It should surprise no one that politics surrounds the first anniversary of Jan. 6.
Morris County Democrats – like some other like-minded groups around the state – plan a vigil Thursday evening in Morristown to “Stand Up For Democracy.” The 6:30 p.m. event outside town hall is also co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Morristown area.
A year after a Donald Trump-inspired mob ransacked the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election, standing up for democracy certainly makes sense.
Then again, is this a strictly, partisan affair, or does it resonate across the spectrum the way, say, 9/11 memorial events do?
With the latter interpretation in mind, Democrat Amalia Duarte, a Mendham Township Committeewoman, invited county Republicans to participate as well. Duarte likely saw this as a friendly, bipartisan gesture.
For some Republicans, however, this is not an easy issue. There remains a segment of the GOP that buys the line about the insurrection not being such a big deal, or even a “false flag” operation.
Any elected Republican showing up at a Jan. 6 vigil runs the risk of being condemned by the “Trump cult,” which still may be a significant voting bloc in Republican primaries. Things may change in the year ahead, but let’s not forget that the two gubernatorial candidates who embraced Trump got around 50 percent of the vote in last June’s Republican primary.
In her reply to Duarte, Laura Ali, the county Republican chair, said she was “taken aback” by the invite.
One problem Ali had was with the League of Women Voters. She put it this way:
“First of all, the League of Women Voters is supposed to be non-partisan. Being a part of this invitation, and its intention to paint one party in a more peaceful light over another, is more than concerning and demonstrates my conviction that the League is partisan and left-leaning.”
This is not a new issue.
Republicans long have seen the League as left-leaning, and at times in Morris County, some GOP candidates have declined to take part in League debates.
Moreover, Ali said that Republicans always stand for democracy and against mob violence – “like what we witnessed during the summer of 2020.”
Yes, there was some violence at the many Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the land that summer, but in fairness, it paled greatly to invading the U.S. Capitol.
At any rate, Duarte said in a response to Ali that the League, like the event itself, is nonpartisan and that she hoped Ali would reconsider her views.
“I am hopeful we can have Republicans and Democrats come together to honor the members of law enforcement who tried to stop the violence and to support our shared democratic values of fair elections.”
Viewed from afar, a shared embrace of democracy should be a bipartisan endeavor.
Yet, in these polarized times, nothing is all that simple anymore.