A new Harvard study throws cold water on characterizing the breaching of the Capitol by rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, as an “insurrection.”
According to the study conducted by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, more than 40 percent of rioters were motivated by former President Donald Trump’s claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, as well as a desire to see him re-elected.
According to The Harvard Crimson, researchers found that 20.6 percent of rioters were motivated by wanting to support Trump, while another 20.6 percent of rioters cited Trump’s election claims as the reason they stormed the U.S. Capitol more than 18 months ago in a bid to thwart certification of now-President Joe Biden’s election.
Less than 8 percent were motivated by a “desire to start a civil war or an armed revolution,” the Crimson reported.
The study has been released as a working paper because it has not yet been peer-reviewed, according to the Crimson. It is titled, “‘President Trump Is Calling Us to Fight’: What the Court Documents Reveal About the Motivations behind January 6 and Networked Incitement.”
It found a smattering of other causes as well, including “pursuit of historical significance” (7.43 percent), “protect the country or ‘take back’” the country” (5.76 percent), and even “Marxism, socialism, communism” (5.76 percent).
Study authors Joan Donovan, Kaylee Fagan and Frances E. Lee wrote that their analysis found the largest portion of defendants were “motivated, in part, to invade the U.S. Capitol Building by Donald Trump,” according to the Crimson.
Donovan is research director at the Shorenstein Center. Fagan is a Shorenstein research fellow. Lee is a professor of politics and acting chairwoman of the department of politics at Princeton University.
The report explained how the former president was able to persuade a number of his supporters that the country faced a catastrophe.
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“The documents show that Trump and his allies convinced an unquantifiable number of Americans that representative democracy in the United States was not only in decline, but in imminent, existential danger,” the study said.
“This belief translated into a widespread fear of democratic and societal breakdown, which, in turn, motivated hundreds of Americans to travel to D.C. from far corners of the country in what they were convinced was the nation’s most desperate hour.”
In other words, it was the exact opposite of “insurrection.”
While the Harvard study is not complimentary toward Trump, of course, in that it paints a picture of a cult of personality as the main reason for the violence, it does damage the narrative put forth by Democrats and the mainstream media that an “insurrection” took place that day.
An insurrection has traditionally been defined as an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country, usually by violence.
As legal scholar Jonathan Turley wrote, the study showed that while there was violence involved in the Capitol incursion, the attack was not a serious, organized attempt to take over the U.S. government.
In his online column “Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks,” Turley, a professor at George Washington University wrote:
“Once again, none of this exonerates or excuses those who rioted on January 6th or those who fueled the riot. However, the use of ‘insurrection’ by the politicians, pundits, and the press is not an accurate characterization of the motivation of most of the people who went to the Capitol on that day. It was clear that this was a protest that became a riot.”
Turley went on to say that most of the people who showed up in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, 2021, only wanted to peacefully protest.
“There is no question that there were people who came prepared for such a riot, including some who are extremists who likely would have welcomed a civil war,” Turley wrote. “Yet, the vast majority of people on that day were clearly present to protest the certification and wanted Republicans to join those planning to challenge the election.”
Labeling the awful events of that day as an “insurrection” is all about politics, according to Turley.
“It is possible to express revulsion about what happened on Jan. 6th without claiming that this was an insurrection and attempt to overthrow the nation,” he concluded. “This was a collective tragedy for the entire nation, a desecration of our constitutional process. The effort to mandate ‘insurrection’ as the only acceptable description prevents the country from speaking with a unified voice. It clearly serves political purposes but only makes a national resolution more difficult as we approach a new presidential election.”
It’s unclear what, if any, impact the Harvard study will have on the House select committee investigating what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, but it certainly provides ammunition to those who think the committee is in a clearly wrong direction.
As the only Republican on the committee who is seeking re-election this year, possibly no House member should be getting that message more than Liz Cheney.
Earlier this month, Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and the panel’s vice chairwoman, told ABC News that a decision on criminal referrals is in the works.
“We’ll make a decision as a committee about it,” she said when asked about the prospect of referring Trump for prosecution, as Breitbart reported.
“The Justice Department doesn’t have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral, and there could be more than one criminal referral,” Cheney said.
Cheney has essentially staked her political career on smearing Trump and his supporters over the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and painting their actions as an “insurrection.”
This study isn’t going to help that at all.