Michigan political scientists reflect on significance of Jan. 6 insurrection

"An attack on our democracy."
Posted at 7:23 AM, Jan 06, 2022

MICHIGAN — Thursday marks the one year anniversary since rioters stormed the Capitol. Throughout the year opinions on the insurrection have changed, but the impact is inevitable. Michigan political scientists and legislators reflect on the day as a stark warning about how fickle democracy truly is.

“In the U.S., in recent history, we haven't seen anything like this," University of Michigan Associate Professor of Communication & Media and Political Science Josh Pasek said.

Shock rippled through Pasek and other political scientists who couldn't believe their eyes as they watched the insurrection unfold on TV exactly one year ago.

“For me, it was surreal," former state representative and former Central Michigan Univeristy professor David Rutledge said.

Rutledge describes Jan. 6 as an attack on the very principles that hold this country together.

“I see it as an attack on our democracy," he said.

And Rutledge isn't alone in that thinking.

“What happened on Jan. 6 was an insurrection and a rather ineffective coup attempt," Pasek added.

Pasek says the insurrection has brought up interesting discussions not only in the classroom, but also across party lines.

“One of the really interesting things has been how the perception has shifted," he said.

A Pew Research Center poll shows a declining number of Republicans believe it's important to prosecute rioters.79% of Republicans expressed support for prosecution back in March. Six months later in September, that number dropped down to 57%. Democrats have remained steady on their thoughts on prosecution at 96%.

Despite public input, there have been hundreds of arrests, including 13 Michigan residents. More than 700 arrests have been made so far, with projections into the thousands as to how many may eventually be arrested. Charges include assault, resisting or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon, civil disorder and more.

“The question becomes, and I struggle with this, 'What happens when we are attacked from the inside?'" Rutledge asked.

Rutledge and Paseck teach students about all types of historical events that shake the guardrails of democracy, but this they say is different. This was an election where tactics were made to overturn votes from the inside and not from outside forces.

“If we view those who disagree with us as functionally illegitimate, it's going to be impossible to maintain their democracy. And that is a very dangerous place to be," Pasek said.

The educators are using Jan. 6 as a learning lesson for their students and a time to reflect, and are hoping the American public does the same.