(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) When a mob of pro-Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon, U.S. lawmakers and political science experts watched in dismay and horror.
“The Capitol, the national legislature, the lawmakers of the entire nation were threatened by armed people,” said Missouri Western Professor Melinda Kovacs after watching the events that unfolded in Washington, D.C. “I’m still trying to find the correct terminology. I think a riot is a useful term to use. I think insurrection is a correct term to use but I don’t know what we want to call this, Coup comes to mind.”
Kovacs is a political science expert who has spent her academic career studying comparative politics and political rhetoric. She said the physical damage to the Capitol can be easily mended. It’s the other types of damage she’s more concerned about.
“As a comparativist, I look at this and I feel like today the United States Cross a threshold, the United States lost its ability to look at other countries in the world and tell them, ‘This is how you ought to act,’ and, ‘This is how you ought not to act,’ ‘This is what qualifies as democracy,’ and ‘This is what does not qualify as a democracy,’” Kovacs said.
Following a rally where a number of U.S. lawmakers and President Trump spoke, protestors marched to the U.S. Capitol. A large mob then forced their way into the building, law enforcement cleared lawmakers from the U.S. chambers, and attempted to regain control.
Kovacs said while she had hoped for better, Wednesday was foreseeable.
“There has been rhetoric that has been building and setting the stage for this. I am sad. I am outraged today. The one thing I am not is surprised,” she said. “Politics is an arena, in which every statement, every word, every tweet, will have direct palpable consequences.”
Kovacs said it’s important that as a nation we reflect on the rhetoric and issues that divide us.
“Given everything that has been happening in the last few years, it is a very sobering thought experiment to imagine the rioters being black,” she said. “Once you engage in violence and especially when you engage in violence that does not destroy property only but endangers the physical bodily safety of other human beings. You have crossed a threshold. You have gone into a different realm.”