To bemoan the trials faced by members of Congress these days may seem naïve, even perverse.
The lawmakers on Capitol Hill represent one of the most hated classes in American public life. If service in Congress has become polarized, fruitless and even dangerous, anti-government rhetoric from Capitol Hill ideologues is at least partly to blame. Public approval for Congress stands at just 25 percent — up a few points from last month, but still well below most public institutions.
Yet it is fair to say that House members and senators are in the throes of an existential, electoral and institutional crisis.
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Civic educators watched last week's riotous assault on the Capitol with a mixture of alarm and hope. The mob's brazen disregard for the truth and the rule of law shook teachers around the nation, but also made a stunning case for the need to invest in civic learning, which could enjoy a breakthrough year in 2021.
A bipartisan bill to invest $1 billion in civic education, a teacher-friendly incoming president, popular support for civic learning, a surge in youth activism — and the fragile state of American democracy itself — have all combined to create "sort-of a Sputnik moment" for civics, says Louise Dubé, the executive director of iCivics.
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Still, it's worth acknowledging the guardrails that have held fast against the nation's severe democracy stress test, and against Trump's specious and ongoing fraud allegations. There's no guarantee these railings would hold against a more sophisticated adversary, and the need to shore up voting rights and election administration remains urgent.
But the fundamentals of American democracy appear to have prevailed, thanks to key institutions that upheld the law and relied on the facts. These are the six most important:
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