Living in Society

January 6, 2021

Occupying U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

There haven’t been days like Jan. 6, 2021 in my life. Ever.

It’s been clear for a while, certainly since Georgia was called for Joe Biden, who won the 2020 presidential election. President Trump refused to recognize his loss. Yesterday during a speech in Washington he said he would never concede.

Trump urging a gathering of well-dressed cosplayers to storm the capitol building was too much. Trump has been too much since his inaugural address. While I need to process it, one thing is clear: two more weeks of Trump would be too much and he should resign. If he won’t, the Congress should remove him.

While growing up, ours was a Democratic family. We were accepted in the community even though Iowa was and still is a Republican state. It likely helped that three of the four presidents in my life by 1968 were Democrats: Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson. It also helped that Father belonged to the meat cutters union.

Dwight Eisenhower was Republican yet he was also supreme commander of Allied forces in Western Europe during World War II. A number of World War II veterans lived in our community and spoke often about the war. We could relate to Eisenhower. Some of his initiatives, like creating the Interstate Highway system, benefited us directly. Our political life was good and a part of the culture that occupied a small space in each day. Eisenhower would not be elected to anything by today’s Republican party.

As years went by that all changed and political discourse gained hegemony in our lives. It began with Nixon who was forced to resign the presidency because he was a crook. We knew he was a liar after his televised explanation of the war in Cambodia. We didn’t like having a liar and crook as president. The shooting incident at Kent State in 1970 pushed me and others over the edge. I still have the clipping of us demonstrating at the Iowa National Guard Armory in Davenport.

Then there was Reagan who opened the door for dramatic change in our politics. What doesn’t get talked about enough is his ceasing enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine. It led to the rise of right wing talk radio and FOX News, both of which had a deleterious effect on our politics. If Reagan did some good things on nuclear disarmament and for the environment, the downside was much worse. The Reagan Revolution began dismantling the government. Every Republican president after Reagan — George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump — chipped away at government. Republicans would say the changes were needed. Democrats would say we can do better.

At 1:30 a.m. today I joined 160,000 others in viewing a live stream of the U.S. House of Representatives proceedings regarding acceptance of the certified results of the presidential and vice presidential election. We all should have been sleeping. It was hard to look away even though the speeches were mostly pure drivel. It should be so simple: voters registered and voted, state officials counted the votes and certified them, and certifications were sent to the U.S. Congress to be counted. It should have happened during daylight and but for the cosplay it would have.

I’m tired of middle of the night politics. When issues are important, like last night, I stay awake and listen or watch. If I know the legislators I text or email with them while debate is ongoing. How could I sleep? I’m usually a wreck the next day.

If politics takes more of our time, it’s because old assumptions are no longer valid and so much is at stake. People like me planned our lives based on assumptions about government. Republicans have changed everything and would change it more given the opportunity.

We have to get to a politics of daylight where everyone is respected, can participate, and have a say. Except in matters of war we don’t need to debate at night. Jan. 6, 2021 serves as a reminder we can’t follow the path of Reagan, the Bushes and Trump any longer. We must find a new way together. I’m willing to do my part.