What are the most important events that occurred in 2021? With this questioning, writer Patrick Healy began his New York Times article, noting that this was the paper’s opening question this week to two very different discussion groups of voters.
The intent of this broad question, Healy said, was to find out what was on the minds of these two separate groups – 9 Democrats and 8 Republicans from across the country – who were told that discussions would focus on the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and the House of Representatives.
Spontaneously, the Democrats began with the following answers: “The Capitol in January, absolutely, sure.” And the Republicans began with these answers: “The vaccine; more and more people are getting vaccinated. The economy is starting to go downhill; the price of everything is going up.”
The writer noted that he and the Democratic focus group coordinator did not expect the participants (and others who followed suit) to immediately raise the issue of the Capitol attack, given all the news and challenges of 2021.
Although the author was not surprised that some of the Republican participants, when asked by the group coordinator about their one-word reactions to “the events of January 6,” said they thought it was “exaggerated” and “distorted,” he was surprised. Other Republicans challenged the Trumpian orthodoxy and responded with “scary” and “definitely Trump.”
The writer commented that those first moments of the two discussion groups were a taste of the unexpected, revealing, and divergent views that emerged over the course of the discussions. Using roughly the same questions for each group, some predictable partisan divisions emerged, but some overlaps also emerged.
Not only Republicans – but Democrats as well – had some sympathy for some of the Americans who stormed the Capitol, seeing them as ordinary people with real and understandable frustrations with “the system.” Although the rebels went too far, their frustration with the parties and with Washington was clear to some Democrats.
Not only Republicans – but Democrats as well – had some sympathy for some of the Americans who stormed the Capitol, seeing them as ordinary people with real and understandable frustrations with “the system.” Although the rebels went too far, their frustration with the parties and from Washington was clear to some Democrats
When the two groups were asked about the health of American democracy, there were many divisions. Democrats largely rated it “in critical”, while Republicans largely rated it “weak” to “medium”. Many Democrats were focused on blaming the system of government and politics in America for causing the state of democracy and the events of January 6, and there was a strong yearning among them for a radical change, ie, amendments to the Constitution, abolition of the Electoral College and more limits and pressure for reform.
For some Republicans, the threat to democracy came more from government mandates and directives about COVID-19, and the unfounded claim that Democrats would use the pandemic to push for more postal voting in 2024. But there was also resentment with their party leaders. Republicans were frustrated with party officials, whom they viewed as motivated by purely personal interests.
For their part, many Democrats felt that lobbyists and financial interests had tightened their grip on Washington, and were frustrated; Because those responsible for the events of January 6th have not been brought to justice. Although most of the Democratic panelists voted for Biden in 2020, so far only one wanted Biden to run again in 2024.
The writer indicated that 5 of the Republicans – the 8 participants in the discussion group – did not want Trump to run again. One interesting thing in common is that many Democrats praised former Vice President Mike Pence’s actions on the events of January 6, and Republicans were less strident toward him, than Trump has at times.
Whether the two saw January 6 as “just another day” or like “Civil War,” there was a consistent day running across the line of unity between the two groups, namely that concern and anxiety about America’s future and uncertainty about what The 2024 presidential election will be one of many issues that will be explored in future discussion groups.