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Academics lament political fallout of Jan 6

By YIFAN XU in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-01-06 11:04

Supporters of US President Donald Trump climb on walls at the US Capitol in Washington, US, Jan 6, 2021. [Photo/IC]

One year after pro-Donald Trump demonstrators stormed the US Capitol, the incident still resonates in the deep divide in US politics and society, experts said.

"President Biden has still not fully repaired the damage done on that day and in the run-up and immediate aftermath," Peter Feaver, a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, told China Daily.

On Jan 6, 2021, the day that Congress convened to certify Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election, hundreds of then-president Trump's supporters rushed the building, looking to disrupt the proceedings.

Feaver said that the attempt by pro-Trump rioters provided dramatic visual images, but the behind-the-scenes efforts by insiders to hold on to power posed more serious ethical dilemmas to military leaders and national security and law enforcement professionals.

While many in the Republican Party have attempted to minimize the impact of that day, investigations in Congress and the Justice Department are still probing the tumultuous events.

David Schanzer, a professor at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy and an expert on counterterrorism strategy, said the events of Jan 6 were "the first time in American history that violence has been used to attempt to block the peaceful transition of power".

He said that over the past 12 months, "even greater damage has been inflicted on our democracy by former president Donald Trump and his supporters by perpetuating the lie — unsupported by any evidence — that the 2020 election was fraudulent".

"The storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was a historical travesty, but what has happened in America since then has been even worse," Schanzer told China Daily.

Schanzer also said he is worried that the two-party system that has provided political stability at least since the end of the Civil War is now on the verge of collapse.

"Even during a global pandemic and while the climate catastrophe is unfolding, this assault on American democracy is the most pressing issue of our times," he said.

In a commentary published on the Strategic and International Study (CSIS) website, Alan Reinsch, a senior adviser and the Scholl Chair of CSIS, Reinsch called Jan 6 "a day of infamy".

"I wrote that we are 'tribal, violent, racist, and selfish', and we proved that a year ago. It remains true today."

The assault on the Capitol reinforced the conclusion that American exceptionalism and competence were unreliable, according to Reinsch.

"One of the painful and lingering legacies of Jan 6 is the way it dispirited our allies and emboldened our adversaries," said Feaver.

Phil Napoli, a professor of public policy and a faculty member at the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke University, stressed that one of the long-lasting effects of that day will be on digital platforms.

Napoli is concerned that when the US heads toward the next election that the social media space is not significantly more resistant to political disinformation than it was in the previous election.

"I would say that insurrection made it clear that US policymakers, and the digital platforms that are based here, need to become global leaders in developing effective approaches to combating disinformation while at the same time protecting basic freedoms. This is a razor's edge that I don't think we have yet figured out how to effectively walk," Napoli told China Daily.

Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris are set to visit the US Capitol and deliver remarks to "speak the truth of what happened" on Thursday, according to the White House.

Trump had planned to hold a news conference on Thursday but canceled it.

"In light of the total bias and dishonesty of the January 6th Unselect Committee of Democrats, two failed Republicans, and the Fake News Media, I am canceling the January 6th Press Conference at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, and instead will discuss many of those important topics at my rally on Saturday, January 15th, in Arizona. —It will be a big crowd!" Trump said in a statement on his website.

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