On the first night of hearings by the congressional Jan. 6 committee, the images spoke for themselves: an angry mob descending on the U.S. Capitol — shouting obscenities and calling for blood — while panicked Capitol Hill police were viciously assaulted.

The violent video footage, much of it never-before-seen, was a bracing reminder that what happened that day was not a peaceful protest that got out of hand. It was the brutal nadir of a concerted attack on democracy led by former President Donald Trump and his false claims of a stolen election.

As the hearings continue this month, we must avoid partisan division and pay attention. It’s too soon to forget this shameful episode in our history — otherwise we may be doomed to repeat it.

Almost a year and a half after rioters breached the U.S. Capitol, many Americans seem ready to move on. A January Quinnipiac poll found that 44% say too much is being made of the storming of the U.S. Capitol, an increase from the 38% reported in August.

Recent polls found that the percentage of people who believe Trump is responsible has also declined. The share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who say he bears a lot of responsibility dropped from 18% in the wake of the attack to 10% today, according to the Pew Research Center. Even among Democrats, seven-in-10 say Trump bears a lot of responsibility for last year’s violence at the Capitol, down from 81% a year ago.

Anyone who is wavering need only listen to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, who spoke unequivocally on who bears the blame for Jan. 6.


“Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: that the election was stolen, and that he was the rightful president,” she said. “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”

Cheney lost her role in party leadership for daring to speak up against the former president’s election lies. Yet she, along with fellow Republican Adam Kinzinger, may be the best hope to cut through the partisan cloud and reach skeptical conservatives.

A large majority of self-identified Republicans continue to believe the election was stolen, according to repeated polling, and oppose the committee’s investigation. The GOP leaders cynically pushed to cast the commission as political when they refused to support the creation of an independent bipartisan panel.

But it bears remembering that six Republicans in the Senate and 35 in the House — including Washington’s Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler — cared enough to give the American public a full accounting of what happened and supported the committee’s creation.

That accounting is critical to ensure that something like Jan. 6 doesn’t happen again. To make clear that actions have consequences. If committee members do their job, they will build a case that shows this isn’t about red or blue, urban or rural, liberal or conservative, but about democracy.

Democracy belongs to all of us, and as long as it remains under attack, its defense is up to all of us as well.