There should be consequences

Published January 7, 2021

By Thomas Mills

Yesterday should have been a celebration of our democracy and its tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. Instead, the President of the United States summoned a small group of his lunatic and intellectually challenged supporters to Washington and encouraged them to storm the Capitol. And they did. 

The events were striking. The mob moved quickly from The Ellipse, where Trump rehashed his grievances against a stolen election, and pushed through a thin line of Capitol police and past barriers meant to deter access to the building. They quickly smashed windows and doors and flooded the building.

It was startling to watch, not just because of what they were doing, but because they got there so easily. Where were the lines of riot police that confronted Black Lives Matter protestors last summer? Why weren’t people being arrested? Had that mob been Black, there almost certainly would have been scenes of brutal repression and cops with guns drawn. 

 All of America should be outraged. Unfortunately, a large part of the country is getting alternative facts, as Kellyanne Conway famously labeled the lies of conservative outlets and politicians. In that world, antifa stormed the Capitol and blamed it on peaceful MAGA protesters. On Facebook, my friends from Trump country heralded the president as a hero for calling in the National Guard to save the country. And even after the invasion of the Capitol, Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz peddled his bullshit voter fraud hypothesis in Congress, receiving applause from his fellow conspiracy theorists. 

And there were the apologists. Conservative commentators compared yesterday’s attempted coup to the Black Lives Matter protests this summer. The explosion of anger this summer resulted from years of watching unarmed Black men die at the hands of police and vigilantes with few consequences for the perpetrators. Those spontaneous events were ugly and difficult, but they weren’t planned and directed toward ending democracy. On the contrary, they were a visceral cry for equal treatment and justice in our country. Yesterday’s events were planned and predictable. Trump summoned them to Washington and a host of elected officials, including North Carolina’s Madison Cawthorn, encouraged them. The protesters lowered the American flag and replaced it with a Trump one. That’s who they are. 

 Yesterday’s events forced people to reveal themselves. While Democrats were predictably outraged, some of the most honest voices came from the right. Before the violence began, Mitch McConnell, a man who I believe has done great damage to our country, showed his patriotism, calling out the Members of Congress who would try to disrupt democracy by rejecting the legitimate ballots from certain states. Our Senator, Richard Burr, told the truth and laid the blame for the riots on Donald Trump. Mitt Romney called it what it was, an insurrection, and blasted his fellow Republicans for trying to block certification. Michael Ahrens, the communications director for the Republican National Committee called the violence “domestic terrorism.” A staffer at the Senate Leadership Fund, the Republican Super PAC that elects GOP Senators, acknowledged that the whole stunt of rejecting electors was about collecting money from the lunatics who make up the GOP base. We should commend people who are telling the truth and rejecting the lies, even if many are late to the game. 

But we also can identify the enablers. One hundred and thirty-eight Republicans voted to throw out the votes of people from Pennsylvania. Among those were Representatives Budd, Bishop, Foxx, Hudson, Rouzer, Cawthorn, Murphy of North Carolina. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also voted with them. These people are perpetrating lies that inflame the sentiments of people easily misinformed and misled. They are damaging our country. 

We got here because Republicans have refused to correct misinformation from right-wing outlets and refused to hold Trump accountable for his behavior. They’ve created and fostered a group of the aggrieved and ill-informed that has grown to more than 40% the country. These pitiful people lack critical thinking skills and the GOP has exploited them for political gain. Now, they are literally attacking our government.

There must be consequences for what happened yesterday or we will only see more of this behavior. Republicans refused to impeach the president when the evidence of misconduct was overwhelming and the only lesson he learned is that no one will hold him accountable. The protesters that breached the Capitol yesterday and the people who incited them will learn that they can assault democracy and nobody will say anything. It’s been a stunning turn of events and it needs swift and just punishment. If the country were functioning correctly, the president would be impeached and a whole bunch of the rioters would be in jail, not hotels. But it’s not going to happen.