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Washington is failing to address root cause of Jan. 6 riots

It’s customary for the left to react to violent incidents by demanding that society address their “root cause.” The logic being that the perpetrators’ aberrant behavior is more or less attributable to some kind of societal dysfunction and should give rise to deeper soul-searching. How many academic studies, for example, have been devoted to fostering a better understanding of the role of poverty, poor parenting skills, and the frustration of belonging to a lower socioeconomic class and in driving street crime? How many times have we heard, when someone is on trial for a violent crime, that they were the victim of a breakdown of their family or community environment?

Likewise, the United Nations came up with an explanation in 1985 as to why terrorists commit their heinous acts, concluding that they’re driven by “misery, frustration, grievance and despair” caused by “colonialism, racism and situations involving mass and flagrant violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and those involving alien occupation.” If society generally considers that even the worst acts of violence are worthy of collective soul-searching in order to prevent their recurrence, then where’s the debate and discussion over the root cause of the riots in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021? Are all alleged crimes worthy of societal self-reflection, or just those around which leftists can build a charity and a career?

Tossing former President Donald Trump under the bus and calling it a day does little to address the underlying issues. Members of the House Select Committee tasked with investigating the events argue during the current public hearings that Trump whipped the assembled participants into a frenzy via Tweets and a speech which suggested that he and his supporters were robbed of an electoral victory in November 2020. The mob subsequently stormed the Capitol building to prevent then-Vice President Mike Pence from ratifying the results of President Joe Biden’s win.

A relatively small number of Americans relative to the overall population was gathered in Washington on that day. But in the same way that every radio call-in guest tends to represent a significant number of views among the general public, you can bet that every one of those rioters present is merely part of the tip of a much larger iceberg.

What drove so many people to get riled up by the idea of election fraud? A breakdown of trust in American institutions is largely responsible for driving the incident. If people were confident that elected officials and the system itself were reliable, then Trump could have ranted and raved about an alleged “stolen” election all he wanted, and everyone would have just chalked it up to him being a sore loser with a big ego. Instead, Trump was able to exploit a system failure that not only existed prior to that day, but also led to his election in the first place as an anti-establishment candidate promising to fix it.

America’s democratic deficit isn’t a figment of the imagination. According to the recently released annual Democracy Perception Index of attitudes around the world about the state of democracy, 63 percent of Americans feel that their government “usually acts in the interest of a small group of people” in the country. Just 32 percent of Americans feel that “everyone in my country can freely express their opinion on political and social topics.” Only 31 percent believe that “political leaders in my country are elected in free and fair elections”, while 63 percent say that election fraud is a threat to democracy, with 78 percent saying the same about corruption. Meanwhile, only 49 percent of Americans surveyed agree that their country is democratic.

The results of the survey, conducted by a think-tank helmed by the former secretary general of NATO and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, strongly suggest a serious problem of which the events of January 6 are merely symptomatic, as was Donald Trump’s election.

Americans’ growing distrust in their institutions is fueled by an increasingly palpable disconnect between the working class and those who make the rules that govern their daily lives, who seem more interested in pushing an agenda that ultimately benefits the global economic and political class, on everything from questionable foreign military interventions to digital health passes tied to citizens’ identities, or the state-mandated control of information flow online and its recent re-qualification as a matter of “security.”

Washington is in denial of its own institutional dysfunction, preferring instead to focus people’s attention on foreign examples of the same. Trump may have lit a match, but the environment was already ripe, and remains so. Once it finishes scapegoating Trump with the latest hearings, Washington would be well-served to embark on an inquiry to determine the systemic reforms required to quell the “root cause” of domestic anger and frustration and regain the confidence of the average American.

Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of independently produced talk shows in French and English

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