History will remember that the transition of power following the 2020 election was not peaceful. Yesterday’s violent insurrection at the Capitol saw to that.
I was stunned, enraged, and heartbroken watching the images. A Confederate flag was flying outside the Senate chamber. American flags were taken down and replaced with Trump flags. I received a text late last night from a friend who works in Congress. He barricaded himself in his office by pushing furniture up against those old wooden doors, hiding silently as the violent mob banged on his office door for hours. A woman tragically lost her life at the Capitol, and many were injured.
Knowing my family and I live in Washington, friends and family from cities across the U.S. and the U.K. called and texted to make sure we were safe. That itself is a testament to the damage done to our nation yesterday.
President Trump incited a mob to storm the Capitol to prevent Congress from carrying out its constitutional function of certifying the vote of the Electoral College. This, following months of the president and his surrogates peddling lies about the integrity of the election. And that, following years of lies, shattering norms, weakening institutions, fueling hate, suspicion, and fear, dividing the nation.
For that alone, Vice President Pence and the Cabinet should remove Trump from office today under the 25th Amendment, and Congress should set to work today on impeaching him, this time with a vote to convict.
There are three more reasons to remove the president at this late date. He is still the president, with the full powers of his office. How will he use them in the next two weeks? I’d rather not find out. Second, I get a knot in my stomach thinking of the calculations our nation’s enemies were making yesterday as they saw the chaos in Washington. I’ll get to the third reason in a moment.
The reckless and irresponsible behavior of some elected Republicans has been appalling. In his speech yesterday night after the violence had been quelled, Senator Hawley took to the floor and announced his intention to continue challenging the election results, essentially arguing that his duty as a senator was to follow the angry mob, not to lead it.
Senator Romney, in stunning contrast, argued that members of Congress have a responsibility to lead, to tell their constituents the truth. “That’s the burden — that’s the duty — of leadership,” Romney said. Romney is an adult. Romney is a statesman, a morally serious leader.
I am an economist, not a political analyst or commentator. I veered into politics in 2016 because I felt Trump would do great damage as the Republican nominee and as president, and that an all-hands-on-deck effort to stop that was needed. But after the 2016 election, I returned to my lane. Some people might care what I think about economics and public policy, but who outside my friends and family care about my political views? I might be able to affect the debates on economics and policy, but I don’t have much standing as a political analyst.
This is another all-hands-on-deck moment.
And you don’t need to be an accomplished political analyst to see the fourth reason to get Trump out of the Oval Office this very day: If Congress impeaches and convicts, it can bar him from holding office again.
Every member of the Senate — including those who supported challenging the election results last night even as offices were left ransacked, American flags on the floor, members and staff traumatized, and with the violent mob gloating in the streets of the Capitol — will be very happy if Donald J. Trump’s name could never appear on a ballot again.