AJC’s View: A shameful day in U.S. history

People protesting the presidential election results inside the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2020. The Capitol building was placed on lockdown, with senators and members of the House locked inside their chambers, as Congress began debating President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. President Trump addressed supporters near the White House before protesters marched to Capitol Hill. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
People protesting the presidential election results inside the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2020. The Capitol building was placed on lockdown, with senators and members of the House locked inside their chambers, as Congress began debating President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. President Trump addressed supporters near the White House before protesters marched to Capitol Hill. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

THE EDITORIAL BOARD’S OPINION

The violent assault on democracy that unfolded Wednesday in our nation’s capital was predictable. It has been building for far too long. And many who should have known better are culpable.

It began with the rise in acceptability of wink-and-nod sniping at democracy’s tenets or elected officials with whom those holding a megaphone disagreed. The more casual misstatements or untruths cast into such speech the better, it seemed.

Yes, bickering and dissent are common tools of politics and legislating. They are deeply ingrained in the American Way, for good reason. They can help lead to compromise and effective results.

Yet, they are light years removed from the lobbing of aspersions and untruths that have poisoned our politics. We now see the result of that corrosively cynical discourse – a mob breaching the U.S. Capitol and lawlessly disrupting a key constitutional formality in the peaceful transition of power.

The scenes that unfolded are proof of the power of words misused and weaponized toward selfish intent. Falsehoods and outright lies have consequences.

It is time to call out those who helped lead to this point, those whose irresponsible words helped nurture this insurrection. Among their ranks:

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter.

We list your names to create a record for history. You owe Georgians an explanation.

You supported with straight faces President Donald Trump’s careless assertions about the election he lost to Joe Biden, both in the popular and electoral votes.

Your actions were part of the larger series of events in the months since the election.

You undermined the election results and, by inference, our democracy.

You put cynical, win-by-any-means political interests above the welfare of Georgians and Americans.

Your words, and those of too many others, fomented this civil disorder and gave comfort to lawless actors. These caustic sentiments contributed to a campaign of misinformation that led astray those incapable of sifting fact from popular, partisan fiction. This process, seen as a legitimate political tactic, has been aided by the lightning speed and far reach of social media posts.

Opinion is not a synonym for fact; never has been, never should be.

You should have been leading in Georgia and in Washington; instead, you stood aside as the president sought to bully Georgia’s secretary of state into undermining the election in our state.

You ignored that both men are Republicans as you stood silent while Trump urged undoing the lawful vote of the people.

Several in your ranks had agreed to challenge the electoral votes when they were due to be cast on Wednesday, casting doubt on an orderly ritual that helps distinguish a representative democracy from either mob rule or dictatorial fiat. After initially announcing her opposition, Sen. Loeffler said late Wednesday that she would not challenge the electoral vote after all. By then, the damage was already done.

Because of you, we are now witnessing a disgraceful moment.

What else can be said of a mob that stormed past U.S. Capitol police, intent on wrongfully aligning behind a president who refuses to accept defeat?

Cast aside in this quest are the democratic processes that generations of Americans have revered, fought for, or even died to defend.

The nexus of power of the free world should never have been at risk of appearing like a scene from a bad apocalypse movie. Actually, it was worse than that.

By violently attempting to disrupt the outcome of an election that, by every responsible account, was conducted lawfully, those who helped foment this conflagration encouraged a coup d’etat on our shores.

That must not be allowed to succeed. The rule of law and representative democracy must be restored – and reinforced – immediately.

A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump sits inside the office of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he protests inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump sits inside the office of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he protests inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

That will be difficult, given the flag-waving rabble seen lounging in U.S. Capitol office chairs, boots on desks, sneering and smirking at how they have disrupted the lawful segue of power called for in the U.S. Constitution.

At least one person was fatally shot during the melee as the mob overwhelmed Capitol Police. Televised images showed considerable damage to the stately edifice, known colloquially as “The People’s House.”

All of this mayhem comes in defense of a president who lost – decisively. A president who continues to spin the destructive – and increasingly costly – lie that he won election. A president who still clung Wednesday to this outrageous fiction.

It is time for the truth to triumph over lies – in Washington, and across this land. That is the only way for the American experiment to survive the intentions that we witnessed Wednesday.

The orderly process of the rule of law and what should be a peaceful transition of presidential power must regain its place. And Americans should absorb the lessons of what toxic torrents of words and disdain for facts and truth can yield.

It has been said that when Benjamin Franklin was asked after the Constitutional Convention in 1787 what sort of government had just been born, he replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

We have kept it so far, despite disruptions at times throughout our history.

We must continue to do so, and we must resist any elements that might wish otherwise.

The Editorial Board.

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