltrated Capitol Protests” ignoring the real perpetrators of the riots. These outlets gave the extremists a place to rest in their confirmation bias rather than the actual reality of the election, and they are just as responsible for the sixth.
Without the continued support of the system and the people above, Trump’s claims would have been just that- claims. However, these people gave him an outlet to convince thousands of people of these allegations. They are just as responsible for the events at the Capitol as anyone else. We cannot let them simply condemn the violence or resign like Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss and forget about the past four years their actions built up to this. These individuals didn’t represent the ideals of Democrats or Republicans, and this isn’t about red or blue. This beyond party lines. They were all factors in a crime against democracy, and we have to hold them accountable by not re-electing them, signing petitions to allow them the proper legal repercussions, and not focusing all of our criticism and social media blame towards Trump. Otherwise, there is nothing stopping the system from giving anyone the power to incite something like the Capitol riots again. As our country moves on and heals from this, we have to remember that January 6th, 2021, was the result of more than just one man.
More than just one party
The incident at the Capitol sparked outrage, confusion, and disconcertion throughout the country with everyone being quick to point fingers as to who erupted this pandemonium. Many decided to place the blame on former President Donald Trump due to his lacking response to the situation. There is indeed more than one man that can be held accountable for the violence. And those who deserve the condemnation are the Republican extremists who broke into the U.S. Capitol and wreaked havoc upon the nation.
At first, the protestors were simply just that: they were protestors. It’s true that Trump, as well as the Republican congressmen, encouraged their supporters to attend the verification of the 2020 Election at the Capitol building on January 6th, evoking a surge of patriotism amongst the conservative crowd. However, no one, neither Elephants nor Donkeys, expected the series of events that unraveled later that day.
In the rally that took place prior to the Capitol riot, former President Donald Trump gave a speech to his followers with no indication of inciting violence, even saying things such as, “peacefully and patriotically, make your voices heard.” Trump inspired the conservative protestors to exercise their first amendment rights in front of the Capitol building. In fact, he even tweeted, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!” Contrary to popular belief, Trump did not insinuate acts of violence within his words at all. People believe that his actions were enough to incite unruly uproar, but his past endeavors as President can hardly be linked to these circumstances.
Many argue that the rioters were there at the Capitol due to baseless claims of election fraud. However, the Supreme Court rejected even looking into the evidence of the Texas Lawsuit. The courts released the statement: “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections” as means to justify their lacking response to the Texas Lawsuit. The lawsuit against the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin didn’t even get a chance to hold its own in court. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that it had no chance of surviving the Supreme Court. Despite what some may believe about the outcome of the 2020 Election, it cannot be denied that there is enough evidence to warrant a response from the right. With the 2020 election process being a lot different than previous elections, it was not wrong to raise an eyebrow when the Republican party perceived concerning anomalies surrounding everything from the mail-in ballots to the Dominion voting machines.
Additionally, the Republican congressmen also did not perpetuate the chaos. They were in support of the protestors outside of the Capitol, but it was only when the mob was peaceful. The Trump supporters are allowed to protest under the First Amendment of the Constitution, and the congressmen were simply in support of the citizens exercising their rights. However, the members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, were in fear for their lives as they were either evacuated from the premises or took shelter in their offices. Several Republican congressmen even tweeted during the event, notably Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who wrote: “Stop the violence. Support Capitol Police.” amidst the event. None of the Republican representatives were in support of the violence, and they condemned the rioters. In the early stages of the protests, many of the Republican congressmen were in support of the chants and the signs, but they drew the line when the protesting grew into a deadly riot.
Stop the violence. Support Capitol Police.
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) January 6, 2021
Furthermore, the news outlets and the media were also not responsible for the riots at the Capitol. Right-leaning news outlets such as Newsmax and OANN did speak out about their beliefs on the 2020 Election being stolen, but they did not insinuate any diabolical ulterior motives. On top of that, larger, more influential platforms such as CNN, MSNBC, and FOX gave the election to Joe Biden. These smaller news outlets alone cannot alter the mindsets of many or create real change without a larger following.
There is no reason to place blame upon those who were not actively involved in the riots. From the Republican lawyers to the congressmen to even the news outlets, their influences alone were not enough to perpetuate the sudden wave of terror that struck the nation. The rush of violence received condemnation from everyone from all sides of the political spectrum. One man did not propagate the act of domestic terrorism, but one party did not propagate it either.