By Peter Berger
Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, was a day given over to gleeful violence and purposed havoc. It was a day when Republican complicity bore its inevitable fruit. It was a day when the small man who occupies the same seat of Washington and Lincoln testified again by word and deed that he is as incapable of compassion as he is oblivious to duty.
We need to face in stark terms what happened last Wednesday and specifically what Trump did to make it happen. The generations who served and died to create and sustain government by the people deserve the truth. The generations after us require the truth so government by the people survives for them to inherit it.
That Trump lost shouldn’t surprise anybody. In 2016 he lost the popular vote count by 3 million votes. It’s hardly surprising that he lost this time by a few million more. Four years have driven more people to tire of his lies and his malfeasance. Nor is it surprising that a narcissist like Trump would resist the reality that he lost.
Court after court and official after official – Democrats and Republicans – have found no evidence of fraud. Mail-in ballots are no more prone to fraud than regular ballots. Biden’s tally surged later in the counting because many jurisdictions count mail-in ballots last. Mail-in ballots tend to lean Democratic largely because Trump directed his supporters not to vote by mail.
Back in December Trump invited his supporters to a “wild” rally on Jan. 6, the day Congress would officially count the certified Electoral College votes confirming Biden’s victory. At the rally Congressman Brooks exhorted them to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” Giuliani called for “trial by combat.” Trump’s son led a chant to “Fight for Trump.”
As Congress began counting the votes, Trump himself launched the mob at the Capitol to “stop the steal” and “fight like hell” or “you’re not going to have a country anymore.” His hour-long rant was an amalgam of lies, threats against Democrats and “weak Republicans,” and repeated warnings to Mike Pence to “do the right thing” and unconstitutionally reject the votes so “we win the election.”
Having provoked and blessed their assault, and promised to go with them, Trump retreated to the White House where he watched on television.
The “stand by” Proud Boys sported “6MWE” shirts – 6 million weren’t enough.
The mob was armed. They came with nooses and Confederate flags, with guns, bombs, and zip-tie restraints that one can only imply were intended for hostages and prisoners.
They ransacked the Capitol and stopped Congress in its work.
They chanted, “Hang Mike Pence,” and erected a gallows on the Mall.
It wasn’t an empty gesture.
Blood was shed.
Five people died.
Trump was apparently pleased with what he saw. He told his insurrectionists, “We love you. You’re very special.” Then he told them to “go home in peace.”
A few hours later Congress reconvened. Sitting within sight of bullet holes and broken glass, one hundred fifty Republicans still voted to overturn Biden’s election, an election they knew to be lawful. On the floor of the House of Representatives, Trump sycophants began broadcasting conspiracy theories exonerating Trump.
Trump has since delivered a perfunctory message condemning the seditious riot he intended and incited. He’s also announced he won’t be attending the inauguration.
Had I done what he did, I wouldn’t be attending either. I’d be incarcerated without bail.
Trump incited a violent mob of thousands to overturn the lawful election of a President. That illegal act to overthrow the government of the United States constitutes sedition.
That’s why I’d be locked up awaiting trial.
I’d deserve it.
So does Trump.
So do those who’ve stood behind lecterns and offered clever legal deceits on his behalf.
So does the senator who raised his clenched fist in solidarity with terrorists.
The guilt extends to all those Republicans who by their years of cowardly silence assented to Trump’s lies.
Some still rise behind their lecterns, dispensing aid and comfort to their Leader. Many still remain silent.
Not every American who’s supported Trump bears the same guilt. You’ve been deceived by people you had reason to believe. Now you should see him clearly. It’s long past time.
Voices on both sides of the aisle demand that Trump resign. Many — mostly Democrats – call for his removal by impeachment or the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Others caution that sanctioning Trump will only provoke further strife and division.
The mob’s leaders have already warned they’re coming back for the inauguration. They’ve also scheduled actions in state capitals. Last fall terrorists brandished guns in the Michigan statehouse and plotted to kidnap and murder Michigan’s governor.
Trump responded then by tweeting, “Liberate Michigan.”
The videoed insurrectionists trying to break down the door to the House of Representatives weren’t there for vandalism. They were trying to get into the chamber to get at the members of Congress.
The hazards of further provocation seem beside the point.
I don’t know which way is best to remove Trump from office. I do know he can’t be trusted, that he poses a clear and present danger to public safety and the republic, and that he can’t be allowed to escape unsanctioned and unpunished without being held to account for his treachery.
The Congressional oath requires defending the Constitution against enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Donald Trump has made himself a domestic enemy of the United States.
In a perfect irony he’s become an enemy of the people.
Peter Berger has taught English and history for 30 years. Poor Elijah would be pleased to answer letters addressed to him in care of the editor.