A year ago tomorrow, violent protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were preparing to declare Joe Biden the victor in the presidential election.
The building was cleared, Biden was inaugurated two weeks later, and more than 700 people face charges in the largest attack on the Capitol since the war of 1812.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who was in the Capitol that day, told State of Nevada that she first knew there was trouble when she encountered a police officer washing his eyes in a Capitol washroom who warned her that “protesters are near.”
She recalled him saying, “I got pepper-sprayed, but I’m fine. I’m going to flush it out. Don’t worry. We’re going to defend you.”
Cortez Masto said legacies of that day should be to "get the true facts and make sure we hold people accountable. At the same time, we also need to move forward to improve security at the Capitol."
She said some security recommendations made after Jan. 6 have been put in place, but "still more needs to be done to make sure that we are improving, not only the security and the intelligence sharing around the Capitol, but we're doing everything we can to give the men and women, our officers here at the Capitol, the tools they need."
Cortez Masto, who voted to convict Donald Trump in the impeachment trial that followed, said the former president "violated his responsibility as president and commander in chief to encourage a peaceful transfer of power."
While "former President Trump and some Republicans still falsely claim that the election was stolen," Cortez Masto said the vote in 2020 was honest, particularly in Nevada.
"Nevada has done an incredible job making sure that we are protecting voting rights for Nevadans and giving them the ability to vote in a safe and secure manner," she said.
CSN History Professor Sondra Cosgrove said the nation has arrived at a point “where people are putting party before country and feeling like you have to protect your party in order to protect your ability to be represented in government.”
She said the arguing and “dysfunction in Washington” has created an environment where “people don't feel that they're getting fair representation.
“So we need to really look at fixing our democracy or at least asking questions (like), 'Are there things we can do to improve it?',” Cosgrove said.
Warren Hardy, a former state legislator and longtime figure in Nevada Republican politics, said the confrontational nature of today’s politics can be seen not just on Jan. 6, but in movements such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street, where protesters pushed back against what they say are an unfair system.
“People lash out because they feel like they don't have a voice,” Hardy said. “This is a symptom of a much deeper, deeper problem in America.”
Hardy said “ we've got a massive problem with the public square in America,” and a more civil discourse needs to start with elected leaders.
He said term limits — originally proposed as a good government measure — prevent the bipartisan collegiality he found in Carson City when he was first elected in 1991.
“That doesn't happen anymore,” he said, adding the legislative session has become an extension of political campaigning, “where we're looking for an advantage while we're looking for an opportunity to get a gotcha on a potential opponent.”
Political commentator Steve Sebelius, the government and politics editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said throughout American history, major issues such as independence, slavery, and the scope of government have divided the nation.
“The difference, I think, today is that those arguments in the past were all resolved,” even if it took a civil war, he said, while the current environment is about fighting for fighting’s sake.
“There is certainly a strain in American public life of very ugly undertones … people who really do hate their fellow Americans,” he said. “This is a very, very dangerous thing, I think, for the country.”
Catherine Cortez Masto, Democratic senator from Nevada; Sondra Cosgrove, history professor, CSN; Steve Sebelius, government/politics editor, Las Vegas Review-Journal; Warren Hardy, lobbyist, former Republican state senator
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