News January 7, 2021

Yesterday's Violence at the U.S. Capitol

A message from FSI Director Michael McFaul and Deputy Director Kathryn Stoner on the January 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
Encina Hall and its front lawn

To the FSI community,

We write to express our solidarity with those who watched in shock and horror yesterday as an armed mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and attempted to use force to stop the peaceful transition of presidential power from Donald J. Trump to President-elect Joseph R. Biden. This criminal act had nothing to do with legitimate policy divides between liberals and conservatives, and everything to do with another divide in American society between the vast majority who believe in democracy and a small minority who do not.

Fortunately, as Stanford President Tessier-Lavigne noted yesterday, American democratic institutions are strong and we hope, resilient. That our elected members of Congress returned last night to the Capitol to certify the results of the Electoral College vote for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris was an important demonstration of that democratic resilience.

Unfortunately, however, researchers at the Freeman Spogli Institute were not surprised by yesterday’s tragic events, as many of our scholars have been studying the erosion of American democracy and the rise of populism in comparative perspective for many years. Now more than ever, this research must continue and grow, first to understand these issues better, and second to make recommendations for how to better foster American democratic renewal based on solid comparative evidence. In policy debates about American governance and society, facts, data, and evidence are needed now more than ever. Through our research, teaching and training programs, this moment demands that we at the Freeman Spogli Institute do more to inform, shape and engage these debates.

At the same time, this moment also requires that we recommit to our values that are at the foundation of American democracy – free and fair elections, transparency in government, equality, rule of law, freedom of speech and of peaceful protest. On these issues, we are not neutral.

In the coming weeks, we are planning a series of events around FSI to honor the tradition in America of bi-partisanship and a peaceful transition from one presidential administration to another. Please watch for updates on FSI’s website and social media.


Michael McFaul, Director, FSI
Kathryn Stoner, Deputy Director, FSI