The Irish Times view on the Washington insurrection: US democracy is still under attack

The divisions that shook the US with such violence at this time last year were reflected in Thursday’s anniversary commemorations

US president Joe Biden gives remarks in Statuary Hall of the U.S Capitol in Washington on Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol. Photograph: EPA/Greg Nash

The storming of the US Capitol by a mob a year ago still casts a long shadow. It continues to shape national life in the US, while the role – and future intentions – of its chief instigator, Donald Trump, remain central to daily political debate. The divisions that shook the US with such violence at this time last year were reflected in yesterday's anniversary commemorations in the inability of politicians even to unite in a common defence of democracy.

A recent poll found the while nearly three-quarters of all Americans view the insurrection as an attack on democracy, half of Republicans say the rioters were actually the ones "protecting democracy" and think the attack was not even that violent. While most believe Joe Biden was elected legitimately, seven in 10 Republicans think otherwise. Repeated investigations have found no evidence of significant voter fraud.

That battle over the election’s supposed illegitimacy is still being fought. It is the rolling, unfinished coup that Trump launched last year as soon as it was over with illegal demands to election officials in state after state to “find” the votes to re-elect him. The attack on the Capitol was to play a vital central part in that attempt; the insurrectionists were directed by the then president to “fight” to prevent Vice-President Mike Pence from validating the electoral college votes in the official tally in the House that day.

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the US Capitol in Washington on Wednesday. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Over the last year, Republican legislators in 41 states have worked assiduously to advance that same agenda. Hundreds of Bills have been proposed, and three dozen passed, that empower legislatures to sabotage their own elections. Some Bills would make it easier for lawmakers to reject the votes of their citizens if they don’t like the outcome. Others replace professional election officials with partisan actors or attempt to criminalise human errors by election officials. There is a real danger that the changes could facilitate a Trumpite-Republican majority in the November midterms and even clear a path to Trump’s re-election in 2024.


Some 700 people have been arrested and charged over their involvement in the riot, with 10 convicted so far. Notably not facing charges, however, is the former president; the Attorney General is apprehensive about potential accusations of vindictive prosecution. There is little argument, however, that Trump has a case to answer on multiple charges arising from the events on the day or his well-documented attempt to browbeat election officials.

Even his own supporters have let the cat out of the bag over his culpability for January 6th. Fox News host and confidant Laura Ingraham, was recently revealed to have texted Trump's chief of staff during the riot to implore him to get the president to call off the mob, warning that "he is destroying his legacy".That was the least it did.