It already was a dark day Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. Republican senators and House representatives had just begun a unsubstantiated challenge of certified slates of electors for President-elect Joe Biden, a futile and undemocratic threat to overturn the election and disenfranchise voters.
It became darker still when mobs of pro-Trump rioters — urged just moments before by President Trump outside the White House to never accept defeat — stormed, vandalized and broke in to the Capitol, forcing the evacuation of Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress and congressional staff.
While the circumstances are unclear, an unidentified woman was shot inside the Capitol and later died; police deployed tear gas inside the rotunda and the city’s mayor enacted a 6 p.m. curfew. At least one member of Congress, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., called the debacle what it was: “a coup attempt.”
Trump’s response — after repeated demands from members of Congress and from his own staff to call on the seditious rioters to end their siege and go home — was more tepid request than rebuke, putting out a video that called for “peace” and “law and order,” but again repeating the provocative and unsupported claims that the election had been “stolen” from him.
Trump and his supporters — those who aren’t now silently backing away from him — will claim that the storming of the Capitol and the danger placed upon police, officials and staffers were not the fault of Trump but the acts of overzealous supporters. Yet, Trump and those members of Congress who were interrupted in the middle of their political theater, are responsible, including Washington’s own Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, who waited until Tuesday to announce that she would join in the challenge of electoral college slates for Biden. Bad timing, Congresswoman.
The reputations of Trump and those who voiced support for the illicit challenge will now bear the stain of having suborned this riot. And regardless of who the woman was who was shot and killed and whether by rioters or law enforcement, her death should weigh on their collective conscious.
Here’s what ought to happen in the days that follow:
Those members of Congress who had planned to challenge the confirmation of the electoral college vote and Biden’s win should now cease that effort, and perform their duty to recognize an election confirmed and certified by local and state election officials and upheld by the courts. (Late Wednesday, congressional leaders announced their intention to resume certification of the election that evening.)
Those participating in the riot must be prosecuted.
Not that any of this can be expected, but President Trump should acknowledge his part in Wednesday’s uprising, finally admit that he lost the election and apologize to all Americans for misleading his supporters and encouraging the violence that resulted. Further, he should resign his office, and for the duration of the term allow Pence to serve as president until Biden’s inauguration. He should then leave Washington, D.C., quietly and cancel any planned rallies.
Failing that, even though just two weeks remain in his presidency, the adults remaining in his administration or members of Congress must find a way to remove him from office. Trump has shown the he poses too great a danger to our peace and our national security.
He has disgraced himself and the nation. And he has weakened us in the eyes of our allies and our adversaries.
Wednesday’s events shocked the nation and the world; that shock should prompt reflection among the nation’s leaders and all Americans, regardless of political beliefs.
Some have regarded the Trump presidency — with its repeated violations of norms and flaunting of the rule of law — as a stress test for our representative democracy.
We may have not failed the test, but we have not yet earned a passing grade.