Notre Dame center funds project to prevent insurrection
The Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy announced a new initiative on January 5 of this year: the January 6th, 2025, Project. This project seeks “to understand the social, political, psychological, and demographic factors that led to the January 6th, 2021, insurrection and continue to threaten the stability of our democratic system of government.”
The mission of the Rooney Center is to “examine politics and policymaking in the United States—leaving Notre Dame’s distinctive imprint on the study of American democracy. With a grounding in Notre Dame’s Catholic mission, the Center facilitates research on the critical issues facing America’s democratic system and encourages Notre Dame’s students to be engaged in both civic and political life.”
According to Hall, this project will “advance a core component of Notre Dame’s Catholic mission by fostering a sense of human solidarity, a concern for the common good, and the pursuit of justice in our society.”
Aided by 8 faculty advisors and 17 external collaborators, participants in the project will conduct research and draft a report on various perceived dangers to American democracy and identify concrete steps to combat these threats.
The January 6th, 2025, Project was born out of a concern for the motivations behind the events of January 6, 2021, while Congress was certifying election results. The project reflects a desire to prevent similar upheaval in the future.
Professor Matthew E. K. Hall, director of the Rooney Center, is spearheading the project. In a January 5, 2022, press release, Hall spoke about the necessity for the project: “For all practical purposes, American democracy may die on January 6th, 2025, unless deliberate and concerted steps are taken to avert this crisis. The 1-6-25 Project will strive to clarify how we got here, how serious the situation could become, and what practical steps can be taken to strengthen our democracy.”
Hall said the researchers will “launch a series of nationally representative surveys to assess the health of American democracy, anti-democratic attitudes, support for political violence and partisan polarization over the next few years.” Though data will be collected over the next several years, a conference is being planned for the fall, and a series of essays are to be published on or before January 6th, 2023, by the researchers.
In the Hill, Hall and Rooney Center donor Francis Rooney wrote: “Many political pundits, social scientists, and politicians from both parties seem to agree on three important points. First, that Donald Trump appears likely to repeat his attempt to subvert the presidential election in 2024. Second, that … he is very likely to succeed this time. And, finally, no one seems to know what to do about this problem.”
Hall and Rooney’s article in The Hill states: “The Americans who usually support Donald Trump … must be convinced that the stakes are too high … to tolerate this assault on our democracy. Politicians, activists, and citizens who believe in democracy need to develop clear and persuasive messaging, not just about the Big Lie and the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, but also about the predictable scam that Trump and his allies are attempting as we speak. ’”
Though the project’s mission statement asserts that the project aims to “offer an assessment of the state of our democracy and insight into how to protect and strengthen it, with a special emphasis on how to prepare for the attack on our electoral system that will likely occur on January 6th, 2025,” when speaking with the Rover, Hall claimed that “[Those involved in the project] do not necessarily predict another violent insurrection on January 6th, 2025.”
Rather, Hall said, “We believe it is very likely that Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination for president in 2024 and—if he loses the general election—he will try to overthrow the result of that election through any means possible.” Trump has yet to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination.
Likewise, Dr. Shanto Iyengar, a professor of political science at Stanford University and external collaborator on the project, presents the project as an attempt to understand an apparent “potential threat to American democracy.”
Speaking with the Rover, Iyengar expressed concern over “the fact that there are so many Americans who are willing to take drastic action to overturn the results of an election.”
Iyengar’s work in the political sphere—particularly in regard to affective polarization—will help the project explain the extent to which this kind of polarization contributed to the January 6th, 2021, riot. “The purpose of this study group is to try to get to the bottom of this [attempt to overturn election results] and try to figure out exactly why this happened. Then we might be able to suggest some solutions and some ways of making things better,” Iyengar said.
The project has the express purpose of understanding the state of American democracy and how best to protect it. When asked to elaborate, Hall admitted, “The exact definition of democracy is complicated and contested” and did not offer a definition of his own. Hall did, however, define “democratic values” to include diversity, equal human dignity, and inclusive participation.
Hall also emphasized the significance of voting, saying “The most important institutions to protect are the vote (the right of every American to cast a vote) and the count (an electoral system that fairly counts all the votes and declares a winner based on that count).”
Elizabeth Hale is a freshman studying political science. She spends her time rationalizing her desire to buy an espresso machine and convincing others it is, in fact, a great idea. Anyone with funds for said machine can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Tyler Merbler, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License