A year ago, the deadly attack on our Capitol demonstrated how fragile our democracy is. The following year has shown us how close we are to losing it.
After Minnesotans and Americans turned out in record numbers for the 2020 election, we witnessed then President Trump and his allies turn their backs on our democracy and incite a violent attack on our nation’s Capitol. Their goal was to overturn the will of voters.
While the insurrection occurred on Jan. 6 last year, attacks on every aspect of our democracy continue. Political violence is increasing, disinformation is spreading rapidly, and extremism is dominating a major political party. We’ve also seen more attacks on free and fair elections and the people who administer them.
After the insurrection, 111 members of the Minnesota House of Representatives came together to condemn attacks on democracy and affirm our commitment to free and fair elections and the rule of law by passing a bipartisan resolution. The Republican-led Senate refused to even consider taking a similar stand. As we recognize the one-year anniversary of the deadly attack, it’s notable how many Republicans have remained silent in the face of mounting evidence of a deliberate and nearly successful coup — and how few now condemn it.
Others have deliberately spread lies that fueled the insurrection. In Minnesota and other states, Republicans used discredited conspiracy theories to push for an audit of the 2020 election. At a recent event, all six Republicans who are running for governor in Minnesota refused to acknowledge the legitimate results of the election.
Their goal is to undermine faith in democracy, paving the way for unnecessary and unpopular policies that restrict the freedom to vote. In Minnesota, Senate Republicans tried to impose restrictive voter ID requirements and effectively end same-day registration. The majority of Minnesotans support same-day registration, and voters soundly rejected voter ID laws when they were on the ballot in 2012.
There was a flood of anti-voter legislation last year. Nineteen states enacted new laws to restrict the freedom to vote, and similar legislation was introduced in 49 states, including Minnesota. These extreme policies would insulate elected officials from the will of voters and create barriers to exercising the freedom to vote that disproportionately impact voters of color, Indigenous people, New Americans, elderly voters, young people and people with disabilities. If policies that undermine the administration of local elections and restrict Minnesotans’ ability to participate in our democracy become law, it could open the door to more efforts to overturn the will of voters.
While spreading disinformation and advocating for policies that restrict the freedom to vote are subtler than the attack on Jan. 6, they’re just as dangerous. Conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric have led to escalating threats and attacks targeting local election officials in Minnesota and other states. A small but growing percentage of Americans say violence against the government is sometimes justified.
This is a crisis, and we need to act now. Standing up for our democracy shouldn’t be about party or politics. Condemning political violence and the deliberate lies and disinformation that fuel it is a bare minimum. Lawmakers must work together at the state and federal level to protect our democracy and the power of voters, starting with passing legislation like the Democracy for the People Act that we introduced days after the insurrection. Ensuring voters have the tools and support they need to cast their ballot is even more urgent now.
Above all, we need to work together to protect free and fair elections and make sure every Minnesotan can participate in our democracy, regardless of their race, age or background. Minnesotans sent us to the State Capitol to represent them, and we’re committed to protecting their voices and our state’s proud tradition of voter participation and trusted local elections. We call on all Minnesota public officials to stand up with us and to speak out against attempts to undermine our democracy and sabotage the will of the people.
Emma Greenman, DFL-Minneapolis, represents District 63B in the state House of Representatives. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, represents District 56 in the state Senate.