History, Political Science

A violent insurrection at the seat of U.S. government followed two weeks later by the inauguration of a new leader who called for unity and understanding – January 2021 will live in American history as time of great turmoil and the hope of a new beginning.

Siena Saints across the political spectrum have been following developments in Washington, D.C. closely – and offering commentary on both the January 6 insurrection that left five dead and forced lawmakers to go into hiding in fear for their lives, and the sun-dappled January 20 inauguration of Joseph R. Biden as our divided country’s 46th president.

"Siena Democrats unequivocally condemn the attempted coup that occurred during the certification of the Electoral College votes. Any attempt to disrupt a peaceful transition of power that occurs after a fairly won election is undemocratic, un-American, and will not be tolerated,” Chrissy DeMarco ’21.

“A group of right-wing radicals attempting to subvert our democracy does not change the facts. America just elected a Democratic president who ran on the most progressive platform in presidential history. We just elected the first Black woman to the vice presidency, and witnessed the swearing in of the most diverse Congress in history.” 

DeMarco said she and her fellow Democrats hope the next four years “will be the most progressive that our country has ever seen. 

“We’re ready to have a President who understands how critical student debt cancellation is to the prosperity of an entire generation, who recognizes that healthcare is a human right, and who will fight for equality in all areas of government."

Nicholas Discala ’21 and his fellow Siena Republicans joined in condemning the violence at the Capitol.

“American democracy must never be intimidated by mob rule, and the actions of those who employ terrorist tactics,” the Republican Club said in a statement released the day after the riot. “We join our national organization in thanking the Capitol Police for their diligent work to protect our elected officials. The President [Trump] must also recognize his partial responsibility for the action witnessed January 6. His language was dangerous, and it endangered the lives of countless Americans. He must be held to account, as well as those who willingly participated in this violence.” 

Discala said he and his Republican colleagues wish President Biden and Vice President Harris all the best as they move forward, but have their eye on the 2022 midterm elections. 

“I think former President George H.W Bush said it best, when he wrote to then-incoming President Bill Clinton, ‘your success is our success’ and I hope that President Biden will be successful in what he seeks to do. 

“It will be interesting to see how President Biden seeks to reach across the aisle and negotiate on key legislative packages, especially since both majorities in the House and Senate are quite slim. In terms of how Republicans should move forward, I am hopeful that as a party we can come together and form a coherent and strong legislative presence to ensure that radical legislation is not passed,” he said. “Lastly, I am very much looking forward to the midterms in 2022, and I am confident that Americans will once again put Republicans back in charge of the House and Senate." 

Sami DeRagon ’22, Student Senate president, was struck by the difference in tone between January 6 and January 20.

"It's hard to believe that the violence of the domestic terrorist attack and the unifying tone of President Biden's inaugural address took place in the same place just two weeks apart,” she said. “I'm optimistic about the Biden administration's efforts to combat the pandemic, promote racial justice, and address our climate crisis. We need swift and direct action to get us out of these crises and I think the Biden administration will take this action."

Leonard Cutler, Ph.D. professor of political science, has been providing commentary on the political situation for local media for the past two weeks, including three television interviews on Inauguration Day.

The time in between the insurrection at the Capitol and the transition of power two weeks later was a fraught one for President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, he said. 

“They were incommunicado for over six days, and subsequently they had a meeting, whereupon I guess, it was called a meeting of the minds,” Cutler told News10. “Whether or not they established a rapprochement—a friendship—again, is certainly up to a great deal of speculation.”

Jennifer Dorsey, Ph.D., professor of history, was interviewed by the Albany Times Union for the January 9 article “Teachable moment unfolds.” Dorsey, who teaches courses focused on colonial and Revolutionary War-era America, said the usage of “1776” as a chant by some of the Capitol rioters is rooted in a general distrust of power.

“When you invoke ‘1776,’ what you’re saying is that the government that is in power does not legitimately represent your interest and is thus worthy of being overturned, which is the language of the Declaration of Independence,” she said, adding it’s “extremely concerning” to think a subset of Americans feel this way without any evidence to support their conspiratorial beliefs.