This past week of US history is uncharted territory

Written by on January 14, 2021

This past week of US history is uncharted territory

By Ben Stemrich

January 14, 2021

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepared to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of people gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

President Donald Trump has been impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives for the second time. That historic event came after an unprecedented week that began with a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol and democracy. 

Chris Borick, a professor of Political Science and the director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Political Opinion, sat down with WLVR’s Ben Stemrich on Jan. 13 to talk about how what’s happening now in the U.S. stacks up against history.

Listen to the interview.

Ben Stemrich: 

Where do we go next?

Prof. Chris Borick:

“We really have no historical reference point to point to this kind of period that we’re living through right now.

When you look at the idea of a president being impeached twice , that doesn’t happen in American history. There were only two before the Trump presidency two impeachments of  presidents. There are other threats and a resignation, only two official impeachments . And if that’s not historic, it’s hard to say what historic is.” 

Q: We’re starting to see pictures of the National Guard members actually sleeping in the halls of the Capitol. We haven’t seen or heard of anything like that since Abraham Lincoln’s time. When you see those pictures, what does that make you think of the current state of our political system?

Borick:

“We are in a strange, strange state of affairs in this country in terms of our politics. Those images out of Washington of seeing those National Guard members sleeping, on the floor with their arms next to them is in many ways heartbreaking. 

As we approach what has been our traditional peaceful transfer of power, it’s lost its peaceful element. That, in essence, is what we’ve seen over the last few weeks: a damaging time to our republic. There’s no other way around it. 

For a strong country, we have emerged from crisis before, but we are, without hyperbole, in a political crisis.

I think there are avenues that are available to us as a country through our institutions and our structures, to be able to move forward and and and move to a better time. I think we’re seeing some elements of that in the wake of what happened in Washington last week. 

The residual effects are really deep. Divisions are very powerful and it’s going to take a lot for us to move forward. 

The challenge for the new administration, I think , will be to find ways to make that happen. I hope we see some degree of bipartisanship moving forward to deal with the problems that are immense in the country right now, both from a public health crisis and economic crisis. There’s lots to be done and hopefully we can rise as we have often in the past, to meet those challenges.”

Q: Is there anything in the past that you can point to with Americans rising up in a similar situation? 

Borick:

“We’ve come out of crisis during the depths of the Depression, with fascism on the rise in Europe and the divides that were part of this country. Those were deep divides in terms of economic paths forward for the US, finding a way to unify at that time, often involved government programs, government efforts to help during the during the New Deal.

As we came out of the turbulence of the 1960s, divisions there were healed by bipartisanship. 

It actually came, ironically enough, during and after the Watergate era. It was a period where you saw some bipartisanship take place and and tried to heal the country including the presidents with President Ford and his part.

That issue [presidential pardon] will be on the table over the next week for certain to help us move forward . 

So you know our history is when I always like the picture that we have a rise in our history that we keep moving forward and upward. But it’s not perfectly even. There are troughs and there are flows with it.

There’s reason to believe that we’re still upward moving, but we’re in one of those periods where it’s vacillating along that upward trajectory.

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