Note: Not all members of The Times community editorial board are in complete agreement with this editorial.
The American people came under attack Wednesday.
Lawmakers, government employees, law enforcement officers and the media were those whose lives were in immediate danger. An iconic building representative of the core of our federal government was defiled. But it was the American people who were under attack. The American system of government. The American ideal.
You, your neighbor, the family down the street. The things you believe in. The country you love. All were under assault by a ragtag band of seditious anti-patriots seduced by the lies of a political con man.
It is depressingly ironic that the same mindset that would threaten bodily harm to anyone defacing an American flag saw no problem with vandalizing the U.S. Capitol, every bit as symbolic of the nation as any banner that has ever flown above it; that those who would be enraged by an athlete kneeling for the national anthem saw no problem with placing an explosive device in the halls of Congress.
The goal of Wednesday’s wilding was to quiet the voice of the people, as expressed through the amplifier of the ballot box from being heard. The intent was to overturn the results of the election by stopping the transfer of power from one presidential administration to the next.
In the moment, the events that transpired were frightening, the scene fraught with the potential for catastrophic results. In hindsight, it all seems so senseless. Beyond paying allegiance to the outgoing president, what did the mob hope to achieve? Did it really think it could stop the newly elected president from taking office? Did it really think it could somehow keep the current president in office?
From the distance of time, Wednesday’s events may seem more sadly farcical than revolutionary, more Monty Python noir than coup d’etat. But for now, the pain is very real.
Five people, one of them a police officer, saw their lives sacrificed at the altar of a megalomaniac’s personality. Dozens more were injured, some seriously. And for what?
For more than 200 years, the peaceful transition from one presidential administration to the next has been a cornerstone of our democratic republic. The transfer of power in accordance to the wishes of the people as expressed in freely held elections has been a given. While other nations underwent revolts, military uprisings, bloody regime changes, government turmoil, and despots refusing to leave office, the United States did not.
Our ability to transition from one leader to the next was the envy of much of the world, until Wednesday, when the rest of the world looked on in shocked disbelief at a woefully misguided attempt to stop that transition from happening.
The mob attack on the Capitol and the members of Congress was particularly disheartening because it was so clearly motivated by a mountain of lies. There was never any evidence of massive voter fraud across the nation. There was never any chance of stopping the duly elected president from taking office. There was never any mechanism that would have allowed the vice president to overturn the election. There was never any hope of continuing the Trump regime by taking over the government.
It was lies upon lies, from the president, from other politicians, from lawyers, from certain elements of the media. And now people are dead.
There are so many questions that demand to be answered, so much we don’t yet know.
Times editorial board
Norman Baggs, general manager
Shannon Casas, editor in chief
How could security have been so lax when officials knew for weeks the protest was coming? If this disorganized band of zealots could so easily access the Capitol while the entire Congress was in session, imagine what a trained cell of terrorists could do. Is 9/11 really such a distant memory?
As a nation, how do we deal with those in positions of power who incited and inflamed the emotions of the masses over the past several weeks? At what point do we hold them accountable for intentionally stoking the fires of rebellion with seductive misinformation and intentional falsehoods?
What do we do with a sitting president who has shown himself unfit for office, and yet has days remaining in his term? You would have to be naïve or willfully ignorant not to be scared of what might transpire between now and inauguration day.
How far do we go in trying to eliminate the threat of violence by those still convinced our democratic processes have been undermined by any of a multitude of half-baked conspiracy theories? It is important that legitimate efforts of law enforcement do not become political witch hunts meant to stifle political dissent.
How do we rebuild faith and trust in our nation’s electoral system while still making sure that every legal voter has an opportunity to cast a ballot without impediment?
So many questions to be resolved in the days and weeks to come.
But for now, we are haunted by images of guns drawn to protect the legislative branch of government from the attack of an angry mob being used as cannon fodder by a president who proclaims himself, with a wink and a nod, to be supportive of “law and order,” when in fact he has demonstrated that he believes in neither.
The American people were under attack on Wednesday, but the battle was won sometime after 3 a.m. Thursday morning, when the votes of the electoral college were officially accepted and the declaration made that a new president had been elected to lead the nation.
The transition of power this time was not calm and peaceful, but it still will take place, and we will move on, with a republic bruised and battered, but still standing.