First they ignored Donald Trump’s self-dealing and shattering of norms. Then they pooh-poohed the plot to abduct Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Then they bought into the lies about election fraud and attempts to overturn the results of the election. Today, they sheltered in place as mobs of Trump fanatics, heeding his incitement to violence and exhortation to march on the Capitol, breached the walls and thwarted the solemn process underpinning our democracy. What will Trump’s enablers do next?
Democrats are poised to take over the White House in two weeks and, thanks to success in Georgia’s runoff election, will control the Senate and House as well. But today, as both branches of Congress were going through what should have been a pro forma Constitutional process to ratify our Presidential election, Donald Trump’s thugs were storming Senate office buildings and the Capitol, breaching police barricades, climbing the exterior walls, smashing windows, forcing themselves into the rotunda and the chambers. One woman was killed; others were injured, and offices were vandalized. Capitol Police evacuated Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi from the chamber and directed lawmakers elsewhere, to shelter in place. It was a terrifying picture of chaos, a dramatic portrait of how fragile our democracy is.
Today’s violence goes beyond the right to gather and to protest. Today’s behavior is not Constitutionally protected. And it is directly a result of Donald Trump’s ongoing attempted coup, his refusal to accept the judgment of the people, confirmed by state election officials of both parties, and, in more than 60 cases, the courts. Despite the total lack of evidence, Trump called his own rally and ranted for an hour and a half about how the election was being stolen. He egged on his minions. The result: the mob, in an act of domestic terrorism, obeyed him and upended the American democratic process, the first breach ever of the Capitol and the worst attack on Washington since the British burned down the White House in August, 1814.
How many times have we chided other countries for such despicable behavior! Republicans and Democrats alike condemned the action, declaring it most un-American. But only a few Republicans, like Mitt Romney, Adam Kinzinger and Ben Sasse called out Trump as the prime instigator. Our hypocritical “law and order President” tweeted lamely that he understood the rioters’ pain, suggesting they should “remain peaceful.” Later, after being called out by President-elect Joe Biden, Trump taped a message that was so unhelpful that Facebook later removed the message, asserting it was adding to the violence. Twitter has locked his account for 12 hours and warned it may suspend him permanently. As Joe Biden said, this is not dissent; this is disorder. It’s not protest; it’s insurrection. This is sedition, “the incitement to violence against a lawful authority with the goal of destroying or overthrowing it.”
Lawmakers, including members of the “sedition caucus,” should face up to the clear and present dangers that Trump can foment in the next two weeks and contemplate what they can do to prevent it. Congress may be unwilling to suspend rules and immediately impeach and convict him, but Pence, having finally chosen the Constitution over Trump, could invoke the 25th amendment, and take steps to remove Trump immediately as unfit for office. Trump’s pardoning today’s rioters as “American patriots” would pale in comparison to the further carnage he is capable of, including starting a war at home or abroad as his parting gift.
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