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:
- Early lawsuits rooted in absolutely zero evidence of fraud.
- Sen. Ron Johnson’s conspiracy-based hearing in Dec. 2020.
- Johnson admitting in a phone call that he knew Biden won, but that it would be political suicide to say so publicly.
- US Reps. Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald voting to deny the lawfully cast votes submitted and certified by other states.
- Rep. Tiffany supporting a Texas lawsuit to disregard Wisconsin voters and simply award the state’s electoral votes to former President Trump—something for which we maintain he should resign or be expelled.
- The fraudulent slate of fake Trump electors put forward in Wisconsin and other states, including Robert Spindell who was and remarkably still is a member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The fake electors conspiracy included Fitzgerald getting them a meeting room in the state Capitol despite COVID restrictions.
- A three-ring circus of conspiracy theorists allowed to perform for the Assembly Elections Committee.
- The attack on ballot drop boxes, a useful tool that Republicans used to support until they lost an election.
- The Republican sheriff of Racine County trying to get the elections commission members charged with a crime for daring to help elderly voters stay safe during a pandemic.
- Johnson calling on the Republican leaders in the Legislature to simply take over elections administration, with no regard for the elections commission.
- Every major Republican candidate for office saying they would abolish the commission, a body created by Republicans unhappy with investigations being done by the Government Accountability Board.
- And the comedic incompetence of the “investigation” into the 2020 election being conducted by Michael Gableman. There are too many to link to here. Even today there’s news of how his team botched a potential interview by using an unlicensed attorney.
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.