On Jan. 11, President Biden delivered a civil rights speech in Georgia to kick-start a new one Federal Elections Act. There are, he said, “moments that are so powerful that they separate everything that came before from everything that followed… They tear the trivial from the essential. And they force us to confront hard truths about ourselves, about our institutions, and about our democracy.”
By juxtaposing names and issues, Biden further implied that the January 6 protesters were spiritual descendants of the Ku Klux Klan. In accordance with the media prophets describing this event as “Reichstag momentBiden also reiterated that the “fight for the soul of America is not over… We must stand strong and stand together to ensure that January 6th does not mark the end of democracy but a “renaissance”.
Most reports of the speech stood out for Biden’s characterization of his own radical shift in perspective: “I’ve had these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the past two months. I’m tired of being quiet!” And he ended with a challenge: “Do you want to be alongside Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be alongside John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be alongside Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
The practical correlate of these statements is President Biden’s goal to overturn the Senate’s filibuster rule (if necessary) to ensure passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021.
Majority sentiment in Congress is not much different. Democrats marked the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 riots with a program of inspirational speeches, policy briefings and musical performances, capped by a candlelight vigil and prayer. “I wasn’t looking for this fight,” Biden said in the Capitol, “but I won’t shy away from it either. I will stand in that breach.” Stand in this breach was a speechwriter’s garbled memory of Henry V (“Into the breach again”) and George HW Bush (“This will not stand”); but intent was what mattered, and the words certainly conveyed a sense of intent. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry opened the vigil on the Capitol steps with a prayer for God “to help all those who are traumatized,” and Chevel Shepherd closed the day’s special ceremonies with her performance of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” ‘ and ‘God Bless America.’
That would have done—as the Passover song goes—but Democrats don’t know when to cut it these days, and Shepherd was expected to have another musical interlude. Nancy Pelosi introduced Lin Manuel Miranda, who introduced the cast of Hamilton singing “Dear Theodosia” over Zoom. Theodosia was the daughter of Aaron Burr, according to the website genius.com helpfully explains, “Burr and Alexander Hamilton both had children very soon after the Revolutionary War. Here they take a moment to coo and recognize the human element of the country they are just beginning to build.” The song’s relevance may have been allegorical—the traitor Burr was the prototype of Trump—but the moment was such a mature example of kitsch mediat A customer warning is attached to the story: No parody.