This column reflects remarks I gave on January 6, 2022 in downtown Reno to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection and coup attempt by Donald Trump that we know now nearly succeeded. After my speech, several folks told me they agreed or enjoyed the talk, but I don’t feel good about it. I feel more alarmed than ever because we are not taking the ongoing threat to our democracy with the seriousness it deserves.
In the last year, we’ve seen a systematic attempt to rewrite what happened on Jan. 6, to deny, blame-shift — and, worst of all, to justify it. This is not about politics. We’re not debating a spending bill or national defense; policy does not matter. The hard right, Trumpian base wants America to be ruled by an unelected, unchallenged minority for the benefit of only one segment of the population. Any other outcome is met with insults, threats, lies and violence.
Before the line was crossed, it was attacked and weakened. Knowing he would lose the election, the twice-impeached, disgraced former President Trump set the stage with nonstop attacks on the nation’s electoral system. Instead of trying to win outright, Trump attacked the very idea that we should be allowed to choose.
Trump was caught on tape demanding that Georgia election officials “find” 11,000 votes, begging a half dozen people to manipulate the election results. We have absolute proof, and still, half the country doesn’t care — or worse, they love it.
There is no recent comparison to the Jan. 6 insurrection, so let’s put to rest all the “whataboutism” — an offhanded remark by Hillary Clinton, a governor griping about losing, or Al Gore’s recount. Nothing in recent history compares to a monthslong disinformation campaign abetted by the Republican Party against democracy.
You cannot compare the coup to other events, like street violence in Portland or shootings in big cities. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen cars set on fire because of a football game. Crime is a sad fact of life in every developed nation. Jan. 6 is unique — an attack on our government on par with the Oklahoma City Bombing or 9/11. It sought to exploit the same electoral loopholes that precipitated the Civil War.
It is scarier still that the hard right craves more violence. Thousands may have attacked the capitol, but millions aided and abetted. A clear majority of Republicans now say that the Capitol insurrection was justified — even good. Many are hoping to do it all again in 2024. This is impossible to understand, let alone believe.
This attack on freedom is brought to us by the “Big Lie,” an easily disproven claim that Trump “really won.” A thoughtful, literate people could never believe such a fantastical, ludicrous fiction. But the violent right has been waiting for an idiot messiah for decades, and they will not give him up. Without serious reform, the next election will be decided by Trump toadies rammed into positions of electoral oversight. We underestimate this threat at our peril.
In the Trump era all political conversations are tinged with violence. When I visit Trump friends and family, only 10 minutes pass before someone brings up their massive gun and ammo collection. This nonstop talk of guns and civil war is an intimidation tactic. The coup would be unthinkable without America’s preexisting sick and twisted gun culture.
Worst of all, it’s working. It’s working because we’re tired. The Big Lie spreads faster than we can process outrage, so we all crawl back into our lives to have a beer, watch TV and pet our dogs. But we cannot afford apathy. Saving democracy will require discomfort, effort, courage and unquenchable rage.
The line cannot be uncrossed. We can only move forward. There are some good initiatives in Congress, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and others. But it is not enough. We must abolish the racist electoral college, give D.C. statehood, and reform the anti-democratic senate. If we wish to save American democracy, we need serious, generational reform.
David Remnick wrote in the New Yorker that America is suspended “between democracy and autocracy.” I would add that this space also holds us, regular people. We are all that stands in the way of disaster because we have only a short window to save our democracy.
Edwin Lyngar is a Reno resident.
Credit “Reno Gazette Journal“