Insurrectionist followers of outgoing President Donald Trump did the unthinkable on Wednesday.
Following a "Storm the Capitol" rally in Washington where Trump exhorted them to "be strong" and "fight like hell," they did just that, pushing past police and forcing their way inside the U.S. Capitol itself. What unfolded were unimaginable scenes of mobs streaming through the halls, pounding on the doors to the House floor and pushing into lawmakers' offices. One left a threatening scrawl on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk: "We will not back down."
The rioters brought the electoral certification that was underway to a halt, as lawmakers were evacuated amid tear gas and police, guns drawn, attempted to protect the chambers. Four people died during the protest, including a woman who was shot in the Capitol.
Meanwhile, the man in the White House who incited the crowd remained silent for much of the afternoon. If there was any doubt of Trump's unfitness for office, his inability to, even for a moment, put love of country above himself, that was dispelled.
Hours after the mob tore through the Capitol, breaking windows, carrying off souvenirs and high-fiving each other in plain sight of police, Trump issued an outrageous taped statement, which he started by repeating the base lie at the heart of all this:
"We had an election that was stolen from us," he said. "It was a landslide and everyone knows it." He then added a perfunctory, "But you have to go home now." Not, however, before making clear where his sympathies lie. "It's a very tough period, where they could take it all away from us. This was a fraudulent election."
That Trump would continue to perpetuate such a lie, even in the face of such violent action, shows that this country, for the next 14 days, is being led by a delusional would-be dictator who cares nothing for this nation's history, its principles, its values or the laws he is sworn to uphold.
Those who committed violence in his name are not patriots, as his daughter Ivanka Trump called them in a tweet she later deleted. They are not, as Trump called them in his statement, "very special." They are not even protesters. They are treasonous terrorists, engaged in nothing short of a coup attempt, led by a man who stubbornly refuses to acknowledge his defeat and imminent departure from the White House.
Just before Trump's statement, even as Capitol police were struggling to secure the building, President-elect Joe Biden gave a live, national address that offered hope of better days ahead. He grieved, as any leader would, saying that "our democracy is under unprecedented assault … an assault on the Capitol itself, on the peoples' representatives, on the Capitol police sworn to protect them. An assault on the rule of law like few times we've ever seen."
But Biden reminded Americans, along with the watching world, that "the scenes of chaos do not represent who we are. What we are seeing is a small number of extremists." In an obvious reference to Trump's earlier stoking of the crowd, Biden said, "the words of a president matter. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite."
During the "rally," Trump sycophant Rudy Giuliani, who in another lifetime was known as "America's Mayor" for his role after 9/11, talked about "trial by combat." One of Trump's sons, Donald Trump Jr., said of those who did not stand with his father, "We're coming for you and we're going to have a good time doing it."
This has gone too far. Concession after concession and appeasement after appeasement have fed a monster who now threatens the very foundations of our republic. "Trumpism" must be rooted out and exposed for the anti-American, anti-democratic movement it is.
If Trump won't acknowledge his defeat, other Republicans must. They must do what too many have failed to do all along — affirm this country's election system, repudiate Trump, stop the appeasement and help rebuild.
As night fell on Washington, and after the Capitol had been secured, Republican and Democratic members of Congress reconvened to both condemn the mayhem that took place earlier Wednesday and to continue with the confirmation of Biden's election.
Objections fell away in the aftermath of the violence and national embarrassment, and Biden's victory was certified early Thursday. Politics were put aside, for the most part, to conduct the nation's business as called for in the Constitution, and after the vote Trump pledged an orderly transition. It was a hopeful turn of events after a dark day in a deeply troubled America. May it signal the beginning of a new era of healing.