One year after the attack on the U.S. Capitol Margaret Henoch warns that American democracy is on the brink of collapse—unless action is taken.

On Monday, January 3rd, Donald Trump endorsed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for reelection. Orban is an illiberal, anti-democratic populist, acknowledged in political circles as having spent the last ten years dismantling Hungary’s democracy and moving it toward autocracy. Trump’s endorsement of an authoritarian, anti-immigrant leader is the latest illustration of his determination to steer the United States toward authoritarian rule. It is also another reason that the American public requires answers from the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attempted coup.

For years, Trump has demonstrated his interest in being a strongman. His fascination with the dictators and autocrats of the world, from Putin, to Duterte, to Orban telegraphs what he admires and who he aspires to be. His constant stream of lies and conspiracy theories mirrors the tactics that autocrats use to bolster their support. Trump appears to have no idea or concern about how democracies work or how democratic leaders behave. Instead, he favors punishing political opponents (“Lock her up”) and is enamored by demonstrations of force (Military parades, using US troops against US citizens, and putting down peaceful demonstrations). Trump has perfected the strut and bullying of a tyrant, and the disregard for law and order of an authoritarian. All he needs now is to be given back the keys to the White House; the January 6, 2021 attack he promoted on the Capitol was meant to do just that.

While the years of lies and conspiracy theories put forward by Trump, his allies in the press, his political allies, and far too many Republican lawmakers paved the way for the attempted nullification of the 2020 election of Joe Biden, the evidence of Trump’s dishonesty about the election is public and available for all to see. The facts are clear, and prove that the 2020 election was free and fair: All but one of the 60 plus court rulings filed after the 2020 election were decided against Trump, many by his own appointees; the recorded request that Trump made of Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes in Georgia was election interference; and, the Arizona “voter fraud” investigation failed to uncover any fraud, instead proving that Biden got more votes than the original tallies gave him, beating Trump by an additional 260 votes. Despite all this, Trump’s Congressional allies (147 GOP members) voted against certifying the election and he and his allies persist in putting forward the lie that the election was stolen.

Members of The Steady State have served all over the world, too often in places where corrupt elites have dismantled democracy in favor of autocracy. We have seen what happens when truth is hidden, and basic facts are disputed: democracies are weakened. We have seen autocrats steal elections and imprison or kill brave activists and protesters who march to object. We are perilously close to this becoming our reality.

We must protect the free and fair elections that are a hallmark of American democracy. Without a thorough investigation of the 1/6 attack, we will never have the truth; that testimony from eyewitnesses of who did what, when and why. We will not know who planned, who funded, who enabled the mob, and who encouraged a violent attempt to overthrow a free and fair election. Without knowledge and truth, we will never be able to fight the Big Lie. Without knowledge and truth we will not be able to hold the perpetrators accountable, and we will not be able to purge them from the body politic. And without knowledge and truth we won’t be able to protect our democratic experiment. Americans deserve the truth; we need the truth. And, we can use the truth to vote for the country we want.