When I joined Facebook over 12 years ago, I never imagined I would one day be having an argument on the definition of the word “coup” and “insurrection” and “incite.” Yet that’s the exact conversation I’ve been having and seeing over the past week since a violent mob stormed the Capitol attempting an overthrow of government.
(I’ve done a lot of unfriending lately. It has been surprisingly cathartic.)
These conversations are between Utahns, liberal and conservative, who have been greatly affected by the events culminating in the attempted coup on Jan. 6. Because Utahns care that four rioters died. Utahns care that the rioters beat a police officer with a fire extinguisher and he later died. Utahns care that some of the rioters, we now know, intended to kill Vice President Mike Pence, brought zip ties, Kevlar vests, all manner of guns and ammunition and even pipe bombs and erected gallows outside the Capitol.
The Utahns I know are grappling with the fact that the violence they witnessed was not the result of a few protestors who lost control, but an intentional and planned effort to stop the legitimate transfer of power and overthrow the government in order to keep a despot in office.
Sure, some of the protestors may not have had such evil intentions. But make no mistake, that was the intention of those who stormed the Capitol. As one lady declared, “It’s a revolution!”
In criminal law, when people conspire to act together, each one becomes responsible for the actions of the others. The driver of the getaway car can be charged with felony murder when his accomplice kills the store clerk inside, even if the driver never intended that anyone get shot and didn’t even know his friend brought a gun. As long as he agreed to rob the store, he’s liable for what happened during that robbery.
And that is what Utahns are grappling with this week. At least the honest ones. From the p-----grabbing to the armed insurrection, Utahns are starting to understand they have been misled by a normalization of violence and a web of lies.
And it stings.
What effect will the riots and coup attempt have on Utah politics?
First, Utah is certainly going to be less relevant and less credible in Washington, D.C., with two of our four representatives — Rep. Chris Stewart and Rep. Burgess Owens — continuing the absurd lie that the election was stolen and voting, as they did, to challenge the legitimate votes from other states.
And if either of those two ever crow about federalism again I’m going to throw up in my mouth.
This isn’t about castigating every last politician who supported Trump at one point. But if someone can’t even acknowledge or see who and what he is after last week’s events, then they’re blinded by their own ambition and greed for power. And we will see that now.
I’m going to give such politicians the benefit of the doubt. But only after they acknowledge the need for accountability and stop with the what-about-ism. Calls for reconciliation after the fact and pleas to move on are fine, if you’re OK with negotiating with an abuser.
On the bright side, Utah does have a senator — Sen. Mitt Romney — who was recognized nationally not only for standing up to Trump’s lies about the stolen election before the insurrection but even more eloquently after.
So, for Utah, it’s still an unanswered question as to whether our leaders will put country before party or themselves before all. And if they can’t refine a character like Romney’s, then any good we do will be quickly discredited by those who represent us.
Second, Utah politicians will likely follow the money, and in this case corporate money is flowing away from anyone supporting Trump, armed insurrection, lies, etc. I see some successful primary challenges in our future.
And speaking of following the money, our own Attorney General Sean Reyes, as a leader of an organization that helped fund the march,and indeed as someone who has been harping about fraudulent elections since November, should think long and hard about whether he can put country before party at all. In fact, as a state executive officer, he should be thinking about what is best for Utah. And his behavior hasn’t been best for Utah in quite some time.
And finally, recent events have caused Utahns themselves — at least the honest ones — to wake up to the reality that what they believed over the past four years has been perpetuated by men who actually don’t have their interests at heart and who certainly don’t have the common goals they hope for:
Kindness to your fellow man and woman.
That is the Utah way. Perhaps it’s not the Republican way, as I always hoped.
Michelle Quist is a Salt Lake City attorney and a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.