Assaults on Our Constitutional Democracy and How We Navigate Forward

January 07, 2021

When I took over the reins at iCivics, I could never have imagined having to write a statement about an insurrection against the People’s House. Only recently, such a transgression would have been inconceivable. But, on January 6, 2021, this violent threat to the democratic process did happen. How fragile the democratic norms of our country are, and how quickly they can fray. 

If she could still participate in the national conversation, our founder, Sandra Day O’Connor (U.S. Supreme Court, Ret.), would have been appalled at the assault on the regular order and the rule of law to whose defense she had committed her career.  

We, at iCivics, condemn this insurrection, and the leaders who have incited it, in the sharpest tones. 

Disagreement is built into the fabric of our constitutional democracy. The ability to voice vastly differing opinions is central to self government. The conversations we must have, and the compromises we must make, in order to bridge the gaps between our differing viewpoints as Americans pave the path that leads to a successful and vibrant United States.

What we have just witnessed as a country is a sharp detour from that path, a dead end. Protest is one thing. Protest is American. A violent attempt to subvert our democratic processes —with apparent impunity no less— is something completely different. It is unacceptable and anti-American.

Self-government is onerous, and precious. For many decades, our country has not prioritized civic education. On January 6, we paid the price. 

The events at the Capitol underscore the crying need for a renewed focus on civic education, which provides the starting point for the conversations that we need to have across our divides if we are to move forward as a people. On January 6, our institutions held against a significant direct threat, but they need our full support. To secure the future of our constitutional democracy, we must give young people the resources to understand our system of government, so they can ask the big questions we face as a country and address them, together.  

Civic education can be the beacon that can guide us to safer waters — helping us to answer the central question we all must now ask ourselves: How do we find common ground so that we may function as a free, pluralistic, democratic society?

Thank you to all civic educators who do this work every day and who face an incredible challenge after this tragedy. Our country’s future is in your hands and we need you more than ever. As always, we at iCivics will be here supporting you with resources.

—Louise Dubé, Executive Director, iCivics