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The Capitol Riot Rorschach Test

AP Photo/John Minchillo

On Wednesday, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) shocked leftists on Twitter by claiming that “there was no insurrection” on January 6, 2021. He noted that many of those who entered the Capitol that day behaved like tourists. The Twitterati were aghast that someone could say such a thing, but Clyde had a point. Of course, the Capitol riot was a dark day in American history, but the Left has exaggerated it far out of proportion.

Two seemingly incompatible views of the Capitol riot are in fact both correct. The Capitol riot was a last-ditch attempt to stop the lawful process of Congress reading the Electoral College results of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, which remains clouded by election irregularities. The Capitol riot was also a peaceful protest in which many protesters entered the Capitol and acted like tourists after the aggressive rioters in the vanguard had broken through the Capitol Police.

Both of these versions of events are accurate, though partisans exaggerate the meaning of these phenomena.

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Let’s begin with Clyde’s remarks.

“Let me be clear: There was no insurrection, and to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie,” the congressman said. “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stantions and ropes taking videos and pictures.”

“If you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” he added.

Former NBA player Rex Chapman couldn’t believe Clyde’s remarks. “Has anyone told him it’s all on video?” Chapman asked.

Indeed, there is ample footage of the Capitol riot, some of it extremely disturbing. Yet much of the footage is just as Clyde described it: many of those who entered the Capitol on January 6 did indeed stay inside the ropes, admiring the Capitol. It seems they thought that the People’s House was open for their tourism as part of the protest.

At the same time, rioters intent on stopping the certification of the Electoral College vote did indeed lead the crowd to break the Capitol Police lines. These rioters broke into the Capitol violently and injured police officers in a lawless attack.

The Left has seized on the language of “insurrection” to suggest that the Capitol riot represented an assault on America’s constitutional government, or, in their words, on “democracy itself.” While some of the rioters did indeed attempt to prevent the lawful process of announcing Electoral College votes, many of the protesters demanded an investigation into election irregularities, rather than a coup in which Donald Trump would be declared the winner.

The Capitol riot was a tragedy, and Americans should lament the fact that rioters broke into the People’s House. However, the “insurrection” language is overblown and it only inflames partisan divisions. January 6 was also a protest in which many peaceful protesters demanded an investigation into the integrity of the 2020 election — and there are good reasons to doubt that integrity, even if the shenanigans that Democrats pulled were completely legal and even if Biden might have won, anyway. After all, Time magazine reported on the “shadow campaign” and “conspiracy” to “save” the election… for Biden.

A person’s opinion about January 6 acts as a kind of Rorschach test. The saner a person is, the more he or she should be able to acknowledge that there are real concerns about the 2020 election and that the Capitol riot was a tragedy for America, even though it wasn’t the tragedy the Left makes it out to be.

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Both shouting “insurrection” and praising the rioters as patriots are wrong approaches that will only worsen America’s partisan divisions.