Political polarization deepens in wake of U.S. Capitol breach

By Macy Li

Chaos erupted during the certification of the 2020 presidential election, as pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in protest, breaching the building. The political polarization in the country, largely incited by President Trump through his baseless claims of election fraud, deepened in the midst of this harrowing incident. 

The breach was one of the most severe intrusions of the Capitol since 1814, shocking millions across the country. Rioters shattered glass windows, broke into offices and hid explosive devices inside, according to the New York Times. The violence that unfolded ultimately left four rioters and one police officer dead.

The decision pro-Trump rioters made to breach the building was a horrifying attack on American democracy. These rioters committed an act of outright terrorism, utilizing unlawful force in pursuit of political aims. Their challenge on the U.S. electoral process and their protests against a peaceful transfer of presidential power are utterly unacceptable.

The decision pro-Trump rioters made to breach the building was a horrifying attack on American democracy. (Photo by courtesy of Jim Bourg (REUTERS))

Trump played an instrumental role in furthering the country’s political divide and motivating his supporters during the Capitol attack. He posted a message on Twitter, telling his followers he “loved them” and that they were “very special,” according to Vox News. Additionally, he openly criticized Republican politicians who neglected to support his goal of overturning the election results.

As the most powerful figure in the country, Trump has the ability to control the views and opinions of millions of Americans. Rather than promoting unity during critical times, Trump has repeatedly provoked widespread unrest and conflict among the American people.  

By making a myriad of claims that the election was fraudulent and “stolen,” he shaped the mindsets of those who supported him. This caused his supporters to truly believe the results were skewed, despite an abundance of evidence proving the contrary, according to the Washington Post. As a result, his followers were encouraged to turn against members of the opposing party and to raid the Capitol on Jan. 6, challenging the election’s outcome.

The successful breach by pro-Trump rioters also calls into question the effectiveness and unfairness of law enforcement. The U.S. Capitol police force comprises 2,000 officers dedicated to protecting the structure, with an annual budget of $460 million, according to The Guardian. Yet, they were unable to prevent a mob of rioters from breaching both the exterior and the interior of such an important building. 

Politicians like newly-elected congressman Mondaire Jones and social media users have reacted with immense disappointment to the actions of the police force during the Capitol storming by the mob of mostly white men, according to The Guardian. Jones said he believes the rioters “would have been gunned down before they got into the Capitol” if they were Black.

This would have been a highly probable outcome, given the fact that recently, largely peaceful anti-racism protestors were subjected to tear gas, rubber bullets, mass arrests and beatings. In vivid contrast, The Guardian reported that footage from the breach revealed members of the police force taking selfies with pro-Trump rioters. The difference in law enforcement’s treatment of these two groups is simply ludicrous.

In the wake of the Capitol breach, the extent of the political polarization in the country is palpable and calls for a serious reevaluation of where the U.S. stands. If we allow leaders like Trump to continue dividing us and encouraging violence, the country will remain in peril.

 

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