In a crisis, you dispense with fantasy and deal in hard fact.
On January 6th the President of the United States summoned his most loyal and angry followers to Washington to put pressure on Congress to stop the certification of the U.S. presidential election that he lost. Standing outside the White House at a podium bearing the presidential seal, he repeated the lies that his victory had been stolen. He called on his supporters to march with him on the Capitol. He declared, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore!”
Two hours later a mob of his supporters broke through police lines, smashed through doors and invaded the Capitol building by violent force. The last time the Capitol was breached by force was when the British army did it in 1814. Trump’s mob sent the members of the House and Senate, and Trump’s own Vice President, into lockdown. Congresswomen prayed in terror. The Trump mob killed a uniformed 42-year-old police officer by beating him on the head with a fire extinguisher.
All of this unfurled on television screens across America and in every nation on Earth. Trump’s response was to sit safely in the White House, calling members of the Senate, even as they were in lockdown, badgering them to keep his loss from being certified. Under pressure from his aides, he finally made a public statement asking his violent army to go home, while adding, “We love you. You are very special people.” The special people who beat a policeman to death.
It is time to stop pretending that the actions of Trump and his supporters are something other than what they are — a violent assault on our democracy. It is time to call out those who have treated this like a political game and who have eagerly tossed more gasoline on Trump’s violent fire.
Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud were lies from the start. Joe Biden’s victory was certified by local election officials, including many Republicans, all across the country. They did this even as they faced berating phone calls from the President himself and death threats from his supporters. The Republican head of elections in Georgia woke one morning last week to an internet post with his family’s home address listed and a photo of his house with a sniper’s target on it. The election outcome was upheld by every single court that heard the more than 50 cases Trump supporters brought against it.
But none of that stopped the craven opportunists who put blind loyalty to Trump over even our nation’s democracy, including right here in Niagara County. A local Republican Committee chairman, Robert Krause, jumped aboard the train of Trump lies, claiming in a recent column that anyone who thought otherwise had simply been “bamboozled” by the media. His legal standard was not evidence but “As I understand it …” Next time you see him be sure and tell him that "as you understand it" he owes you $1,000. I’m sure he will believe you and pay up.
In Washington, our own Republican congressman, Chris Jacobs, joined other Trump loyalists seeking to overturn the public’s vote. Even as blood remained on the floors of the Capitol hallways, Jacobs embraced the charges of fraud and voted against certification of the election. A policeman died as a product of these unpatriotic charades and the country was pushed into turmoil. The political smell of his actions will stay with him for the rest of his life.
Let’s also not pretend for a moment that this is all over. Emboldened by the actions of Jacobs and the others, the Trump mob plans on heading back to disrupt the presidential inauguration a week from now, and to state capitals, often armed. No one knows how far a wounded Trump will go to summon the violent to his defense.
In a crisis people define themselves and throughout the Trump presidency and especially last week we have seen the emergence of a new political force that we need badly: The Integrity Republicans. These are the men and women who stood up to a president willing to send a mob in their direction. These are the leaders who understand that democracy and country matter more.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney: “What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States."
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski "I want him [Trump] to resign. I want him out. He has caused enough damage."
Retired General John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff: "What happened on Capitol Hill yesterday is a direct result of his poisoning the minds of people with the lies and the frauds."
Compare that to Congressman Jacobs dutifully voting to help Trump steal the vote and remain in office.
I am a Democrat, but before that I am an American and our nation needs two functioning political parties committed to democracy. Republicans are free to champion corporate tax breaks, fewer environmental rules, restrictions on abortion, and other conservative policies, and we can debate them. But what we have now is a Republican party that has abandoned its commitment to democracy and fact, in favor of blind loyalty to a man happy to let people die if it serves his personal interest. They supported him even as he incited a violent attack on another branch of government.
It is not only Trump who needs to be expelled from our political life, but those who have stood by his side as he assaults our country’s most precious inheritance — democracy.
Jim Shultz is the founder and executive director of the Democracy Center and a father and grandfather in Lockport. He can be reached by email at: JimShultz@democracyctr.org.