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SU Law Professor: "We Need To Be Fearful And Guarded" Against Future Attacks On Our Democracy

Samuel Corum
Getty Images
Supporters of former President Donald Trump storm the US Capitol Jan 6, 2021

A stolen election.  Voter fraud.  A rigged election. A Syracuse University expert in constitutional and national security law worries the disinformation that fueled the attack on the US Capitol one year ago will lead to additional unrest in the future. 

Professor of Law and Public Affairs William Banks says the attempt to obstruct the lawful transfer of presidential power as Congress certified the election results has shaken the very foundation of our nation.

"I don't think there's anything to suggest that we couldn't see a repeat. If it's a close election again, that those on the losing side will insist that the election was fraudulent in some way, even though the facts tell us that votes were fairly counted. That's of course what happened this time, an unwillingness to accept facts."

Banks doesn’t have much confidence that the political environment will change much before this year’s congressional elections or the next presidential election. For that reason, he says Congress is unlikely to make the presidential transition process or our elections more secure. Banks says this is a very precarious time in our nation’s history.

"Because assaults that occurred on January 6, if they recur, or if they lead to even more dramatic outcomes, could really put us in a state of almost civil war, where we're fighting with each other openly without regard to democratic principles."

Or, Banks says, a common view of facts and reality. Meanwhile, he says we’re stuck in a murky situation where there’s a fine line between expressive freedom allowed by the first amendment and insurrection.

"In a way, we are our own worst enemy. We've created this system that allows for very vigorous expression of political viewpoints, even if they're wrong, even if they're demonstrably false. That's the system we've created and we're going to have to live with it."

Even so, Banks says given what happened a year ago, we all need to be "fearful and guarded in preparation" going forward.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at