Bloodied unidentified pro-Trump extremists at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Alex Kent for Tennessee Lookout)
Americans should treat the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as a warlike attack.
The event didn’t exhibit all the traditional elements of war. But it was coordinated, directed by a commander-in-chief, targeted a central institution of state authority, employed arms, and resulted in casualties. And, as in war, were it to go unanswered with a decisive response, it inevitably will prove only the first in more such attacks until its aim — in this case the demolition of democracy — is achieved.
Everyone in America who remains faithful to the Constitution, who retains the capacity to distinguish truth from lies, who prefers government by the people to the deranged rule of a tyrant, must come to terms with the choice before them: Either check the forces of autocracy now or invite a war later. Jan. 6 was the line. Pro-Trump extremists crossed it. Leniency is not an option.
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American ideals grew from Enlightenment notions of liberty and constitutional government in which authority derives from the consent of the governed. Donald Trump knows nothing, and cares even less, about any of this. In spreading the lie that the Nov. 3 election was fraudulent and that President-elect Joe Biden’s win was illegitimate, he set explosives at the foundation of constitutional government. On Jan. 6, when Trump exhorted a mob mad with devotion to his conspirauthoritarianism to “fight much harder” and march on the Capitol, he lit the fuse.
Members of Congress are now formulating ways to remove Trump from office, as they must. But Trump did not achieve this strike on democracy alone. Others helped disseminate propaganda and recruit the attackers.
Whoever has committed seditious conspiracy or insurrection must be prosecuted, convicted and sentenced. Justice should not be prejudiced, but it must be firm. Sentences should not overreach, but they must be stiff. Action should not be hasty, but it must be swift.
Those who helped spread election-fraud disinformation are unfit to hold public office. This includes the president, members of Congress, state lawmakers, city council members, town trustees and volunteers on the local school board. They should resign, face expulsion or otherwise be removed by legal means. Civilians who propagate lies about the election or express support for seditious behavior should be ostracized from civic life, deprived of commercial patronage and shunned in the public sphere.
No more indulgence of Trumpists. No more tolerance of MAGA. Americans must check subversion now so it doesn’t come to weapons later.
Subversives populate the Colorado Legislature. They include Reps. Patrick Neville, Dave Williams, Kevin Van Winkle and Lori Saine. These Republicans have all, through abuse of public trust, contributed to the false belief among many constituents that the election was rigged. Saine, as the chair of the Legislative Audit Committee, convened a Dec. 14 hearing for the stated purpose of investigating election integrity and the unstated purpose of misleading constituents. Saine’s committee invited top Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis, among the nation’s most prolific peddlers of election fantasies, to testify during the hearing.
There must be checks on such misbehavior. The ultimate rebuke will come from voters, but the Legislature itself has at its disposal tools of reprimand, and party leadership must use them. They include expulsion and censure. They also include loss of parking and office space and removal from committee assignments. Whatever the price, these sedition-abettors must be made to pay.
Voters should turn particular attention to the three Republican members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, starting with freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert. She, as much as any member of Congress, has made false claims about the election being fraudulent, and she has dog-whistled a violent response. “Today is 1776,” she tweeted on the morning of the insurrection. She was one of 121 Republicans on Wednesday who voted to reject Arizona’s electoral votes, and she and Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn were among 138 House Republicans who also objected to electoral votes from Pennsylvania. These seditious votes were cast just hours after the insurrection.
Already there have been calls for Boebert and Lamborn to resign. But Rep. Ken Buck should not get a pass. He also has perpetuated evidence-free charges of election fraud, not least by joining, along with Lamborn, the lawsuit brought by Texas at the U.S. Supreme Court that sought to eliminate the vote in four battleground states. Boebert, Lamborn and Buck have behaved shamefully, and they deserve not a single day further representing Coloradans in the nation’s capital.
There is one time-tested method of ensuring that the horror of Jan. 6 leads to worse assaults, and that is to let subversion, sedition and insurrection go unpunished. Trumpists, who have been inspired by the kind of rhetoric voiced by many Colorado Republicans, already are threatening violent activity around the presidential inauguration. With democracy so jeopardized, to refrain from answering subversion decisively is more craven than the cowardice of the Capitol mob.
The absence of checks gives insurrectionists license to advance from warlike to war.
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