Lately, I feel history being written. It is not merely a knowing but a visceral sensation. It is an odd feeling as if I sense the reverberation as history’s chisel impacts the stone of time and carves its story.
Amid all the infections and death caused by a virus spreading out of control in our country, the losing candidate in an election that took place over two months ago refuses to admit defeat. The loser, the incumbent president of the United States, says that he won by a landslide. He tells the 74 million people who voted for him that the numbers are false, there was massive fraud, and “they” have stolen the election. Most of them still seem to believe him even after two months of investigations, recounts, and lawsuits resulted in no credible evidence of fraud or theft.
Among the president’s supporters, many also deny the reality of the virus, which has infected more than 21 million people in the US and taken the lives of 359,000. This week, Americans are dying from coronavirus infections at the rate of 4,000 per day.
In November’s presidential election, the winner received more than 81 million votes, producing a victory in the electoral college, 306 to 232. On January 6, Congress met for the official count to confirm the election result.
In the days leading up to the official count, the incumbent urged his followers to come to Washington to rally in his support at a so-called Save America March. “Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted.
Addressing the rally crowd, he vowed never to concede, evidently believing his own lie that the election was somehow stolen. After riling up the mob, he said he would walk with them to the Capitol, telling them “you never take back our country with weakness.” But he did not walk with them.
An astonishing lapse of police planning and presence allowed the mob to surge easily beyond the undefended perimeter fencing and up the steps of the Capitol building. In minutes, the presidentially-inspired and -inflamed mob broke into the building. What ensued was a wild rampage of vandalism and desecration of the nation’s center and symbol of democracy.
The members of Congress, who had been evacuated to safety, returned to the Senate and House chambers that evening when the building had been cleared and the mob had been pushed back up the National Mall after a 6 pm curfew. They resumed their business of counting the electoral votes, subject to objections to the votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania by 147 Republicans led by Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and Representatives Paul Goser and Mike Kelly.
The president did not denounce the mayhem. Quite the contrary, in a video while the Capitol building was occupied by rioters, he claimed again that the election was fraudulent: “There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country.” He told the people who rioted in his name, carrying his flag and wearing his hats: “We love you. You’re very special.”
There can be no sensible doubt about the president’s culpability for the defilement of the Capitol building—and symbolically the defilement of Congress, of democracy and America itself. Some have suggested invocation of the 25th Amendment or a second impeachment to remove him from office, but these efforts are not likely to succeed. In any case, he will be out of power no later than January 20.
The mob was inspired by lies and fantasies about the election—the false belief that the incumbent was not the loser. So too were the 147 members of Congress who argued that the certified electoral votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania should not be counted.
As horrible as it was, the riot that drove Congress into hiding for several hours on January 6 was a moment of unity. An attempt now to remove the president from office would turn that moment of unity into another tedious partisan divide. It would distract the nation’s attention from where it should be.
Our attention should be focused on the future and on the new president’s efforts to reverse the damage the loser caused and to right our country’s course onto a better, more hopeful, heading.
Some other stuff for later,
- 63On January 13, the House impeached Donald Trump again (he had been impeached before in 2019), this time finding that he “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” He “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the…
- 62In the Senate last week, Mitch McConnell stood at the rostrum. He said in somber voice: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” Further, “self-government, my colleagues, requires a shared commitment to the truth and a shared respect…
- 59Election day was three weeks ago. Joe Biden won the presidency by well over six million votes in the popular vote, winning a majority of Electoral votes, 306 to 232. More people voted for Biden than for any presidential candidate in history. His 306 electoral votes matched Trump’s total in…