One year ago, on January 6, the U.S. Capitol – the symbol of the democracy we all cherish – was attacked by a mob intent on overturning the decision of American voters to elect Joseph Biden as our 46th President.
The mob came within seconds of capturing Vice President Mike Pence to stop him from doing his constitutional duty of certifying election results. It invaded the U.S. Senate and desecrated symbols of American democracy. The mob then attacked the House Chamber, shattered windows, and attempted to batter down the barricaded doors.
All of this was in service of then-President Trump’s false assertion that the election he had lost was stolen from him.
In fact, what Donald Trump was doing was attempting to steal from us the democratic tradition we all share – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – that the people choose their leaders, not the politicians, and that in our democracy we always transfer power peacefully to the newly elected President.
It was a violent day. The mob engaged Capitol police in hand-to-hand combat that lasted for hours. Five Capitol police died – one, a 42-year-old officer with two young children – and hundreds were injured in the attack. One woman was shot.
I was there when that shot was fired, and when the mob shattered windows and nearly entered the House Chamber.
The violence and destruction failed to achieve the mob’s goal. Congress reconvened, and at 3 a.m. we certified the election of Joseph Biden as our duly elected President. But though the attack failed, make no mistake – the peril to our democracy continues.
First, much to my dismay, 147 of my Republican colleagues – who, like me, experienced the violence – did not repudiate it but voted against certifying President Biden’s election.
Second, what the mob failed to achieve with its January 6 attack, many Trump-aligned state legislatures are attempting to accomplish through legal means – by passing laws that would empower partisan legislators to overturn the results of a state’s election if it didn’t produce the outcome that they preferred. Republican legislators have introduced over 400 bills that would enable them to subvert the next election. They are making it harder to vote, redistricting congressional lines to further marginalize voters of color, and giving the power to partisan legislatures by stripping the independent authority of secretaries of state to certify election results. In 2021, 19 states passed these laws.
The right to vote and the peaceful transfer of power are core tenets of our nation’s democracy. The future depends on our fight to protect them. To pass voting rights and protect our democracy, the Senate filibuster needs to go. But there is so much more that depends on us working together to make government work for all Vermonters. We need to provide childcare and paid leave to our families. We need to protect reproductive rights and advance racial justice. And we need to finally address climate change.
In the year ahead, I am asking Vermonters to step up where they can - talk to your friends and family about the issues you care about, make sure you are registered to vote, get involved in your local elections, volunteer for people and causes that move you. Take care of each other, speak up when you see injustice, and challenge your elected officials, including me, to fight for what is right. These small steps help build the fabric of our communities and in turn strengthen our democracy.
Six weeks ago, I announced my candidacy for the U.S. Senate. A major reason I did so was to do all I can to preserve and protect the democracy so essential to all of us. It is an all-hands-on-deck moment. All of us must play a role and do what we can, wherever we are, to restore faith in democracy and in one another. We will succeed if we stand together.