The Damage to the U.S. Capitol Continues Two Years Later
Author: John Casey
When I worked on the Hill, I gave tours of the Capitol building to visiting constituents. I was a press secretary, so it was a little out of my realm of responsibilities, but I grabbed the opportunity every time I could.
I never took for granted that a boy from Pittsburgh worked in Congress and had the opportunity to pass through that grand structure each day. I knew the building like the back of my hand, and though that was 30 years ago, I still remember every nook and cranny.
The Washington Post reported this week, sadly, that the official tours of the Capitol do not include any reference to the insurrection of January 6, 2021. Tour guides are only to speak about it if they are asked. The reason, of course, is that you never know if an extremist is in your tour group and how they would react at the very mention of one of the worst days in our democracy. The Capitol was badly bruised, with broken windows, beheaded historic statues, human excrement spread across its cast iron floors, and a shattered spirit.
Here we are, two years later, and the Capitol again has been infiltrated by extremists who are holding the U.S. Congress hostage. The vagrants are thwarting Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to become speaker of the House, and damaging the institution and defacing the Capitol yet again.
The building itself, before 2021, was last attacked when the British burned it in the War of 1812, over 200 years ago. The last time the vote for speaker took more than 10 ballots was before the Civil War, over 140 years ago. The Capitol has seen two unprecedented flare-ups in the last two years.
With McCarthy versus the extremists, it’s hard to choose which side is more reviled. McCarthy is a spineless, selfish egomaniac. He bears some responsibility for the physical attack on the Capitol when he gave into the extreme wing of the party, starting in 2015 before Donald Trump was elected, all in a long play to someday become speaker. The extremists knew they were dealing with a weak individual who had no backbone.
These verifiable fools were also partly responsible for the impairment of the Capitol building and our democracy two years ago. They spread the big lie far and wide, touted outrageous conspiracy theories, and voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election, only hours after the Capitol was scorched.
The havoc that’s been created by the fringe element of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, and Kevin McCarthy has been unprecedented. It hasn’t been 100 or 200 years since something like this last happened; this is the first time our country has encountered these attacks by implicit domestic terrorists, including a U.S. president.
At the center of it, all this mayhem stands a building with a history so rich and full and one that these extremists don’t even attempt to understand. The Capitol building and its dome, are the beacon of democracy the world over. But now? It again looks like the scene of another crime that the world is watching.
Just like the excrement left by the insurrectionists, the Republican fanatics and McCarthy are throwing metaphorical feces against the Capitol walls with the reckless and immature game they are playing with the speakership. Their disgraceful actions threaten the dignity and effectiveness of not only the job of speaker of the House but the House and Congress itself and will be yet another blight they have left on the building and democracy.
The effectual and extraordinary work of the January 6 Select Committee, the brainchild of perhaps history’s greatest speaker, Nancy Pelosi, had a profound and consequential influence on the American public. To be sure, the work of the committee made many citizens realize the importance of American democracy and how it almost disappeared. The committee also showed, with stunning pictures, videos, and testimony, the damage inflicted on the U.S. Capitol building.
Midterm voters came out in full force and bucked history by preserving a Democratic majority in the Senate and electing more Democratic governors and state legislators down-ballot, partly because of the committee’s eye-opening work; however, the electorate failed, only by a few votes, to prevent Republicans from taking over the House. And now the world again sees extremists going on a crime spree at the U.S. Capitol.
So much has changed over the last two years, yet some things remain the same. The damage done on January 6 was a fire, and today we see embers of that fire still burning. It will take years to put this fire out and clear the smoke, and rid the building of the arsonists responsible for it.
The Republicans’ actions are also like obnoxious cancer that will continue to infect our democracy, and like rabid rodents, the extremists will continue to scurry the halls of the Capitol.
Even though two years have passed; even though, thanks to the Select Committee, we know what really happened that day; and even though President Biden marked the two-year anniversary by honoring 12 heroes from that day with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the events of January 6, 2021, live on. The Capitol, for all intents and purposes, is under siege again, and our democracy and ability to govern are being threatened.
Cancer doesn’t go away in a day, and even a crafty exterminator can’t kill off all the infestations of rats and mice. That’s why the multiple ballots for speaker are only a harbinger of all the chaos that will occur during the next two years in the House under Republican rule. Just watch how the extremists, among other things, will hold up funding for Ukraine, fail to address the national debt, cause a global calamity when the U.S. defaults on its loans, and push to impeach Joe Biden.
McCarthy bizarrely promised the wacky Marjorie Taylor Greene a spot on the sought-after House Oversight Committee, which conducts serious and pertinent investigations. She not only wants to investigate Biden and of course his son Hunter, but she also wants to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas because of the border situation. Greene, as we all know, lost her committee posts in the last Congress because of her violent and conspiratorial social media posts.
Insurrectionists infiltrated the office of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Capitol building two years ago. In 2023, they will permeate the House’s legislative committees.
Eventually, hopefully, desperately, the extremists will one day go away. And when they do, we can have a government that functions again. We can elect honorable speakers of the House, like Pelosi again, we can have a democracy that flourishes, and we can have the splendid U.S. Capitol building glimmer with pride again.
January 6, 2022, among other things, made me think about some of the Capitol’s wonderous spots: King Kamehameha’s imposing gold statue in Statuary Hall, the “whispering gallery” outside tbe House floor, George Washington’s tomb (an empty burial chamber below the rotunda), the Senate’s Vice Presidential Bust Collection, Ted Kennedy’s hideaway office, and the first lady’s seat in the House gallery.
I was incredibly lucky to make the long, winding trek around the Capitol dome and stand outside the top of the rotunda. The sprawling views of Washington, D.C., are spectacular from that vantage point. Being on that very narrow walkway at, literally, the height of democracy, is a wondrous feeling and one you never forget.
Two years after January 6, the U.S. Capitol continues to impress. Despite all of the attempts to shame her, she remains the beacon, the symbol, and the home of freedom, justice, and liberty for all. No amount of extremism can ever take that away from her.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.
Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.
Original Article on The Advocate
Author: John Casey