FiveThirtyEight tries to explain why….
Why aren’t more Republicans taking what happened on Jan. 6 seriously?
First and foremost, it’s possible that despite American democracy’s perilous situation, the threat still feels distant for many Americans. Historical perspective is useful here. At various points in U.S. history, there have been serious threats to the survival of the republic. The Civil War (and democratic backsliding at the end of Reconstruction), World War II and the Cold War all carried some existential threat. But throughout all those difficult periods, we still had peaceful transfers of power. Free and fair elections were held even during the Civil War, and during the politically repressive periodaround World War I (and the 1918 flu pandemic).
And while that unbroken record of peaceful transfers of power may be in real jeopardy now, some Americans might not be concerned, ironically, because of American democracy’s continued success. That is, America’s successful streak may have made it easier for some to claim that Jan. 6 was no big deal — just some tourists who never had any chance of seriously disrupting the proceedings of government, even though footage and personal accounts of the events suggest otherwise.
The other factor at play here is the extent to which American politics has become a zero-sum contest. Nearly every issue and congressional vote is now framed in terms of winners and losers — and partisanship. And as political scientist Lilliana Mason wrote in her 2018 book, “Uncivil Agreement,” “In this political environment, a candidate who picks up the banner of ‘us versus them’ and ‘winning versus losing’ is almost guaranteed to tap into a current of resentment and anger across racial, religious, and cultural lines, which have recently divided neatly by party.”
Republican elites and media figures, in particular, have deftly employed this framework, arguing that Jan. 6 protesters have been treated more harshlythan Black Lives Matter protesters. Others have attempted to blame the attacks on Democrats — specifically, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Taken together, these ideas form a powerful — if false and misleading — narrative ….