New Orleans The January 6th insurrection, coup, riot, or whatever you might want to call this assault on the Capitol and Congress over the ceremonial certification of the Electoral College results is now marking its first anniversary. Most of us would think that everything that could be said about has now been said, but we would be wrong. The event continues to be at the center of political division, a constant theme of Trump-talk and that of his supporters on the Republican side still contesting the results, part of ongoing Congressional investigation, and Justice Department enforcement and convictions.
In a special Wade’s World report (link), I talked to Matthew Teague, a veteran journalist, who teamed up with another well-regarded reporter, Mark Bowden, to investigate the claims and controversies that led to this conflagration at the Capital. They co-authored The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It. They talked to people on both sides of the line. Some who were dead set in their conviction that the election had been stolen, and others whose job it was to actually make sure the votes were counted correctly at the local and state level. This is both a frightening and inspiring read, which is a difficult emotional and intellectual tightrope to travel.
The facts are the facts, but it is depressing to read how stubbornly committed some of our fellow Americans are to total falsehoods and fiction. Despite four years of seeing Trump, both as candidate and president somehow survive, Teflon-like, every scandal and outrage, it’s amazing that I am still surprised to some degree to see that he continues to have a death grip on so many of his true believing supporters as well as a strangle hold on the Republican Party. Like it or not, that’s the country as it is, not as we would like to believe it might be.
The new target in their crosshairs seems to be less Congress, which is an electoral mountain for any to climb, but local and state electoral officials, especially in the battleground areas. That’s also hugely frightening for the prospects of our democracy, but this is also where Teague and Bowden make the most encouraging case. Over and over again in Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia, where they did most of their reporting, there are democratic heroes, who regardless of their personal or political leanings, simply did the right thing, got the votes counted and did so correctly, and withstood the heat and attacks to hold the ground for democratic principles and protect the results of the voters. Sometimes they paid a huge price. Ruby Freeman, a Black Georgia poll worker, for example endured countless threats, including at her own home. All of them put up with reputational and ad hominem attacks.
Russell Carpenter, our volunteer radio engineer, who was with me while talking to Teague, has worked elections for twenty years, as his mother did before him in Little Rock. He’s now an election judge responsible for a precinct. Luckily, there are tens of thousands of Russell’s out there who are responsible for our elections on the local level. It’s impossible to imagine any conspiracy that could enlist enough of these dedicated Americans to try and steal the election in our modern system. The Trumpian efforts to undue the 2020 election are actually pretty good proof of that, which is not to say that some less scrupulous and less patriotic might for their own personal gain try to grandstand and mess with the system within their own states. They won’t find it easy though, as long as most people, like the ones Bowden and Teague interviewed, refuse to do anything but their jobs as cogs in the wheel of our electoral system.
On January 6th, they deserve our thanks for what turns out to be a thankless job, but a critical one.