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The hearings by a special congressional committee should be treated as a warning—complacency only helps those who want to tear down our democracy.

Ahead of Thursday’s first of several televised hearings by the congressional committee investigating the insurrection at the US Capitol, we thought about setting the scene with a reminder of the suspicious, shameful, or illegal activities that led up to the attack and have taken place since that awful day. 

But listing even just the Wisconsin activities that advance the Big Lie is a major undertaking—and these events should remind us that the attack of Jan. 6, 2021 was only one part of a criminal conspiracy. That conspiracy is still active today. 

That is not to say that everyone who has doubts or suspicions about the 2020 presidential election is a co-conspirator. But a democracy cannot work when public confidence is actively undermined by people making repeating claims that remain unproven or have been disproven over and over and over again. 

In no particular order, the Wisconsin activities include, but are not limited to: 

As you can see, while the Jan. 6 insurrection was a flashpoint—a tragic incident that nearly toppled the United States government—it is only the loudest shot in an ongoing battle being waged by a former president and the leadership of a major American political party willing to break the law or even break the country in order to seize power. 

That is what to keep in mind during the hearings. This is not a review of a one-and-done event. It is a warning that the same forces that incited an insurrection with their disruptive or criminal activity continue to stoke chaos to this day.

We cannot and must not try to wish it away or dismiss it as mere politics. Complacency about the bad actors among us only supports those intent on crippling or killing western democracy and taking us down a path seen in Hungary, Turkey, and other places where once-peaceful governmental systems were upended by autocrats and those who support them.

It can indeed happen here.