By Chris Swann
Photo illustration by Chris Swann
According to the Department of Defense, the U.S. Flag Code states the flag should never be flown upside down unless trying to signal dire danger or distress. The incidents that occurred in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 have been felt by many as a time of great anguish for the country, which this illustration displays. The reflection in the water displays an upright American flag representing the idea of what the nation could become in the aftermath of the raid on the Capitol. This visual representation is not made to be disrespectful.
A mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election as Congress was in session to certify Joe Biden’s victory. The demonstrations led to multiple injuries and five deaths.
At 2:15 p.m. Jan. 6, as lawmakers were in session debating a Republican-led objection to the certification of Arizona’s electors, the Secret Service removed Vice President Mike Pence from the chamber and the Capitol building was placed on lockdown. Lawmakers were told to duck behind their seats and put on protective gas masks after tear gas was used in the Capitol Rotunda.
Grace Segars, a CBS News political reporter, was sitting inside the press Senate gallery as the events were unfolding. “Soon, Senate gallery staffers were shouting ‘lock the doors,’ and it was clear that the situation was serious,” Segars said in a CBS article. Reporters were ushered into the press gallery above the Senate chamber and the doors were locked. “We could hear the muffled sound of the rioters outside,” Segars said in the article.
Lawmakers were soon evacuated from the chamber to an undisclosed location along with the press, while staffers grabbed the boxes containing the electoral college ballots in order to protect them from being destroyed by the invading mob.
The protesters breached security outside and broke through windows, climbing into the corridors of the Capitol, storming multiple congressional offices, and soon the Senate chamber. One photograph shows an individual raising a fist and yelling while standing at the chair of the Chief Justice.
Multiple people were injured, and five were killed. President George W. Bush called it a “sickening and disheartening sight . . . this is how elections are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.”
These protesters may have been motivated by President Donald Trump, who has continuously criticized the security of the 2020 election and called on his supporters to march at Washington D.C. on the day of the Senate vote. This is a culmination of rhetoric that the president had spearheaded well before the 2020 election: one that has left the nation so polarized, many say it could have lasting ramifications on the nation’s government and democracy itself.
The ex-president’s complete indifference to the crucial tradition of the peaceful transition of power, and the refusal to concede to the winning candidate, ended the 220-year custom started by Federalist John Adams in the 1800 election. The fact that Trump and members of his team insisted he was still the winner and the election was stolen from him, undermines the integrity of the U.S. elections and makes confidence in the system completely tank. While there is no factual evidence of enough widespread voter fraud to have overturned the election back to Trump’s side, he insisted the MAGA train will chug on and give him four more years, without solid proof.
The systems in place did their jobs. Hours after the Capitol chaos, Congress certified Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ victory. Also, 14 days later, they were sworn in as the 46th president and the 49th vice president (and the first woman to hold the office).
Congress introduced articles of impeachment against Trump on Jan. 13, one week before his term was set to expire, with a charge of “Incitement of Insurrection.” A result of not only the Capitol raid, but also a Jan. 2 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where leaked audio obtained by The Washington Post captured the president threatening Raffensperger to find 11,780 votes, altering the outcome of the 2020 election in that state. The charges were sent to the Senate on Jan. 25 to begin the trial.
But it’s not an issue of our government itself. It’s more of an issue with American attitude as we know it. The ever-increasing polarization of the two dominant political parties has reached a new high. Not only has this increasing partisanship been the primary cause of many key items of legislation to be vetoed in both Obama and Trump’s administrations, but it has also divided political bases seemingly beyond reconciliation. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, among all Democrats, 27% say GOP policies are a threat to the well-being of the country; among all Republicans, more than a third (36%) think Democratic policies threaten the nation. Stances on key issues like gun reform, reproductive rights, and immigration between politicians and their constituents on the right and left are polar opposites. Stances are often personal and debated with passion, derived from either racial or religious backgrounds. According to the same Pew Research Center Study, compromise is in the eye of the beholder, as consistent liberals and conservatives define ideal political compromise as one in which their side gets more of what it wants.
This shows the modern version of American democracy we know today is not the same version our founding fathers designed, but rather a weak democracy of disillusion, disparity and gridlock. And it doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.