What Really Happened on January 6th

It’s extremely hard to turn on a TV or scroll through your news feed without coming across something about the hearings on the events of January 6th. This is the protest that became a riot at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and led to the deaths of five people.

You probably know the outline of this story, but I think most sources are leaving out an essential plot point. Here’s what happened:

  1. In the months leading up to the November 2020 election, President Trump repeatedly told supporters that he would “win in a landslide” and if he did not, that would be because of “widespread election fraud.” Millions believed him.
  2. These claims were largely ignored by everyone except for Trump’s supporters.
  3. President Trump was declared the loser of the election by a small margin. He vigorously reasserted his claims of fraud and was joined by the majority of Republicans in Congress.
  4. By law, January 6th following a Presidential election is the day that Congress reviews the certified results from all of the states and officially approves them. Republican members fought to overturn some of these results, while President Trump held a rally nearby urging supporters to take action and to join him in marching on the Capitol building.
  5. About a thousand people from the rally went on the Capitol. They pushed past security (which didn’t anticipate them), vandalized the building, and killed several people. Within a few hours, police and military officials secured the campus and the election was finalized.
  6. Since that time, the majority of Republican voters and officials continue to believe the election was fraudulent, and many are still fighting it. The majority of Democrats continue to ignore this claim (calling it “The Big Lie”) and are focused on investigations and accountability.

Figure out what’s not being talked about? It’s #2: about millions of people believing Trump’s predictions. What went wrong is that most everyone else didn’t take this seriously.

This is the root cause of what happened on January 6, and the cause of so many problems in American politics overall. The playbook says: “if the other side believes something that you think is nonsense, ignore them or mock them.”

But if millions of people believe something, we need to pay attention to it. Not because it’s the truth. But because it makes sense to them, and they are not alone.

This, perhaps more than anything else, is why we’re so divided. We’ve got to stop demonizing and dismissing. Instead, we have to listen, ask questions, and patiently respond.

No matter how crazy they seem. Because I guarantee you, they think you are crazy too. And if that’s the way we keep going, we’re never going to learn to work together.

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