Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

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Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

Following the attack at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, our shows sprang into action to help listeners make sense of what transpired and what these events mean for the future of American democracy. These episodes discuss how the proliferation of right-wing violence and extremism show that democracy reform is more urgently needed than ever. Hear perspectives from Lawrence Lessig, Lee Drutman, and more.


Right-Wing Extremism and the Capitol Insurrection

Violent right-wing extremism again came to America's attention in the Capitol insurrection, including organized militia groups and white supremacists. How did these movements build support, radicalize, and evolve out of the alt-right? Sam Jackson tracks the growth of the militia movement and its involvement in right-wing politics, helping to explain the involvement of former military and law enforcement in the Capitol riot. George Hawley finds that online white nationalists were effectively hobbled by law enforcement after Charlottesville, but that their imagery and tactics live on in some of the right-wing extremism that followed. They both see the capitol insurrection as an amalgam of right-wing supporters with different motives.

Insurrection and Sedition Explained

In this episode of Democracy Matters, James Madison University History and Political Science faculty experts explain the ongoing insurrection, and help us understand the events of January 6, 2021, the complicity of the president of the United States, and efforts to undermine American elections, and democratic norms and institutions.

American democracy's violent disruption

Democracy Works hosts Michael Berkman, Chris Beem, and Candis Watts Smith reflect on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and what it says about the condition of American democracy. They also discuss whether it's possible to learn from this moment and what guideposts they'll be looking for to determine whether all the talk about protecting and restoring democracy we've heard since the attack will translate into action.

This episode was recorded on Friday, January 8, 2021.

Additional Information

Statement from Michael Berkman and Chris Beem on January 6, 2021 attack

Chaos at the Capitol: What Next? Lee Drutman

The storming of the U.S. Capitol building by an angry mob of Trump supporters was a dark day in American history and a shock to people around the world. Images of looting and anarchy in the proud place where Congress has met for over 200 years, provoked profound despair and led many to question the stability of American democracy.

The insurrection brought shame to President Trump, who incited a crowd to march on the legislative branch of government.

In this special episode recorded the day after the chaos at The Capitol, we speak with political scientist Lee Drutman of New America, about the political causes of this violent outburst, and what reforms are needed to heal our democracy.

"This has been a tremendous wake-up call for a lot of people," Lee told us. "We are really in a fight for the continuation of American democracy."

Lee is the author of the book, "Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America", and co-host of the podcast, "Politics in Question".

Emergency Episode: Insurrection, Georgia, and the Future of US Democracy

Over the last 25 years, college tuition has almost doubled. Meanwhile, America’s K-through-12 education system has only become more fractured — with acute disparities in standards and resources at different schools sometimes just miles away from each other. But UVA president Jim Ryan has hope that with creative solutions across the board, learning can be democratized, and democracy itself enriched in the process. Hear what he has to offer Siva and Will — and the tough questions their students have for Ryan.


The Confederate flag flew inside the U.S. Capitol this week, a feat not even Robert E. Lee achieved. Egged on by President Trump, a violent mob laid siege to the building, bringing death and mayhem, and temporarily halting the work of Congress to certify Joe Biden’s victory. Siva and Will — together with their University of Virginia students — reflect on what happened. Much as the nation was stunned, these acts were not unprecedented or unpredictable.

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