Recommitting to Our Democracy
Remarks on the Senate floor.
I feel grateful to have the chance here to join my colleagues to mark the anniversary of January 6. And I thank the Chair of the Rules Committee, Senator Klobuchar, for her leadership in all of this.
We had an insurrection here a year ago that could have very easily turned into a conflagration if it had not been for the incredible bravery of the Capitol Police and the other law enforcement that was summoned to the Capitol, too late, but nevertheless, here.
The National Guard, as my colleague from Virginia was talking about, they kept this place from being burned down. They kept people from getting killed. They lost their lives on that day and in subsequent days because of the trauma that they were exposed to.
They suffered racial epithets that nobody in America should have to suffer shouted in the halls of this Capitol. T-shirts with the most racist, Holocaust denying slogans on them. And there are people here, as my colleague from Wisconsin said, who are claiming that they were acting like tourists. That’s a really big lie too.
This was an incredibly dangerous situation. And we were saved. Not just us, but the staff all over this Capitol and everybody else. I just heard somebody downstairs in the basement walking by and they were pointing out one of those pictures that’s down there of newsboys standing in front of the Capitol when they were kids.
And the guy said, “Those were my great uncles.” Because this place, for the people that work here — I’m not talking about the Senate, but the people that work here that are the staff, whose grandparents worked here, whose great uncles are on the pictures downstairs. To them, this is a family.
And it was attacked. It was assaulted on behalf of people that came summoned here by the president who claimed that the election had been stolen from him, who was perpetrating a big lie about what had happened in the election.
There shouldn’t have even been a surprise about the results in the election. There was little reason for suspense. And it’s tragic that a year later, we still have to come here and say, “Joe Biden won the election.”
And he did by any fair study of what happened that day on election day. He won Arizona by 10,000 votes. He won Georgia by 11,000 votes. He won Wisconsin by 20,000 votes. He won Pennsylvania by 80,000 votes, in Michigan by 150,000 votes. In every one of those swing states, he won by more votes than Donald Trump won in his election against Hillary Clinton.
So this wasn’t some razor thin margin. This margin was bigger in those states, except Arizona, than the margin that Donald Trump had won when he won the election against Hillary Clinton. Joe Biden won this election by 7 million votes.
Donald Trump actually lost the popular vote when he won the election by 3 million votes. But his election wasn’t seriously contended by anybody. And it shouldn’t have been, because he’d won the Electoral College. Just as Joe Biden had won the Electoral College.
And he still claims the election was stolen even though there is no evidence that that’s true. His own Attorney General said it’s a lie. His lawyers — Donald Trump’s lawyers — have been thrown out of more than 60 courtrooms by state and federal judges, some of them appointed by President Trump himself, saying that there was no evidence that there was fraud.
A year later, there’s been another incredibly expensive audit or review of the election, this time the election in Georgia. And you know what, there were four people down there who were dead who voted. Four people. They didn’t actually vote, they were dead, but people cast ballots on behalf of them. Four people out of 5 million and one of those cast a vote for Donald Trump. But President Trump continues to say that there were dead people voting all over the United States of America.
The Associated Press did a review of all those swing states that I was mentioning earlier, and they found that if you just looked at the disputed ballots — so these aren’t even fraudulent ballots, because they haven’t been identified as fraudulent, they’re just disputed ballots — that in all these cases, the disputed ballots came to about .15% of the margin in any one of these races.
In other words, in not a single one of these swing states where there’s a “dispute” that President Trump has brought, would it make a material difference, even if it were true, what you’re alleging. Which it’s not.
And he’s still doubled down on the big lie. And the result of that is, as my colleagues have said here today, there are more than 400 bills nationwide, in the name of that big lie, making it harder for the American people to vote, making it harder for them to register, making it harder for people to vote early, or to vote by mail. Because of a myth. Because of a lie, slashing the number of polling places, and dropboxes.
In Texas, they are down to one dropbox per county. In Colorado, I can practically cross my street and vote at a dropbox. This is an effort to subvert elections to cling to power. That is what is happening here.
And it’s based on a massive falsehood — the big lie. I think one needs to ask oneself, even people that support President Trump, what future does the stop the steal movement imagine for our country? What future do they imagine for this democracy where every election is going to be contested?
Where political violence replaces the ballot box. Where elections are decided by strongmen, not votes, turning us into Russia or China. Is that really what we want our legacy to be here in the country? Do we want to be the first generation of Americans to decide that it’s just too hard to do our duty to the people that founded this country, the people that fought from the time this country was founded until today, who died for the sake of democracy, that it’s just too hard? That somehow our differences are unique, or so important that we’re going to give up on our shared commitment to the democracy in favor of those disagreements?
And I think we need to ask ourselves at a moment like this, what we owe the generations of Americans that have fought to make this country more democratic, more fair, and more free. What do we owe the 158 million Americans — a record — who showed up during a plague, this COVID pandemic, to cast their votes for Donald Trump and for Joe Biden — what are they owed? And what do we owe our kids and our grandkids?
I think the answer is very clear, which is a stronger democracy, an economy that works for everybody, not just the people at the very top. And where do we begin?
You know, Colorado, I think, is a great example, Mr. President, where we have made it a lot easier for people to vote. We have one of the highest voter turnouts in the country. I always have to say, especially when the senator from Minnesota is around, that we are number two in terms of voter turnout, Minnesota is number one, but we’re coming for you.
And that’s the spirit we should all have. We should be trying to get more people to vote, not fewer people to vote. We should have vote by mail, we should have early balloting. We have all of that in Colorado, one of the highest turnout rates in the country, and no fraud. No fraud.
So I’m going to just finish by saying that we should distrust politicians who can’t seem to win people’s votes with their argument, just as we should distrust politicians who attack the free press to avoid accountability even though that free press is enshrined in our Constitution. And we should recommit to each other and the democracy.
Let me tell you something, Mr. President. Last week we had another tragedy in Colorado, another disaster. Boulder, Colorado started out this year with a mass shooting in a grocery store, some of you may remember that. And basically on New Year’s Eve, we had a massive fire that ripped through neighborhoods in the front range of Colorado in Boulder County. 1000 people, 1000 houses were burned, more than 30,000 people [forced from] their homes.
And I sat there thinking to myself as I was with my daughters watching those fires on the television set, how much we actually need each other, you know. And there’s a lot of evidence out there in those two days –the law enforcement that got those 30,000 people out and had almost literally no fatalities because of what they did and what they sacrificed. The Coloradans that stepped up that night and said “You can come to my house, we’ll put you up in my house” so that out of those 30,000 people, there were fewer than 300 people in a shelter that night.
The reporters, the journalists, that were out there long into the night, reporting on that fire so that people might have some sense of whether their house had been lost or their house had been saved. The local county officials who have worked tirelessly after flood and after fire, and after natural disasters to come together to make sure that we build back stronger, which we always do in Colorado.
And even, let me say, the federal government’s contribution, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, because if there is one reason that we should be one nation under God, it’s for a natural disaster like the one that’s just occurred in Colorado.
This is our choice. We either save this democracy, which I believe we will, or we let it go. And it’s going to be on us. And if we let it go, generations of Americans are going to indict us for that. And if we save it, I think they’ll celebrate the work that we did here just as we celebrate the work of the people that came before us that made our country more democratic, more fair, and more free.
With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.