Insurrection in the Making
A pandemic, a summer of racial reckoning and violence, an economic recession, and the fiercest election year in modern American history. Much of this uncertainty is still ongoing, except for one. Joseph R. Biden is the winner of the 2020 presidential election, regardless of whether or not you supported him.
But reality does not come easily to his defeated opponent: Donald J. Trump. For more than two months, Trump had refused to admit he lost the election. Trump and his allies, who are 1-63 in state and federal court, continue to argue that the election was stolen by Democrats, despite all evidence and court rulings to the contrary. Claims of a stolen election continue to be reiterated by his followers, his supporters in the media and in Congress, and of course, himself.
Like a broken record player, he continued to push the claim that he had won, not beginning the transition process for weeks on end. The weeks he refused to begin the transition of power to the Biden team, were weeks of valuable lost time that hamper Mr. Biden’s ability to kickstart his presidency efficiently, and will prove disastrous for our national security. As seen in 2000, the contested results between Al Gore and George W. Bush meant many lost weeks of presidential transition. As a result, national security detail was lost, and the chance of a 9/11 attack became even likelier.
This transition period should’ve been peaceful, without hassle. Yet, Trump continued daily to hammer away that the election was stolen and that he won in a landslide. In contrast, he lost by more than seven million votes, and he lost the Electoral College 306 to 232. But it doesn’t matter, not to him. Spouting conspiracy theories that he knew were lies, he claimed that fraud was committed and that the election was rigged from the start, in large part due to mail-in ballots. This, coming from a man who attempted to sabotage the election by crippling the USPS and who, in the weeks prior to the election, called for the arrest of his opponent.
Small voter irregularities are inevitable in any election, but there has been no evidence to prove that any wide scale fraud occurred or that any irregularity shifted the election. Trump’s own officials, including his former Attorney General William Barr, have stated that there was no evidence of mass fraud. Federal investigations have also concluded that there was no fraud. The countless lawsuits filed by both Trump and his allies to overturn the election were all absurd, filled with unhinged claims of fraud, yet with no evidence ever presented. Some claimed that states illegally changed their own election laws, despite the fact that no one brought challenges when these Republican and Democratic legislatures modified their election rules to make it safer to vote during a pandemic. Two cases were sent to the Supreme Court, only to be shot down unanimously, including by all three Trump Supreme Court appointees. Allegations of fraud are concerning, yes, but no evidence has ever been presented in court to support that claim.
It’s over, and this blatant coup-like attempt to overturn the election is asinine. Yet, here we are.
Trump’s allegations of fraud and of a stolen election are damaging to our democratic republic. It erodes trust in our democratic institutions, it erodes faith in our election, and it erodes the unity between our countrymen.
It enrages a nation, and divides us further.
Trump has told those who voted for him that they were robbed. These lies fuel anger, incite violence, and erode what should’ve been a guaranteed constant in our republic. Truth. A peaceful transfer of power was never going to happen with this volatile president. But to explicitly cry wolf and attempt to disenfranchise the ballots of millions of Americans in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona? It’s not only tantamount to insanity, it’s a complete rejection of every value we as Americans hold sacred and take for granted. She isn’t perfect, America, but for all her faults, America has a history of trying to achieve that dream of a perfect union where all are equal.
From the revolutionaries who broke us off from Britain, to those who fought to save the Union and end slavery, to those who fought for suffrage and civil liberties during the Industrial Age, to the men and women who dared to challenge the status quo to end segregation, America is always fighting for better. This week, on the other hand, we saw a rejection of the best of America, and not just an embrace of the worst of America, but the sinking of the ship to new depths of darkness. She isn’t perfect, America. But this is something unprecedented and dangerous to the very republic we hold dear and fight for. Trump continues to attempt to thwart our Constitution, all the while thousands of our countrymen die every day from this pandemic that he failed to manage. 400k Americans will have died from Covid-19 by the end of the month. Guess what he’s more focused on?
Even more startling is the number of politicians who back up his claim; these are people who want to profit from the lies, even when they know they are spreading falsehoods. These politicians decided to choose this flailing maniac over country, over our democracy. They reiterate his claims, even attempting to overturn the election for him through their own lawsuits and challenges. Does this seem like patriotism to you? Defying the truth, defying Constitutional law, and defying the will of the people? For four years, many Republicans have enabled Trump to do his worst. Now that he’s attempting to burn down our government, sticking with him is a betrayal of our nation’s institutions and values, and an attack on every American.
And now, on Jan. 6, 2021, the entire nation paid a price for their willingness to egg on the president and his false claims of a stolen election. Jan. 6 was meant to be a day where Congress would certify and formalize Mr. Biden’s victory as the 46th President. Instead, Trump’s allies objected to the counting, another attempt to delay the will of the people and deny the outcome of court decisions. But their enabling and support of Trump’s claims incited an enraged mob that has believed since the election that they were robbed. On Jan. 6, for the first time since the British burned down Washington during the War of 1812, the U.S. Capitol building was breached by Trump supporters. The Capitol, the citadel of our democracy, was trashed, its halls ruined, and its floors stained with blood.
This mob, galvanized by the idea that the election had been stolen, were attempting to kill democracy. The mob carried guns and zip ties into the Capitol that day, evidence that they intended to do real harm to the capitol police, Senators, Representatives, and Vice-President inside. A wooden gallows was set up on the lawn outside the Capitol building. Two active pipe bombs were located nearby as were 11 Molotov cocktails ready to detonate.
This was an insurrection and a failed coup. This was treason.
Trump supporters removed the American flag and replaced it with a Trump one. Confederate flags flew in the halls of the place where slavery was outlawed.
This was disgraceful. Often, we as Americans look on at other nations, and tell ourselves, “well, that couldn’t happen here.” Yet, here we are. We weren’t attacked by foreign powers, but from within, and specifically by those who worship Trump’s words like scripture. I compared the siege of the Capitol to the burning of the Reichstag. Others called it a political 9/11. In my younger years, I had visited Washington, and was in awe at the sight of the Capitol, with its majestic architecture and aura of power. But now, like many of you reading this right now, as well as Americans all across the country, we looked on in disgust and horror. I’m still angry, like many of you. But I don’t recall ever having the feeling of heartbreak rise above unbridled rage. Like many of you, I was excited for the inauguration, for a new chapter in our history. Now, I only fear for President Biden’s life, and that Jan. 20 — or any other day in the years ahead — might be the same as Dallas was for JFK.
Five people died last week — more than the Benghazi attacks in 2012, mind you, and seldom will you see the same amount of outrage on the right. One of those five was a police officer, Officer Brian Sicknick, who died in the line of duty defending our Capitol. The president won’t even lower the White House flag to half-staff in his honor. Do still you see Trump’s sycophants in Congress and in the media claim “Blue Lives Matter”? No, and it’s horrific knowing a large portion of this nation is essentially a part of a cult that wants to overthrow democracy.
These criminals who laid siege to our Capitol claim to be patriots. They aren’t.
To be patriotic is more than just waving a flag and saying you’ll love and fight for America. It’s to put country above party, and especially above the individual. To be patriotic is to put country above our own leaders, because our leaders aren’t kings, they’re representatives of the people, by the people, and for the people. This mob failed that very fundamental idea of what it means to be a patriot. They chose Trump over country. They chose rebellion over law and order.
Dictatorships don’t emerge out of nothing. Every authoritarian arises with a level of support from those who are willing to tear down others’ freedoms for their own needs, and often these same people call themselves defenders of a country they’re willing to burn. This mob chose to upend a constitutional transfer of power with the hope that their Fuhrer would stay in power. We’re a nation of democratic republicanism, not of monarchical institutions.
They weren’t protesters. They weren’t even rioters. They were invaders, they were advocates of tyranny, and above all, they were traitors.
They’ve committed treason, bringing shame to all Americans, to our flag, to our Constitution, and to our very way of life. It also reminded many of us of the very worst of America, as we all watched in bewilderment at how easy the Capitol was breached, when just months earlier, the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death were met with tear gas and bullets. Don’t compare the civil unrest of that important summer to this. One were nationwide protests for reform that broke out due to outrage after the murder of yet another an unarmed black man, while also marking a breaking point from a pandemic that has reminded us of the centuries of racial prejudice and discrimination in America. Last week’s riot was a blatant coup attempt on our country. You can’t compare the two.
This had been planned for weeks, and Trump himself had rallied his fervent followers to come to DC on Jan. 6, tweeting that it “will be wild!” — again and again ranting to them that the election had been stolen. Then, that very same morning when he met that crowd, he told them to descend upon the Capitol. “We fight, we fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump urged the mob that morning, “we are going down Pennsylvania Avenue, and we are going to the Capitol, and we are going to try–give our Republicans–and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” Trump fueled the fires of rage amongst his base with his false claims and conspiracy theories. The politicians who objected to Biden’s win that day threw fuel on the flame, before Trump himself unleashed the dogs, inciting insurrection.
Words matter. Truth matters. But Trump doesn’t care, nor does he try to, pushing this reckless attack on democracy until the Capitol filled with smoke, gas, and rage. I’ve said that not only is Trump a morally depraved and egotistical liar, he’s weakened America’s economy, our military, our geopolitical influence, and our reputation across the world.
But Jan. 6 proved the worst possible thing. The President of the United States is an enemy to our democratic values, to the pillars of our republic, and a scourge to our people. Trumpism is a disease that’s more of a threat to us than the Soviet Union or any of our enemies have ever been. Because America will always survive against her enemies from abroad. That isn’t guaranteed when her enemies are from within. Lincoln famously once said, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.” Yet, for the past four years, the president seemed hellbent on pushing us to ideological extremes. And on Jan. 6, 2021, that division and extremism saw the U.S Capitol sieged.
Donald J. Trump has conceded the election and Joseph R. Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021. But the damage has been dealt. The sanctity of our republic is no longer guaranteed. And we will all suffer for it.