June 10, 2022

Democracy’s Moment of Truth

Russ Feingold President

We are experiencing democracy’s moment of truth. And in this country, there may be no better encapsulation of this moment than the information unfolding in the January 6th Select Committee’s public hearings, starting with the first this week. It was not easy to watch the first hearing, particularly the video footage shared by the Committee. It is deeply unsettling to watch and hear about the violence and the detailed plans to overthrow our democracy. At the same time, I am so grateful that the Select Committee has conducted this serious, bipartisan, fact-driven investigation so that we, the American people, have a complete and factual account of what happened leading up to and on January 6th – and so we can safeguard democracy moving forward.

As the Committee is proving, January 6th was not a random act. It was part of a broader and ongoing anti-democratic plot to subvert our elections and overturn the will of the American people, following a free and fair election that was declared the most secure in our country’s history. As Committee Chairman Thompson said, “The violence was no accident. It represented Trump’s last, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power. And ultimately, Donald Trump — the president of the United States — spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy.”

I was moved by Representatives Thompson’s and Cheney’s emphasis on the oath that elected officials and government employees take, having taken that oath multiple times myself. It is an oath not to an individual or a party, but to the Constitution. It is an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The Select Committee’s investigation is an investigation into domestic enemies to democracy, to the Rule of Law, and to our Constitution. As Representative Cheney urged, we must remember what is at stake, whether we will live under the Rule of Law or mob rule.

Representatives Thompson’s and Cheney’s remarks at the hearing were poignant, and in just the last few hours I have found myself returning to them. “The sacred obligation to defend this peaceful transfer of power has been honored by every American president. Except one,” said Rep. Cheney. “[W]hen a president fails to take the steps necessary to preserve our union or worse causes a constitutional crisis, we’re at a moment of maximum danger for our republic.” This is what we mean when we say we are living through Democracy’s moment of truth. Our laws and legal institutions are being tested, and the final outcome depends on all of us.

We all watched January 6th play out in real time. We’ve all seen countless video clips of insurrectionists attacking our Capitol. It may be painful or exhausting to recount that day. But I implore you to tune into these hearings and to pay attention to the Committee’s work. These hearings are a solemn and consequential moment in our history. This is not about scoring political points. It is about protecting our democracy and protecting the will of the American people to decide the future of this country. One of the most important things that we can all do is to fully understand what happened leading up to and on January 6th, because it will take all of us being part of the solution to ensure it never happens again.


Democracy and Elections, Democracy and Voting, January 6th