First published in the Jan. 8 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff stood on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday, the same spot where, one year prior, the congressman observed a surreal insurrection occur on the Capitol.
Schiff, a Democrat from Burbank, said in an interview with the Leader that he still remembers the sound of glass shattering. He recalls shouts from Capitol police and his fellow representatives as a mob tried to force its way into the chambers, aiming to overturn the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
A year after Jan. 6, 2021, the shards of broken glass have been swept away and the damage to the Capitol building has been repaired. But, Schiff said, the state of democracy in the United States is even more perilous than it was that day.
“I think we all grew up in a generation after World War II that believed that democracy was somehow inexorable, that it was an immutable law of nature,” he explained. “But it isn’t. Instead, it’s very fragile. There’s nothing guaranteed about it, not even in the United States of America.”
The rioters at the Capitol believed then-President Donald Trump’s insistence — despite the overwhelming absence of evidence — that Democrats had stolen the election from him and his supporters, Schiff said. And while some high-ranking Republicans initially said Trump had incited the violence, all but a few soon rallied behind him, downplaying the Jan. 6 events or supporting his false claims of widespread election fraud.
Since then, Schiff noted, several Republican-led states have passed voting laws that legislators said would protect future elections from voter fraud, though audits found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Some experts and advocates also reported that those laws would disproportionately restrict voting access for Black citizens and other people of color. Additionally, multiple states moved toward giving Republican-controlled legislatures influence over elections mechanisms.
“The idea [is that] if they lose the next presidential election, they won’t need to attack the Capitol,” Schiff said. “They will overturn the results in each of the states that are at issue.”
The congressman also believes that politically motivated violence has become more accepted in the past year — and not just in Washington. State legislatures, local election officials, city councils and school boards have faced threats from members of the public as well, he added.
“This is an enormously dangerous, destructive trend for the country,” Schiff said. “This is something we need to pay attention to at home, as well as back in Washington.”
A member of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, Schiff said he hopes the group’s work will result in public hearings that will reveal more details on what led up to that day, as well as recommendations for preventing similar events in the future.
That committee of nine includes just two Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — who broke with their party over its members’ persistent support of Trump and voted to impeach him last year.
The attack on the Capitol changed how Democrats in Congress view most of their colleagues across the aisle, Schiff said, particularly after many Republican representatives — particularly in the House of Representatives — objected to the certification of 2020’s election results.
Indeed, after congressional representatives held a candlelight vigil at the steps of the Capitol on Thursday to commemorate the insurrection, Schiff recalled that he’d been on those same steps for a similar vigil after 9/11. Both Republicans and Democrats, he noted, had attended that event.
But on Jan. 6, 2022, he said, no Republicans — save for Cheney and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney — were present.
“I think today ought to be a call for national awakening about the fragile state of our democracy and the need to protect it,” Schiff said.