Anniversary on January 6th: America is back – against the wall?
What happened and why Opinions differ. Sharp.
Survey after survey measures the split between partisans. A recent poll found that 78 percent of Democrats said the protesters entering the US Capitol were “mostly violent”. Only 26 percent of Republicans agreed.
66 percent of Republicans don’t believe the Capitol storming was an attack on the government, and 77 percent say former President Donald Trump – who certainly cheered the White House crowd that day – bears no responsibility for what happened later carries on in the Capitol.
While 76 percent of Republicans said they disapproved of “those who forced their way into the Capitol,” 56 percent of Republicans said the protesters were “defending freedom.”
Another poll reports that 72 percent of Americans said rioters primarily “threaten democracy”, but a quarter of respondents said they primarily “protect democracy”.
We shouldn’t be surprised by these major differences of opinion. Republican news outlets preferred the January 6th story by showing mostly peaceful protesters waving flags and chanting “USA”. Those most visited by Democrats have repeatedly shown pictures of protesters entering the Capitol, furiously confronting the police, threatening lawmakers, and chanting “hang Mike Pence” – an expression of anger that the then Vice President refused to do had to stop Congress confirming Biden’s election victory.
Given this polarization, neither future media coverage nor the House of Representatives Special Committee to Investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol will change many minds ahead of the November mid-term elections.
What does this mean for America’s political future?
There are hardly any surprising differences of opinion on Trump either. 94 percent of Democrats say he tried to undermine democracy in the past year, while 85 of Republicans disagree.
What about his future ambitions? Trump’s popularity with GOP voters remains undeniably strong. 78 percent of Republicans want him to run for president in 2024, up from 66 percent in May last year.
Additionally, Trump has worked to cement his hold on the Republican Party ahead of the mid-term and 2024 presidential election. Since leaving office, he has aggressively used his undeniable popularity with GOP voters to back more candidates than in the past, to support many more pro-Trump insurgents in races against Republican incumbents whose loyalty Trump is in question and to get his name into local races that will determine how future elections will be conducted. That could help Trump overturn future voting results much more easily.
This last point speaks for Top Risk # 3 in the annual global geopolitical risk report of our parent company Eurasia Group. If Republicans regain control of Congress in 2022, it will be easier for them to empower Trump by rejecting election certificates in 2024.
What about the ailing Democrats?
While 65 percent of Americans consider President Biden’s 2020 election victory “legitimate,” his leadership doesn’t inspire much confidence these days. According to a summary of recent polls, President Biden’s approval rating is just 43 percent. That number is lower than any president in the past 75 years, with the exception of Trump, at this point in his presidency.
If Biden doesn’t reverse that, his unpopularity will give Republicans a significant mid-term advantage, which historically favored the party outside the White House.
In fact, the Democrats’ best chance of a stronger-than-expected performance in November is to deliver on their promises on Capitol Hill. This week also marks the one-year anniversary of the surprising Georgia runoff victories of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, which gave the Dems majority control of the Senate. Everything that moved the Democrats through Congress in 2021, including trillions of dollars in pandemic aid and infrastructure investments, was made possible by this outcome.
If the Democrats can use the next 10 months to pass more laws – especially the controversial Build Back Better to rewrite the American Social Contract – their ability to prove they can get things done could help them with the excitement the Republicans and the turnout to keep up.
That is not the direction of US politics seems to be going – Republicans are likely to retake both Houses of Congress – but it’s one of the stories we’ll be following this year.