USA Today: Jan. 6 committee Republican member: We are in the fight of our lives

America is more divided today than we were on Jan. 6, 2021. We have allowed toxic tribalism to cloud our sense of reality, to question what’s true and to ignore the facts laid in front of us. We have to turn things around now or the great experiment of our democracy and the institutions we hold dear will crumble before our eyes.

It has been one full year since the horrific attack by an angry mob on the U.S. Capitol, and yet today, things feel even worse than they did when the insurrection took place. Why is that?

For one, the failure to acknowledge truth and the peddling of lies for profit has kept us divided and disenfranchised. We have failed to understand or address the disease that led to that coup attempt. What happened last Jan. 6 was a vicious symptom of a cancer that’s been growing for far too long, one that has been fed by anger, fear and hopelessness.  

Jan. 6 investigators getting much-needed answers

Some will say it’s time to move on from the Jan.6 insurrection, and I agree. But doing so means we have to learn from and address what happened. We cannot move on by downplaying the attack on our democracy nor by pretending it didn’t even happen. We cannot move on without holding those responsible accountable for their actions and for their incitement of that violence. 

The work of the House select committee will continue to get much-needed answers for the American people by investigating the events of Jan. 6. I'm proud to be part of this important effort, but it's only part of the solution here. What good will a report be if people are told not to accept it – if "leaders" continue to lie to their constituents, feeding into their fears to further line their own pockets. We all have fears, and it’s time we stop letting those in power profit off them and stranglehold us in their political matrix.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., serves on the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. He is also a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard.

As a nation, we need to tackle the root causes that led to that fateful day. We need to demand better of our leaders and do better as individuals. The interpersonal strife caused by politics has destroyed families and communities. It has led us to view our political opponents as enemies, and we’ve lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. 

Thinking back to what transpired that day, all the chaos and devastation, it still astounds me. An angry mob, fed and fueled with lies, descended on the Capitol seeking to stop the electoral process by whatever means necessary. I felt a true sense of evil that day, sitting in my office wondering whether the threatening tweets were going to come to fruition – that these insurrectionists would find me and take me out. It is utterly surreal at times to watch those images replay in my mind, to see the footage and to remember what it all felt like. The worst moment was when we finally resumed our business solely because the brave Capitol Police and D.C. Metro Police held the line, protecting us and our democracy – when members of my own party still repeated the Big Lie and voted against certifying the 2020 election. It is embarrassing and dangerous, and it has to stop.

America is better than this. And doing better starts with calling out the lies and acknowledging the truth. Politicians and pundits who refuse to accept the 2020 election results, who perpetuate the Big Lie, who peddle in conspiracy theories – these individuals are not leaders and we should not continue to give them our votes or our money. They are making another Jan.6 more likely, and we all know why: they think it’ll be good for their careers when, really, they should be working on what’s good for our country.

Our leaders should be finding solutions to the real problems. And it’s time we focus on electing and supporting those who will do just that. Like the generations that came before us, we must do our part to defend our country and demand better for our future. We can’t just wait, we can’t simply hope – we can and must act.

I've called out my own party saying how deeply the GOP had lost its way. When I took that stand against the forces and failures that gave us Jan. 6, the response I received was overwhelming. And now, with my rapidly growing Country First movement, I’m taking action to root out the cancers that are perpetuating these problems.

Victory will come

We have to take on the most toxic partisans in Congress – people who tried to overturn our election, overthrow our republic, and still defend and minimize the deadly attack on our Capitol. And we do that by getting involved early. We focus on supporting people who want to solve problems and find solutions. And until we can reform our rigged system, we’ve got to focus on the primaries. The general election is too late, especially with the advantages of incumbency – name recognition, money and partisan gerrymandering designed to protect those individuals from any real challenge.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-IL, embraces U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell on the day he testifies before the House Jan. 6 committee in July 2021.

Right now, 80% of congressional districts are considered safe for one party. In the 2018 primaries, only 19.9% of eligible voters cast a ballot. And 83% of those congressional races were decided by just 10% of the eligible voters in America. For all the people who think their vote doesn’t matter, trust me when I say, it really does. One vote can make all the difference for America’s future. But we have to show up first.

All of us together are stronger than each of us alone. We have the ideas and insights, the values and vision, to solve any problem and overcome any challenge. It takes courage to do the right thing, especially when it comes with such risk. And we’re seeing that now more than ever. Getting involved early, and actively, will be the key.

As we reflect on this anniversary of Jan. 6, let’s have the courage to stand up for America and confront the anger, fear and hopelessness that brought that dark day about so we can ensure it never happens again.

We are in the fight of our lives. Victory won’t come in a day, but victory will come. And the American people will prove it – like we always have.

The original article and video coverage can be found on the USA Today website here.