Not since the British occupied Washington has our nation’s capital been occupied by a group so intent on the destruction of our democracy, our Constitution and our country as we saw Wednesday.
It was the saddest chapter I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, and among the darkest moments in our nation’s history, with a horde of insurrectionists trying to overthrow a legitimate, fair democratic election.
Punches were thrown, windows smashed, offices trashed. One woman was shot and killed — it’s unclear by whom — and at least one bomb was reportedly found. Confederate battle flags, which never made it to Washington during the Civil War, were carried proudly through the Capitol.
The vice president had to be whisked away to an undisclosed location as rioters stormed the building.
We’ve seen these types of insurrections and attempted coups in third-world banana republics, not here.
The blame for this historically shameful display lies with lame-duck President Donald Trump, who provided the fuel to his followers for four years and then ignited the match that incited the riot. He sat by and watched while it all burned.
And when it seemed like he couldn’t make things worse, he did, tweeting a taped statement that regurgitated his discredited conspiracy theories.
“We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it,” he said before calling for peace. “There has never been a time like this when such a thing has happened, where they could take it away from all of us … this was a fraudulent election.”
He is lying.
Trump doesn’t bear the blame alone, though. Rep. Burgess Owens, Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Chris Stewart and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes are among those complicit in giving air to the lies and conspiracies.
Owens, who took the oath of office on Sunday, tweeted that he was “saddened” by the siege, ignorant of the reality that he is responsible for the insanity that unfolded, and a product of it. He and Stewart will forever bear the shameful distinction of having been party to this baseless, unsubstantiated challenge of the election by Republican lawmakers.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney put it well, attributing the fiasco to “a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months. ... What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States.”
And what does Romney get for having the courage to stand up for truth? He gets harangued by a maskless woman at the airport and chants of “Traitor! Traitor!” on a flight to Washington.
Our country has processes to secure our elections. By every indication, they worked.
Our country has courts where those who feel they were wronged can have their grievances adjudicated. They tried, more than 60 times, and failed at every turn because they had no evidence of wrongdoing.
Even challenging the certification of the electoral votes — without a shred of proof — is a part of the process.
Historically, when those processes have been exhausted, we have seen a peaceful transition of power, even when John Adams handed over power to Thomas Jefferson after a brutal election to replace our second president.
Now we get a president intent on tearing down those institutions and processes that are the bedrock of our democracy and a mob of fake patriots willing to do his bidding.
And now after this disgraceful spectacle, it’s gut-check time for Republicans.
Are they a political party that respects our democratic government, defends the electoral process and supports the Constitution?
Or are they now the party of Trump — Proud Boys and QAnon terrorists willing to turn more than two centuries of being the model of democracy for the world into dust, all to keep a tyrant in power.
Here’s hoping they choose wisely. Here’s hoping that, as Gov. Spencer Cox said Wednesday, “We’re better than this.”
Because we need rational people who care about our country to come together. Our nation has been through worse. We have had transitions of power in more turbulent times, even in a Civil War and the country has survived.
At some point, Congress will certify the election and Joe Biden will be declared the victor, Trump will be removed from office — with this shameful close to his shameful presidency — and the rest of us can get to work fixing the damage he wrought.