OP-ED: Democracy in action; anarchy on display
By ALAN SMASON
When I first began to write this editorial, its aim was to acknowledge the unusual aspect of the Georgia Senate races in which voters elected their first Jewish and first Black Senators to Congress. Under a highly charged political environment, Georgia had selected two Democrats to represent their traditionally Republican state in Congress and had also turned control of the Senate back over to the Democratic Party.
“President-elect Joe Biden said he was running for the soul of our nation and in many ways the voters in Georgia may have cast the final votes in that process which affirmed their ascent to his assertion,” the editorial was to aver.
Then, the pro forma counting of the Electoral College votes on the floor of the joint session of Congress began with the respective houses adjourning to debate an unusual objection to the tally as a last ditch effort to protest the termination of the Donald Trump presidency on January 20. All was going as expected, when the unthinkable occurred.
Incited by no one less than the President himself, protesters gathered at an early morning rally to hear the 45th President of the United States urge his protestors to take their fight to the Capitol. He said he would march with and be there with them. (For the record, he was not.) Presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani urged the protesters to engage in “trial by combat.” Passionately inflamed, they headed toward the Capitol.
While Representatives and Senators tended to the nation’s business and acted on the objections within the Capitol’s walls, tens of thousands of protesters began to storm past those very walls brazenly and with grievous intent.
They busted windows and battered doors. They chased the rightfully elected members of Congress to places of safety, where they hunkered down, protected by law enforcement authorities. The protesters sat behind the desks of Congressional members, one going so far as to contemptuously photograph himself perched behind Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s desk upon which he propped his sullied shoes.
Some rioters took time out to smoke pot inside the building, while others, for the first time in American history, carried Confederate flags – symbols of seccession and anarchy – inside the Capitol as a means of their ill-conceived and cockeyed protest.
But this was not merely a protest gone wild. It was an orchestrated attempt at organized sedition against the United States of America. It was an outright attack on our institutions of government and an armed insurrection against our republic. Worst of all, it was based on lies and subterfuge aired by the man in whom the nation had most placed its trust.
Twitter has, at least temporarily, silenced the Tweeter in Chief. Facebook and Instagram have, likewise suspended the private account of the President of the United States due to violations of their policies against fomenting violence and promoting falsehoods.
Yesterday, January 6, 2021, was a dark day in American history and only the third time armed insurrection took place within the hallowed halls of Congress. The first time was during the War of 1812, when British soldiers stormed the Capitol and burned it. The second time was almost 67 years ago – the day after my birth in 1954 – when four Puerto Rican separatists carried out an armed attack inside the upper gallery of the House of Representatives. And now we have what many would consider the worst domestic political attack in the nation’s history, the actions of which resulted in the deaths of five Americans.
Thankfully, Congress bravely vowed to tend to the nation’s business after the galleries had been cleared and declared safe. They returned to the scene of the earlier violence and renewed their debate and many Republican Senators who had previously gone on record to protest the Electoral College tally, pulled back their support and distanced themselves from President Trump. They finalized their work just short of 3:00 a.m. CST.
There are only two weeks left before the orderly transition of power is set to occur. Donald Trump is on his way out and those responsible for these dastardly attacks will be prosecuted fully when the next administration takes office.
The question remains: what consequences will befall President Donald Trump? Will he suffer a meaningless Congressional censure? Or could a more serious article or articles of impeachment be passed in the House, making him the first president to be impeached twice? While the impeachment process begins in the House, 17 Republican Senators would have to cross the aisle to join with their Democratic counterparts to convict the president and remove him from office.
That’s not likely to happen, but, then again, I would have never imagined the events at the Capitol to have occurred either.
To use a Yiddish expression, this was a shanda. It was a final day of reckoning for what once were the disenfranchised and dissatisfied members who once constituted the lunatic fringe of the Tea Party. Instigated by a narcissus who believes he can lie with inpunity, they have placed a stain on the heart of our democracy. Republicans need to find a way to distance themselves from this unruly rabble, dust themselves off and begin to live up to their much-bandied notion that they are “the party of Lincoln.”
If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, he would be outraged at these protesters’ actions, but even more embarrassed for the office of the President and trepidatious about the future of our country. One of his predecessors, John Adams, reminded us “We are a nation of laws, not men.” The shameful actions of mob rule attempting to overturn a legitimate presidential election suggested the opposite. Their actions and the deaths of five Americans will reverberate for some time to come.
Make no mistake about it. This was sedition and there must be a price to be exacted. No one, and that includes the President, should get a free pass on this or be considered above the law.
(Editor’s note: This opinion piece was edited to increase the number of deaths associated with the insurrection from four to five when a Capitol Police officer died on Thursday as a result of injuries he sustained on Wednesday.)