JAN 6,2021, should have been another proud day for American democracy, with Congress formally ratifying the results of a free and fair election, signaling the peaceful transition of power and determining Joe Biden will become the next president of the United States. Instead, it will go down as a dark day in the history of the republic.
As Americans watched in shock and horror, a storm of chaos and violence invaded the seat of the US democracy. A mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol, smashed windows, forced the suspension of deliberations in both the House and the Senate, required the evacuation of the vice president and members of Congress, and entered the Senate chamber. Security officers were seen with guns drawn, and at least one person was fatally shot.
This was not a mere protest. It was a mass act of insurrection, aimed at intimidating democratically elected lawmakers and nullifying a legitimate election. It evoked images of violent upheavals in far-off countries with histories of instability. It was an appalling assault on the fundamental principles of constitutional government. “It’s chaos, it borders on sedition, and it must end now, ” Biden said.
Where does the accountability lie? First and foremost, with the president of the United States. For the past two months, he has raged against the outcome of the election, falsely claiming that Democrats rigged the vote in state after state to deny him a second term. He has encouraged dark conspiracy theories that inflame suspicious minds. He has used his office in attempts to cow state election officials to reverse the results. He has pushed Republicans in Congress to do whatever possible to keep him in the White House.
On Wednesday, he surpassed himself, appearing before his protesting followers in Washington to repeat his detestable lies about the election and stoke continued resistance. “We will never concede, ” he bellowed. “We will stop the steal.”
It amounted to incitement of a crowd that was already provoked. Before long, the Capitol building was under siege. It was hours before Trump finally appeared on television in a taped statement to ask his legions to “go home.” Even then he failed in his duties. His statement was tepid and inauthentic. Worse, it was self-serving. He continued to peddle the lie that the election was stolen.
A large share of blame for this tragedy also lies with his congressional allies who insisted on pursuing a reckless, cynical course of action that fed the delusions of extremists and blind Trump loyalists. The guilty lawmakers, such as senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, never had a chance of prevailing. But their antics helped produce consequences they should have foreseen.
Trump’s enablers – those who also bear responsibility for the chaos in Washington – include several Illinois Republican members of Congress. Reps. Mike Bost of Murphysboro and Darin LaHood of Peoria joined other Republicans in refusing to acknowledge the reality of Trump’s defeat. They were among those supporting the absurd court challenges intended to invalidate Biden’s legitimate victory.
A new Illinois Republican in Congress, Rep. Mary Miller of Oakland, also objected to Wednesday’s Electoral College vote, falsely stating that the vote “did not uphold the Constitution.” Miller disgraced herself Tuesday at an outdoor rally in Washington by quoting Hitler.
Most Americans can see Wednesday for what it was: the culmination of a futile lashing out by the president, and a sobering, sad and alarming end to his presidency. He could not process his defeat and does not care about the dangerous consequences of his emotional meltdowns, many documented on Twitter.
We hope the people who carried out these vile attacks will be found, prosecuted and punished for their crimes. We hope the Capitol police and other authorities will be held to account for being so unprepared for violence. And we hope those who took part in the violence, and those who helped make it possible for extremism to bring democratic government to a standstill, will forever carry the stain of disgrace they have brought on themselves.
As for Trump, he must concede the election now to help prevent further violence. There is no guarantee outbursts throughout the country, not just in Washington, could be deterred or contained from now until Jan 20, the day of Biden’s inauguration. That ceremony will have to be completely overhauled and rethought. — Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service
The views expressed here are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Star.
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