Speaking on the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riot, Vice President Harris and President Biden invoked some of the most significant events in America’s history. According to Harris, January 6 deserves a position alongside Pearl Harbor Day and 9/11 in the national psyche.
“Certain dates echo throughout history,” she proclaimed. “Dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars but a place in our collective memory: December 7, 1941, September 11, 2001, and January 6, 2021.”
Biden, for his part, referenced the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War II, women’s suffrage, and the civil rights movement in one grandiose sentence, claiming that President Trump, along with the rioters, wished to “ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord, at Gettysburg and Omaha Beach, [at] Seneca Falls, [at] Selma, Alabama. . . . The right to vote.” Still, Biden reassured us, “our darkest days can lead to light and hope. From the death and destruction . . . in Pearl Harbor came the triumph over the forces of fascism. From the brutality of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge came historic voting rights legislation.”
And from his speech, Biden clearly hoped there would emerge momentum for Democrats’ pending voting legislation — the apparent, underlying, political purpose of the whole Biden-Harris January 6 remembrance.
As numerous commentators have noted, the Biden-Harris historical analogies were inapt: however bad the Capitol riot was, it does not resemble attacks on our nation that killed thousands and plunged America into wars. Biden and Harris’ rhetoric, therefore, tells us nothing useful about what happened last year in Washington, but it does tell us much about the left’s continued ignorance of — and contempt for — actual American history.
By comparing January 6 to some of the costliest chapters of our nation’s past, the left shows that it does not understand that past, or the sacrifices that created and preserved this country. In fact, Biden and Harris’s historical analogies can be seen as part of the left’s ongoing assault on American history: They have the effect not of magnifying what happened at the Capitol, but of diminishing moments and sacrifices that define America’s national story.
Even as Biden politicized and misused American history in his Jan. 6 speech, he also worked to create a false history of the events at the Capitol. For example, the president doubled down on a debunked narrative: that Capitol police officers were killed by rioters. Using rhetorical trickery, Biden spoke of the “wake” of the Capitol events rather than explaining exactly what happened, and did not happen, during the day itself: “Jill and I have mourned police officers in this Capitol rotunda not once but twice in the wake of January 6th,” Biden said. “Once to honor Officer Brian Sicknick, who lost his life the day after the attack and the second time to honor Officer Billy Evans, who lost his life defending this Capitol as well.”
America should honor both of these brave men, but the president’s implication that they were murdered by rioters is not based in fact. Officer Sicknick, despite continuous media narrative to the contrary, was found by a medical examiner to have died of natural causes, though the examiner did state that the events of Jan. 6 “played a role in his condition.” Officer Evans was killed months later, in April 2021, in a completely unrelated attack. The only individual killed at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was an unarmed woman named Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by a Capitol police officer.
While Biden and Harris take such liberties with history and fact, they also ignore the left’s own recent history of violence: the burning of a police station in Minneapolis, the establishment of a lawless “autonomous zone” in Seattle, the attack on a Federal courthouse in Portland, attacks on Secret Service agents in Washington, the smashing of stores, the torching of cars, and, yes, the vandalism and destruction of historical monuments. This mayhem was neither random nor spontaneous. This was political violence, intended to do nothing less than intimidate the American electorate — in other words, to interfere in our democracy in a presidential election year and to compel a desired result.
If there were any doubts about the political nature of Biden’s January 6 remembrance, his speech in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 11 should put them to rest. Speaking once again of “moments of darkness and despair [from which] came light and hope,” Biden made clear his wish that from January 6 would come the passage of Democrats’ voting legislation. Directing his historical commentary to “every elected official in America,” he declared that those who do not vote his way are siding with racism and the Confederacy.
“How do you want to be remembered?” he asked. “Do you want to be . . . on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
As such rhetoric proves, this president invokes history not to clarify, unify or heal. He does so to advance his political agenda, at once sowing further division in the nation while diminishing its exceptional story. And where Democrats’ own recent history proves inconvenient, he ignores it. Unfortunately for him, the American people are paying attention.
Augustus Howard is a columnist focusing on national politics and foreign policy.