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Tom Durkin: Jan. 6, a day of infamy

By Tom Durkin | Columnist

Two-thirds of all Americans believe our democracy is in crisis, and I am one of those Americans.

The insurrection/riot at the Capitol Jan. 6, 2021, was surely a day of infamy, ranking with Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Not as many people died this time, but no enemy has struck closer to home or shaken America’s faith in itself more deeply.

Pearl Harbor and 9/11 united us. Jan. 6 divided us.

Until last year, I thought the worst crisis in America in my lifetime was the Vietnam War era with its antiwar and civil rights protests, riots and bombings. I thought the country was going to split apart, and I was wondering which side I would choose.

I was scared for my county then, but I’m more scared for it now. Back then, nobody claimed Kent State didn’t happen or Nixon wasn’t our real president.

The University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats has found that 21 million Americans believe the “political violence” of Jan. 6 was justified.


According to an Ipsos/NPR poll released Monday, 64% of Americans believe U.S. democracy is “in crisis and at risk of failing.” Among Republicans, about 80% believe democracy is more at risk now than a year ago.

It’s a bitter and counterintuitive irony that the Republicans who fear democracy is at risk are the very people who are putting democracy at risk.

The poll revealed that two-thirds of Republican respondents believe “The Big Lie” that voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the 2020 election.

“Although there were no instances of widespread fraud in either absentee ballots or early voting, Republicans … have pursued reforms as if there were,” stated a report from the Brookings Institution. The report noted 19 states have passed laws making it harder to vote.

In other words, 19 states with Republican-dominated legislatures and governors are putting democracy at risk.

Claims these voter restrictions are to prevent voter fraud in the future are cynically disingenuous because, “Often these states garnered headlines for their sheer pettiness and racism,” the Brookings report said.


KVMR was a storm casualty, and my Smarter Broadband cable was taken out by a tree, so I tuned into KNCO for the news. Good job people. Thank you for being there for us.

The morning programming was good, but the afternoon programming was hard to take. I was willing to listen to conservative opinions, but not disinformation and slander.

Giggling like drunken frat boys, Markley, Van Camp and Robbins derisively claimed Dr. Fauci and the CDC “lied” because they said we didn’t have to wear masks last summer and now they say we have to again. That’s about as rational as saying a sportscaster lied because 45 minutes ago, they said your team was winning but now they say your team is losing.

To say the medical and public health experts lied is undeserved calumny. Dr. Fauci — and our local public health officials — speak the truth of the moment, just as sportscasters do.

Nobody lied. The coronavirus is a moving target. Public health strategy is moving with it, trying to stay ahead of it.

Say they were wrong or stupid or misinformed, but don’t impugn their character. These are good people, dedicated public servants. They must be dedicated to put up with the abuse and intimidation they are subjected to daily for the thankless job of keeping us safe in the face of barefaced resistance.


Recently, I had a chance to speak with Gregory Diaz, Nevada County’s registrar of voters. He confirmed what I experienced working in the Placer County elections division. From here to Georgia, elections offices are committed with an almost religious zeal to fair and honest elections.

Diaz also told me how bad actors have been calling people up to falsely tell them their votes weren’t counted when in fact their votes were counted. Understandably angry people have excoriated and threatened his staff, the people who are faithfully protecting democracy itself.

Diaz stared at his hands and shook his head, visibly distressed. “It’s not right! It’s not right!” He kept saying that.


Things are not looking good for America. Most Americans of all political beliefs believe we are in crisis although we can’t even agree on what the crisis is, according to the Ipsos/NPR poll. That’s scary.

I don’t know who scares me more. The people who lie or the people who believe them. The Republicans-in-name-only and patriots-in-name-only are in the process of destroying our democracy in the insane belief they are saving it.

Will history look back on Jan. 6, 2021, as the day democracy died in America?

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer, editor and photographer in Nevada County and a member of The Union Editorial Board. He may be contacted at tjdurkin3@gmail.com


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