Last Wednesday, a mob incited by President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress convened to carry out the task of certifying the results of the Nov. 3 general election. The loss of five lives and the desecration to “the people’s house,” our highest institution, was a disgrace of the highest order.
As we watched, transfixed as the events shifted from a constitutionally mandated exercise to scenes of crowds bashing their way into the Capitol, we were stunned as rioters disrupted the final step in the certification of Joe Biden as president-elect and Kamala Harris as vice president-elect.
The scene in the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 was shocking. The spectacle of an unstable, desperate president inciting supporters to disrupt the proceedings of the electoral count with violence was shocking and appalling. A man who is so unhinged from reality finally was exposed for what he is, not just a narcissistic pathological liar who is interested only in what is in it for him, but a truly dangerous man.
And his followers were not patriots. They fed into conspiracy theories and baseless claims dating back to the 2016 election campaign spun by a president who thinks that if he doesn’t win, it’s because the other side cheated, the rules were stacked against him, and the referees were complicit.
When he wouldn’t accept the results of the 2020 election, he sought recounts and took his arguments in numerous courts all the way to the Supreme Court, which was his right. In the end, whether it’s 50 or 62 or 80 judges — we’ve all heard various numbers — not one had upheld his evidence-free arguments.
There have been calls for Trump to resign or to remove him from office, either by invoking the 25th Amendment or impeachment. There is a real concern of what else he may attempt in his last days of office beyond pardoning more of his allies or loosening more environmental restrictions.
White House officials have said a resignation will not happen. At this writing, the House of Representatives was said to be drafting articles of impeachment that were to be voted on early this week. I say just ride out the remaining days with faith that cooler heads in the White House and Pentagon will prevail should he attempt something else truly dangerous.
Neither the impeachment nor the 25th Amendment process could scarcely be completed before Biden and Harris take office anyway. Democrats have floated the idea of impeachment with the Democratic-controlled Senate holding the trial after the inauguration to prohibit Trump from running for office again.
Again, instead of putting the nation through that, let’s start the process of healing and getting on with dealing with the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, the economic fallout from the pandemic, racial issues, and the nation’s other problems.
The enormous security failure from Wednesday’s siege should be fully investigated. Why there weren’t sufficient numbers of officers and troops ready to meet these thugs at what should be one of the most secure locations on Earth is astounding. Although no one could have guessed the degree to which the outrage would reach, it wasn’t as though no one knew President Trump was summoning his supporters to action.
So how will this end? What will be the future of the Republican Party? Will it still be the Party of Trump? Hopefully, Republicans will reflect carefully on which path they’re headed. The nation is built on the two-party system, and a principled Republican Party is essential to the national discourse.
In a cable news channel interview Friday night, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin expressed hope that this attack — coming, I noted, on the day of Epiphany — may serve as a wake-up call to the Republican Party.
“The real lesson for us is that we worry, is this the end of our story? But it doesn’t have to end this way,” Goodwin said. “Maybe there’s some hope in the idea that Republicans are at the point of changing their party, of separating themselves from Trump and making a new form of the Republican Party — if people can take hold of this story and look at the past and say this doesn’t have to end in civil war.
“Sometimes we have to go through some very difficult times to come out looking better,” she said. She noted that the powerful images from the police beatings of the civil rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965 led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
“When you think about how public consciousness shifted with the Selma demonstrations — somehow when people saw that, just as people have seen this attack in the Senate, there’s something about visual imagery that it shifted public consciousness and the Voting Rights Act was passed,” Goodwin continued. “We just have to hope that somehow public sentiment can change.
“That’s what old Abe Lincoln said. With public sentiment, anything is possible. Without it, nothing is possible.
“When you suddenly get the country to realize that something is against the ideals that we allow ourselves to believe are us, it can change something and make a difference,” Goodwin said.
“Hopefully we’re at that turning point now. The only way we can go forward is for people to realize that something has to change from where we’ve been these last four years,” she added.
Let us hope we’re at that turning point. Then, just maybe, some good can come from the terrible events on a cold, gray January day of Epiphany 2021.