Supporters of President Donald Trump surround the US Capitol following a rally on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters stormed the building in an insurrection aimed at stopping Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Supporters of President Donald Trump surround the US Capitol following a rally on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters stormed the building in an insurrection aimed at stopping Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

In an op-ed, congressional candidate Rebecca Cooke reflects on the legacy of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and how to strengthen the nation moving forward.

Editor’s Note: Rebecca Cooke is one of four declared candidates in the Democratic primary in the 3rd Congressional District in western Wisconsin. The Republicans’ 2020 nominee, Derrick Van Orden, is also running, and if other Republicans enter the race there will be a primary. The primary elections will take place Aug. 9 and the general election to succeed retiring Democrat Ron Kind will be held Nov. 8. UpNorthNews invites all formally declared candidates to submit columns introducing themselves to our readers, subject to light editing and verification.

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the insurrection on the US Capitol, our democracy remains in grave danger. The violence we saw at the hands of extremists that resulted in five deaths was fueled by the lies and divisiveness of political leaders aiming to weaponize fear and anger for their own gain.

I think often about the police officers who were there that day, performing their sworn duty to protect the halls of government. Many of those same officers have noted the physical, mental, and emotional trauma they have since experienced as they have bravely offered testimony before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack—many of them former members of the military. 

The assault on law enforcement, despite insurrectionists’ rhetoric claiming to be supportive of police, is particularly insulting. We don’t have to look any further than my opponent Derrick Van Orden, who was at the US Capitol alongside the “stop the steal” rioters, to get a taste of this extremism. Van Orden used leftover campaign funds from his failed 2020 run against Ron Kind to fly to DC and “represent” west-central Wisconsin. Is that the Wisconsin you know? 

People I speak to across our west-central Wisconsin communities are deeply distressed about where we stand as a nation, and where we go from here. They are rightfully concerned about our economy, the cost of everyday goods, healthcare affordability, the strength of our schools, and the resilience of our infrastructure. They’re looking for a leader who puts people first above political ideology. 

I was raised in a family rooted in service to the country. My ancestors served in both World Wars, my grandfather was a Marine in Korea before coming home to work a union job in Eau Claire’s paper mill, and my father served as a medic at Walter Reed Hospital, caring for wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam. My brother continued that tradition, serving in the Navy before returning home to farm in Eau Claire and ultimately joining the Madison Fire Department.

The leaders we send to Washington need to focus on solving problems and addressing those kitchen table issues impacting people’s daily lives—not fanning the flames of division with more extreme, dangerous rhetoric.  

How can we trust someone to represent our interests when they have actively tried to undermine our democracy? That’s what we’ll have with Derrick Van Orden in Congress. Wisconsinites deserve better. 

Now, a year removed from the attack on the Capitol, the assault on our democracy is still an unquestionably ongoing threat, and it is crucial that each of us do our part to strengthen our great country as we look to the future.