For four long years, President Donald Trump sowed the seeds of authoritarianism, and now we all reap the chaos to which he led his followers.
In a scene that looked more like the breakdown of a banana republic than the governance of the United States of America, pro-Trump protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol, putting a halt to Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential electoral votes.
More than 60 lawsuits and an avalanche of tweets have failed to produce any evidence that supports even a reasonable doubt that President-elect Joe Biden did not win the election. States certified their tallies. The Electoral College cast its votes. Dozens of capricious legal challenges have been dismissed by judges appointed by presidents of both parties.
Yet all this did not stop the incumbent president from baselessly undermining a free and fair election in an effort to whip up his base and sabotage the peaceful transfer of power.
Now, abetted by his GOP congressional allies who would rather see democracy crippled than face an election loss, he has officially succeeded in that vile goal. As blood stained the Capitol’s floor and tear gas filled the rotunda, the institutions of governance enshrined in our Constitution were literally chased out of the congressional chamber by those who would force their desired political end with violence — the textbook definition of terrorism.
Everyone who participated in this brazen act of treacherous subversion should be held accountable — especially those who cynically fomented it. This begins with Donald J. Trump and his administration of sycophants who knowingly and relentlessly trumpeted bald-faced falsehoods about the illegitimacy of several states’ votes. Those members of Congress who blindly parroted those lies that turned Congress’ usually ceremonial tabulation procedure into reckless grand-standing share responsibility for the powder keg the president ignited during an irresponsible impromptu mass rally in the nation’s capital.
Many Americans were dismayed when President Trump used his inaugural address to decry a chimera he called American carnage. Sadly, he has become its most dangerous accelerant. The violence that swept over the nation’s capital Wednesday is shocking; let it shock us all into fully realizing the dire price we pay when our leaders prioritize ego over patriotism, conspiracy-mongering over truth and anarchy over constitutionalism.
The president’s oath of duty demands that he do everything in his power to quiet the unrest he has unleashed. That duty requires more than just tweeting “respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue,” as President Trump impotently did Wednesday afternoon. He must forcefully and unequivocally condemn this violence and demand his followers stand down before more violence erupts.
As Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was being ushered into the Capitol’s basement, he remarked to a reporter in the scrum “This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection.” We call on all leaders — whether Democrats or Republicans, supporters or critics of the president — to denounce this chaos, as well as the president whose toxic mendacity is at its heart.