The images Wednesday were unforgettable.
An unruly mob scaling the walls of the U.S. Capitol building and crowding its halls; a man casually seated with his foot on the desk of the speaker of the House; police with handguns drawn barricaded behind furniture at the main entrance to the U.S. House of Representatives; a woman mortally shot by a police officer while climbing through a window; a Capitol Police officer mortally wounded while protecting the People’s House. All are blights on our history and cause for celebration only among America’s enemies.
The tens of thousands who showed up on the White House ellipse on Wednesday to protest Congress’ certification of the presidential election results were loud, angry, taunting and convinced the election had been stolen from them. They were wrong. But a defiant President Donald Trump had fueled the flames for months, and on Wednesday repeated those lies and went so far as to urge protesters to march on the Capitol.
They did, with pro-Trump extremists storming the People’s House, vandalizing, looting and attacking law enforcement officers and threatening members of Congress.
It’s a moment history won’t forget – an assault on the very heart of America’s democracy.
And history won’t and shouldn’t forget Trump’s role.
If Trump were to do the right thing, he would resign. If he were to put the country first for a change – instead of his own self interests – he would step down immediately.
But as much as Donald Trump deserves to be removed from office, efforts to do so – with impeachment or by invoking the 25th Amendment – would be all but impossible with only 10 days left in his term.
It appears an article of impeachment could be introduced as early as Monday, and a House vote possible by the end of the week. But that is just one step.
And President-elect Joe Biden, while condemning Trump’s actions, has not joined Democratic leaders in the call for his impeachment. On Friday Biden sidestepped calls for Trump’s impeachment and took the view that Congress’ time could be better spent tackling his agenda.
Our incoming president is right.
Rule of law binds us
At this point, picking up the pieces and knitting America back together will be a Herculean task – one that must be Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ top priority. Biden has pledged to be a healer – America is depending on it.
After Wednesday’s chaos, some form of calm and common sense returned by late evening. Lawmakers should be commended for insisting on returning to their chambers to certify that Trump lost the presidency and Biden won.
America’s first move forward will come with the peaceful transition of presidential power, something we’ve been able to accomplish as a nation since the 1860s. While many will rightfully say it came much too late, Trump grudgingly issued a statement early Thursday committing to an orderly transition. “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” he said.
We earnestly hope he follows through on that pledge.
And Trump has also announced that he will not stain the inauguration with his presence.
But many of Trump’s supporters remain angry and maintain their freedoms are under attack and that the country is moving toward socialism. They’ve shown unwavering loyalty to the 45th president despite his lies, divisive rhetoric and unpresidential actions for four years.
It’s crucial that to move forward the nation accept the election results for what they are – that voters elected Democrat Joe Biden as their next president. Our judicial, legislative and electoral processes have confirmed the results. This is the rule of law, and acceptance of the rule of law is what binds us.
Those who flagrantly disregard the rule of law with destructive or violent activities must be held accountable, regardless of their politics. Every person who broke into the Capitol Wednesday and can be identified should be prosecuted. More than 70 people have been arrested so far. That’s a good start.
Investigate what went wrong
But much work also is needed to figure out what went wrong Wednesday in terms of security. It is clear from the images and videos that Capitol Police were not prepared for the onslaught. The mayor of Washington, D.C., had mobilized the District of Columbia National Guard in advance of Wednesday’s Save America March and every city police officer was scheduled to be on duty Tuesday and Wednesday. But the overall police presence at the Capitol was clearly lacking early Wednesday.
It’s shameful that the People’s House and its elected leaders were left vulnerable to mob violence, and it mustn’t be allowed to happen again. Given the hype before Wednesday’s protest, the lack of security was inexcusable. And the ease in which the Capitol was entered sends a frightening message to potential terrorists around the world. The Capitol and the White House should be the most protected buildings on this globe – and the whole world should recognize it.
And lessons learned should be put into effect going forward – especially over the next 10 days. Pro-Trump extremists continue to urge armed marches. Those in charge of the White House and Capitol’s security must be on high alert, and mobilize whatever resources are necessary to ensure a peaceful transition of power.
Unification a job for all
Obviously the job of restoring unity and civility to our nation can’t fall on our next president alone. It will take cooperation from all quarters, from individuals regardless of their political persuasions, from both major political parties, from responsible reporting by media outlets. And law enforcement needs to be consistent in its efforts to maintain order at all future protests and demonstrations. Americans with deep convictions need not be expected to change their values and beliefs. But they should be expected to treat each other with decency. We are all Americans, and as such, we share a belief in civility and democracy.
Trump/Pence lost. Biden/Harris won. Let’s move forward, let’s heal, let’s keep the flame of freedom lit, and let’s keep America the beacon of democracy.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.