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Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Schatz: 'January 6 was round one'
By News Release @ 2:42 AM :: 2744 Views :: Democratic Party, National News, Congressional Delegation, Republican Party

Schatz Warns Against Ongoing Threats To American Democracy, Commemorates January 6 Capitol Attack

News Release from Office of Sen Brian Schatz, Jan 4, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) spoke on the Senate floor today to commemorate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the continued threats to American democracy.

“A year ago, there was an attempted overthrow of American democracy right here in this building. We came perilously close to losing everything that night. Police officers were maimed and killed. Custodial workers and Senate staffers were hiding, with zero protection,” said Senator Schatz. “One year later, and I’m even more worried now. Donald Trump is now defining fealty to him by one thing and one thing only – are you willing to install him into power regardless of the vote count? And so now every Republican politician and election official – secretaries of state, county election commissioners, United States Senate candidates – have to promise to put Trump above democracy itself. And they are doing it!”

Schatz continued, “If we take a moment and we realize what’s at stake, we will realize what is required. It will require Republicans to stand up to an autocrat. It will require Democrats to stop arguing amongst ourselves. It will require reporters to write stories that get fewer clicks than whatever BS feels like the news of the day. It will require citizens to understand that democracy in this country is not what we have, it is what we do, and it is never, ever guaranteed.”

Video of the speech is available here. The full text of the speech as prepared for delivery can be found below.

  *   *   *   *   *

A year ago, there was an attempted overthrow of American democracy right here in this building.

We spend so much time here arguing about things that are unknowable – about the future, about ideology, about opinions – and we’ve become accustomed to treating floor speeches in the Senate as, well, not primarily factual.

But I was here. In fact, I was right here at this desk. No one needs to characterize it for me or pontificate about it or tell me what I should think about what happened. It was right here. It wasn’t theoretical, it wasn’t a debate. It was a physical siege on the United States Capitol.

I was already angry that day – the idea that American, democratically-elected politicians would participate in a process so foul as to be worthy of our most autocratic adversaries had me in a sour mood. The Electoral College certification is supposed to be the functional equivalent of the swearing in, where the thing gets made official, without any decisions actually being made.

But Senators Hawley and Cruz and others, with their unlimited ambition, their big brains, and their supposed expertise in the Constitution, were dancing on the edge of overturning democracy itself.

But I had no idea that there was an ongoing, organized conspiracy to steal the election. For real. Not in the “Russian hacking” way, and not in the “too many of the people I don’t agree with voted” way. Actually overturning the whole thing.

And so no one needs to tell me how to interpret this. I was here when they yelled “lock down, lock down.” I was here when Mike Pence was ushered off the floor. I was here when Chuck Grassley and anyone with a personal protection detail was rushed to safety, and the rest of us were just locked in here and told to stay in our seats. I was here when Todd Young made himself ready to physically confront the violent traitors. I was here when we were finally rushed to an undisclosed location and Lindsey Graham yelled at the Capitol Police for not having a plan to handle such a moment. I was here when Reverend Black pulled us together in unity. I was here when all but a few of us decided “enough is enough,” and we were collectively determined to finish the count that evening. I was here.

We came perilously close to losing everything that night. And some did. Police officers were maimed and killed. Custodial workers and Senate staffers were hiding, with zero protection. The insurrectionists were explicit. They wanted to kill the Speaker of the House!

One year later should be a simple, solemn commemoration of what happened and a collective, unified determination to never let anything like this happen again. But I’m even more worried now. Because that moment of unity is gone. And most importantly, that moment of moral clarity, of collective patriotic outrage, is gone. It went from Republicans being apologetic about their President to voting to exonerate him. It went from Republicans being angry at him to voting against putting together a bipartisan commission to get all the facts out. It went from 99 percent of the public being crystal clear about the moral threat to the right rewriting history, and in some cases, the left going along with it by telling us that other issues poll better.

To be clear, the litmus test for both political parties is usually to greater and lesser degrees loyalty to their president. Fair enough. That’s how the two party system works for better or worse. But Donald Trump is now defining fealty to him by one thing and one thing only – are you willing to install him into power regardless of the vote count? And so now every Republican politician and election official – secretaries of state, county election commissioners, United States Senate candidates – have to promise to put Trump above democracy itself. And they are doing it!

They are now organizing the next coup in plain sight. I don’t know the economics or the psychology behind it – maybe it’s ratings or a natural tendency among the chattering class to not want to sound like a wild-eyed person – that being unworried is what passes for savvy in this town, but everyone, including those who consider themselves “patriots,” seem so chill about this that I’m genuinely alarmed. They are installing loyalists across the country in order to cheat and they are not being subtle about it. Meanwhile, the cocktail set in Washington is busy policing our tone and talking about democratic overreach.

And so the defining question this week and this year is: are we willing to face the challenge in front of us? Yes, there is COVID. Yes, there is climate. But democracy itself is at risk in a way we haven’t seen in centuries. And we’re standing around as a country arguing about mostly nonsense.

Here’s the problem for all of us, and here’s why this is so hard emotionally. If we take a moment and we realize what’s at stake, we will realize what is required. It will require Republicans to stand up to an autocrat. It will require Democrats to stop arguing amongst ourselves. It will require reporters to write stories that get fewer clicks than whatever BS feels like the news of the day. It will require citizens to understand that democracy in this country is not what we have, it is what we do, and it is never, ever guaranteed.

So, this week we commemorate the fallen. We thank everyone who came to democracy’s defense across the country and in our great capital city. But we know that this was round one. We know that authoritarians rarely give up, and we know they aren’t doing their preparation for the next coup d’état in hiding. They are doing it all in plain sight and they must be stopped.

###

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