U.S. Capitol riot

One Year After Attack On U.S. Capitol, Political Analysts Weigh In On Protecting Democracy

The siege brought protecting the election process to the forefront of conversation, and Connecticut political analysts discuss where the country stands one year after the attack

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The attack on the U.S. Capitol brought protecting democracy to the forefront of conversation, and that was still a theme one year later, as President Joe Biden addressed the nation Thursday.

"One year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked," President Biden said.

In one of the more forceful speeches of his presidency, President Biden said the insurrection at the Capitol held "a dagger at the throat of democracy."

"Our Constitution faced the gravest of threats," he said.

That central theme in the President's speech was justified, the risk very real, according to Mike Lawlor, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at University of New Haven.

"The events from a year ago today, at least in my view, were the most un-American activities ever undertaken in this nation. I mean, it goes right to the heart of American democracy," Lawlor said.

"We took it for granted that things would just happen, normally, and if there was a dispute, the courts would figure it out," he continued. "Obviously, that is not what happened a year ago today. And I think if anything, the threat is bigger at this moment than it was then. We have come to realize there are extremists in our midst that would willingly use violence to overthrow the government of United States."

However Gary Rose, Chairman of the Department of Government at Sacred Heart University, has a different take, seeing the siege as an example of American democracy serving its purpose.

"We did have an assault on the Capitol, which was, of course egregious, outrageous, and illegal," Rose said. "But nevertheless, we still went ahead and we certified an election. And so, you know, in many ways our democracy was able to stand up against this mob behavior."

As for inciting a mob, President Biden did not hesitate in taking sharp aim at President Trump.

"A former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack, sitting in the private dining room off the oval office in the White House, watching it all on television," Biden said.

It is a speech that Biden sees as more divisive than unifying.

"What this is going to do is, it's going to put Trump now on the offensive, and it's going to cause his supporters to rally around him even more," he said.

Biden's tone is a departure in the way he has addressed Trump throughout his presidency, according to Wes Renfro, Associate Dean and Professor of Political Science at Quinnipiac University.

"Joe Biden was pretty out front and willing to engage with Trump in a way that he hasn't since Biden assumed the presidency," Renfro said.

Questions remain about what exactly January 6, 2021 means for American democracy.

"It was a wake-up call to this country, and thankfully, it didn't succeed," Lawlor said.

All three analysts agree the answer to protecting democracy may lie in reforming the nation's voting system.

"A year later, we find ourselves in a place where there is objectively one reality, but for all practical purposes, there are there are two realities," Renfro said. "That's a dangerous place. And I don't frankly know how to rectify that, other than perhaps making it easy for people to vote in legal ways so that we can have a broadly representative government." 

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