Editor’s Note: Michael Fanone, a former Washington, DC police officer who was injured during the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, is the author of a memoir, “Hold the Line: The Insurrection and One Cop’s Battle for America’s Soul.” He is a CNN law enforcement analyst. The opinions expressed here are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.
When I speak privately with fellow officers who defended the US Capitol on January 6, the conversation often turns to why so many Americans remain indifferent about the insurrection. In other words, most Americans just don’t seem to care. An overt attempt to end our democracy? Meh.
That’s when we cops began to discuss the part we’re not supposed to say out loud.
As one officer recently confided, “Mike, maybe if we hadn’t done such a good job against such overwhelming forces, maybe people would care more. Maybe, if a congressman or a senator had been injured, dragged through the halls to the makeshift gallows or killed, people would give a damn.”
Maybe then, people would get it, and would be motivated to vote on Tuesday as if the future of democracy was on the line. Maybe then, they would understand that if we don’t preserve “one-person, one-vote,” we’ll lose all control over every other issue.
Until last week’s brutal assault against Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, political candidates, including many Democrats, avoided talking about January 6. Apparently, polls show that swing voters care more about gas prices and abortion.
(Polls indicate a big interest in crime too – except, I guess, for violence against police officers during the 2021 insurrection.)
I’d like to believe that the violent attack on Paul Pelosi will be a turning point, but somehow I doubt it. I’m afraid that politically-inspired violence is only going to escalate. It’s already been normalized.
We are no longer talking about isolated incidents or seeing universal condemnation of violence by our leaders. The 82-year-old husband of the woman who is third in line to the US presidency was beaten in his own home for political reasons, and right-wing media and some Republicans reveled in the violence.
People used to say: “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” Well, people are getting hurt and some Republicans, including the former president’s obnoxious son, still think it’s all fun and games, condoning and – potentially encouraging – more violence.
I get where Junior is coming from. He knows the violence and threats are working. Local election workers, often selfless senior citizens performing their civic duty, are abandoning polling stations in droves.
Let’s not forget that the Republican National Committee adopted an official resolution that January 6 rioters were engaging in “legitimate political discourse.” In law enforcement, we call such an admission “a clue.” It gives us an idea of what’s next on their agenda. Now, GOP threats are no longer targeting just elected officials and election workers. They are being directed against voters themselves.
Make no mistake, voting rights are all about access to the ballot, but Republicans believe that protecting voting rights actually means protecting the ballot from the opposition’s vote.
That’s why Republicans are making it so difficult to vote, creating rules to restrict turnout and posting armed, masked guards at ballot boxes in Arizona, not unlike the way the Ku Klux Klan did after the Civil War – for no other reason than to intimidate people of color. The GOP is using a racist 19th-century playbook to amass power in the 21st century.
As a former police officer who has received death threats for speaking truthfully about January 6, I carry a weapon on a regular basis. But if I lived in Arizona, even I would vote elsewhere, rather than confront an armed individual posted in a lawn chair beside a ballot drop box.
Republicans should call out the masked men toting firearms at the ballot box for precisely what they are: Right-wing fanatics trying to intimidate the rest of us. Some GOP officials have spoken out, but the violent know-nothings who now control the party seem to revel in throwing gasoline on the fire.
In my book, I devote an entire chapter to my transformation from a 2016 Trump voter to a 2020 Biden voter. I had been a single-issue voter: law enforcement. But early in Trump’s term, my views evolved, as I realized I’d been duped by a carnival barker. My point is that people can change, and we need to do whatever it takes to help them – starting with explaining why it’s so important that they vote on Tuesday.
It won’t be easy. I’ve found that it’s easier to fool the American people than to get them to realize they’ve been fooled. I don’t believe that the vast majority of Americans support Trump, but I do believe this majority is indifferent to the pain and suffering that he has caused so many Americans.
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There are plenty of reasons to fear Trump and his bullies. But the biggest threat to democracy is indifference, which I believe will be our downfall as a nation. We don’t seem to care enough to pay attention to what’s happening to our country.
I get it: People are busy living their lives. There are a million distractions. Elon Musk bought Twitter. Tom and Giselle are getting divorced. A Kardashian shared pictures of her new baby! This World Series is a barn burner.
But Americans need to understand why this election is so different: It is our first chance since January 6, to reject fascism. And it’s perhaps our last chance to preserve democracy.
We need to care. We need to vote. And we need to drag our indifferent friends to the polls, before it’s too late.