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Editorial: Rep. Andrew Clyde won’t call it insurrection, but the word fits
010721 CAPITOL 5
Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.” — George Orwell, 1984

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde got the sort of treatment normally directed toward Georgia’s own Marjorie Taylor Green this week after suggesting that some of those participating in the Jan. 6 mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol were more like “tourists” than “insurrectionists.”

In fact, Clyde is adamant about insisting that the term insurrection should not be used in association with the attack on the Congress as it was convened to record the Electoral College votes that showed Joe Biden had beaten Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States.

“There was no insurrection, and to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie,” Clyde was quoted as telling the members of a House committee.

The argument over the use of that particular word is an interesting means of diverting attention from the outrageousness of the mob’s attack on the Capitol, which left people dead, more than a hundred police officers injured and some $30 million worth of damage.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines insurrection as “an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.”

A logical examination of the Jan. 6 event makes it hard to deny that there was a “revolting against civil authority.” Certainly, the toll on law enforcement officers left injured by the rioting mob would indicate that such is the case.

As to whether there was an attempt to revolt against “an established government,” one would conclude that portion of the definition was met as well based on two factors: the peaceful, constitutional transfer of power from one presidential administration to the next was the target of the mob, and that transfer of power was interrupted by the mob’s actions. 

Though short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful, it was an insurrection, and to deny that fact is an attempt to repaint an ugly reality in a more politically popular hue.

Clyde is not the only Republican trying to downplay the effort to interfere with the tallying of Electoral College votes, but his poor choice of words in suggesting that some of the mob participants conducted themselves like tourists provided all the fodder needed for the opposition party, national media and late-night comics to skewer him.

A review of what was said makes it clear Clyde did not intend to suggest that all of those who stormed the national seat of power acted like family vacationers in D.C. Clyde also said there was an “undisciplined mob” and that acts of vandalism were committed.

He then invited ridicule, however, by adding that anyone watching video of those members of the mob who simply strolled through the Capitol in an orderly fashion might confuse their actions with “a normal tourist visit.”

Those of us who watched live broadcasts from the events of Jan. 6 did not see anything that resembled a normal tourist visit. We saw a politically motivated mob determined to interfere with the naming of a new president and willing to kill, maim and destroy in order to do so.

We would like to know what Clyde considers to have been the motivation of the attacking crowd if he doesn’t think its purpose was to disrupt the Congress as it went about the business of formalizing the election of a new president.

Clyde is new to his position as the representative for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District, which includes Hall County. We suspect he might choose his words differently were he given the chance to do so, but there’s little doubt that he is among those who continue to believe without cause or reason that the presidential election was in some fashion stolen from Trump, and that espousing that belief is worth whatever distortion of fact and reality is required.

As George Orwell noted in the prescient novel “1984,” once the past was erased, “the lie became truth.”

Clyde and many others in Washington are far too willing to whitewash the events of Jan. 6 to create a false narrative that in turn supports the big lie they continue to tell themselves and the nation. That is particularly unfortunate for someone who carries on the legacy of former 9th District representatives such as Phil Landrum, Ed Jenkins and Nathan Deal.

Clyde’s comments about tourists were the sort of hyperbolic politispeak guaranteed to provide his political enemies with ammunition, but his refusal to honestly address the motivation and intent of the Capitol mob is of greater concern.

“Hard to believe any elected official could be this oblivious to reality. It’s this type of blind ignorance that got our party into this mess to start with,” said Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a fellow Republican.

The republic will not survive if the past is erased and the lie becomes truth. Ugly realities cannot be improved by describing them in softer terms.

Call it what you will, but the mob that attacked Congress did so because it believed the president it supported was more important than the government itself or the law of the land. We would argue that the “insurrectionist” label fits.

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