Jan. 6, 2021: What is at stake, and who must be held accountable


January 7, 2021

Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 never had to happen. And yet, given the obstruction of some elected officials — from the outgoing President to some members of Congress — it was almost inevitable. 

By now everyone knows the storyline. Protestors, egged on by Trump and encouraged by obstructionists in Congress, overran and occupied the U.S. Capitol – the first time the 220-year-old building had suffered such sacrilege since British troops partly burned it in 1814. 

The riots and attempted insurrection overshadowed what had been a momentous yet usually ceremonial occasion: the certification of the incoming President’s election by Congress. This is the final step, before Joe Biden’s swearing in at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 20. 

In both the House and Senate, a minority of members attempted to obstruct certification. These obstructionists could not keep Americans from voting, and they could not keep election officials from counting their votes. Still, they wished to undermine the will of the people and hurt our country by sowing doubts about the outcome in a number of states Biden clearly won. 

Through this entire process, the obstructionists have empowered white nationalists who now commit vigilante violence while blaming anyone who opposes their agenda of hate.

Photo credit: CNN.


Now we must hold them accountable. This includes 138 House members and seven Senators who tried to throw out the Pennsylvania vote, and 121 House members and six Senators who would have rejected Arizona’s results. The House members included the chamber’s two ranking Republicans, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA) and Rep. Steve Scalise (LA). The seven senators voting to reject the Pennsylvania vote were Ted Cruz (TX), Josh Hawley (MO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), Cynthia M. Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), Rick Scott (FL), and Tommy Tuberville (AL). Senators who tried to disenfranchise Arizonans  were Cruz, Hawley, Hyde-Smith, Kennedy (LA), Marshall, and Tuberville. 

Moving forward, there is a way we can hold them accountable while at the same time making our country and our democracy better, stronger, and safer. 

Voters on Nov. 3 – and again Tuesday, in Georgia – cast ballots in favor of a robust agenda in Congress and in the White House. They want an escape from the pandemic – that means vaccines distributed, and face masks and social distancing observed. They want a revitalized economy – that means stimulus and other forms of federal government intervention. They want to build a stronger safety net that works – that means food on the table, child care, affordable housing with no fear of evictions, paid leave, and quality health care for all. They want to raise the minimum wage. 

That is not all they voted for. Voters yearn for racial justice, a reduction in income inequality, demilitarized police forces and better-funded schools. They want to embrace and welcome immigrants. They demand equality for women, Blacks and Latinx, and low-income people in the workforce. And respect for LGBTQ people in all realms of society. 

Pursuing these goals is the best, finest, most noble way in which we can support our fellow countrymen and women and hold the obstructionists and insurrectionists accountable. 

But the road will not be easy.

In the House, only 11 votes separate the two political parties. This is the closest margin in modern U.S. history. In the Senate, we are expecting a 50-50 tie, with Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote (with possible delays to the swearing-in of Jon Ossoff, whose Jan. 5 run-off victory in Georgia may be contested). 

President-Elect Biden’s first 100 days will be key. As human needs advocates, we must come together, united, to work to pass an agenda that emphasizes repairing our country and our democracy and elevating the voices of those the obstructionists and their white nationalist followers would marginalize. It is not insignificant that on Tuesday, Georgia elected the Deep South’s first Black Democrat since Reconstruction to the Senate as well as the state’s first Jewish senator. 

“Together, in under two weeks when we inaugurate the new Biden-Harris Administration, a unified Democratic Party will advance extraordinary progress For The People,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement. “We will pursue a science and values-based plan to crush the virus and deliver relief to struggling families.” 

In less than two weeks, we also will celebrate democracy’s survival. It has bended, yes, but it did not break. We are lucky and blessed to live in a country where voters pick their leaders – and can push back when leaders try to pick and choose which votes to heed and which to silence. 

May it always be thus. May Wednesday always be a reminder of what is at stake, who we are fighting for, and who must be held accountable.