From the Editor's Desk — a terrible anniversary

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

I've had this column on my mind for the past week. I couldn't get away from the fact that this is the January 6 paper. I felt I couldn't ignore what happened one year ago. Then sometimes I would think to myself: "do you really want to bring that up and get angry comments?"

I've heard several radio commentaries and read some other columnists' thoughts about this topic. One that I found very compelling came from a daily newsletter I receive called "Al Cross and Heather Chapman at The Rural Blog" from the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media. It's a collection of newspaper articles from around the country on rural issues. I usually skim the topics and read a few to get ideas and learn from the writers.

This week the topic in the header caught my attention: "Jan. 6 must be remembered by all, and truth must be told."

It was an article by Al Cross, Director and Professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky. He was giving advice to newspaper editors and publishers in the U.S. about whether to include something about Jan. 6 in the paper this week. 

This is how Al Cross started his article: "Yes, the national news media will be full of remembrances and recriminations what happened at the U.S. Capitol that day, so you may think you don't need to say anything. I think you do.

"The riot, assault or insurrection (take your pick), an attempt to disrupt or even prevent the certification of the presidential election clearly and fairly won by Joe Biden, was driven by then-President Trump's lie that the election was stolen from him. I say 'lie' because there is plenty of evidence that Trump knew the truth but chose to repudiate it, on the longshot hope that he could remain in office."

Cross went on to lay out his argument that as local newspapers, we should take our responsibility to inform, and even try to influence, our readers on a topic of this much importance to the future of our democracy.

He convinced me. I am used to having readers disagree with my political leanings. That's okay, we don't all have to agree on the policies of our government. We don't all have to agree on who we think are the best people to fill any variety of elected offices. But we shouldn't disagree on facts.

I am very interested in government and politics. The rally planned for January 6, 2021, had been promoted by President Trump as a day when something "very big" and "wild" was going to happen in Washington D.C. The day was chosen because the election, which Trump lost but refused to concede, was going to be certified by Congress that day—in a process set in the U.S. Constitution.

Just like many other people, last Jan. 6 I had the TV on to see what would happen at this rally and follow the counting of the electoral votes.

Just like many other people, I saw exactly what happened. There is no question that the people who listened to President Trump tell them to walk to the Capitol building and stop the process of counting the votes, walked to the Capitol and tried to do just that. They were not simply demonstrating, they were not citizens simply "touring" the Capitol. The people who climbed the stairs, scaled the walls, broke windows and doors or entered where others had broken in, were trying to stop our democratic process. They threatened our representatives, they beat police officers, they threatened the Vice President.

And what did President Trump do? He watched it on TV and did nothing to stop a violent insurrection. Of course it seems that he was pleased with the actions of his followers. We've learned that his children and other close associates urged him to call the attackers off—which he didn't do for 3 hours. And, isn't it curious that he wasn't whisked away to a safe space while our government was under assault?

All of this because President Trump lied about the election results. At his insistence there have been recounts upon recounts, audits and more recounts, with no real discrepancies found. The election was fair and accurate. Our process of voting overseen by the good people who run our elections—including our local election judges—proceeded securely. 

Last month the Associated Press published a report on its months-long investigation of voter fraud allegations. The AP reported: "of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by former President Donald Trump, [they found] fewer than 475 [fraudulent votes], a number that would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election."

Our fair and secure elections are the backbone of our country's democracy. The insurrection attempt last Jan. 6 was a terrifying attack on all we stand for.