Donald Trump managed the seemingly impossible yesterday and found a new low.
He whipped up and urged on a mob toward the U.S. Capitol, where it breached the building and forced his vice president and lawmakers to flee. He didn’t immediately address the violence and reportedly resisted calling out the National Guard. He finally issued a brief video telling the rioters to go home but expressing his love for them. At no point did he condemn their conduct and at the end of the day, he tweeted that such acts are what happen when an election is stolen (leading to the temporary suspension of his Twitter account).
The scenes at the Capitol were so shocking that they were difficult to fathom. They were worthy of a third-world country, not a well-established constitutional republic whose political stability has been one of the wonders of the world. Not only did the rioters desecrate a great temple of American democracy, they managed to disrupt the counting of electoral votes, the final step of the presidential election. Trump has never had any interest in the peaceful transfer of power, and yesterday’s events mean that the transfer this year, indeed, hasn’t been peaceful.
Of course, the backdrop to all of this is Trump’s unhinged and poisonous lies about the election. If shadowy forces have really stolen our democracy, why isn’t an insurrection to stop Joe Biden from taking office justified?
It is incumbent on all Republicans to call out these untruths and insist that the president, at this late date, concede the election. Instead, senators who should know better, most notably Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, have played along with the charade, feeding the delusion — also promoted by Trump — that it is within the power of Congress to reject electors from states won by Biden. After the violence, a number of Republican senators backed off their intention to object, but they never should have played with this dangerous idea in the first place.
Congress appropriately reconvened for the counting as quickly as possible and completed it in the early hours, with lawmakers — most notably Mitch McConnell — insisting that its work won’t be stopped by a rabble. Whatever the failings of Congress, a basic decency and commitment to our system of government still prevails on Capitol Hill. The same can’t be said about the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.