A man in paramilitary gear with zip-tie handcuffs on the floor of the United States Congress.
A noose and scaffold built outside our nation’s Capitol building.
A mob charging a lone Black police officer just yards away from the undefended entrance to the Senate chambers.
These are just a few images seared into the minds of millions of the Jan. 6 storming and sacking of the U.S. Capitol building by an angry mob bent on overturning the results of a free and fair election. Five Americans lost their lives in the attack. Our democracy survived, but our nation is now keenly aware that survival was not a foregone conclusion and we may not be so lucky next time.
We can never allow our democracy to be threatened again. We must hold those responsible for the assault on our Capitol responsible, and that begins by impeaching and convicting former President Donald Trump for instigating that assault.
Mob acted at Trump’s bidding
The violent mob that laid siege to the seat of our democracy did so at Trump’s bidding. “We’re going to have to fight much harder,” said Trump to the angry crowd. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.” Trump then railed about the need to “get rid of the weak congresspeople” and urged the crowd to descend on the Capitol to halt the final certification of the election.
If Donald Trump’s words on Jan. 6 were the spark that ignited the attack on the Capitol, his dangerous and radicalizing lie about winning the 2020 elections was the fuel that allowed that fire to burn so hot. For months, Trump told his supporters, in effect, that the rightful American government was overthrown through lies, deceit, and outright treason.
The obvious implication behind the stolen election lie is that one can either sit back and allow their freedom to be stolen, or they can find some method of fighting back. That’s why I predicted Trump’s lies about the election would lead to violence back in December. Donald Trump knew the risks too, yet he continued spreading that lie.
Glued to his TV
Even after his supporters breached the Capitol, it took Trump several hours to lift a finger to disperse the crowd. He was too busy, glued to his TV, watching to see if his angry mob succeeded in halting the certification of Joe Biden’s win at the ballot box.
America must be better than that. Donald Trump’s impeachment and trial are not a referendum on whether you agree with his policies or like him as a person. The question before the Senate and before the American people is much more simple and foundational to who we are as a nation: Should we hold accountable any man or woman who uses force to thwart the will of the American people?
I believe the answer is yes. This will almost certainly not be the last time our democracy is threatened, and we must make it clear that any such actions will not go unpunished. America’s founders recognized that our democracy is not guaranteed and they provided us with the tools we need to defend ourselves from would-be tyrants.
We must use those tools to impeach and convict Donald Trump, hold him accountable for his betrayal of the American people, and send a clear message that anyone who seeks to use mob violence to overrule the will of the American people will fail.
Condemning the armed insurrection by domestic terrorists trying to overthrow our government should not take an act of courage. This is a no-brainer; every American, regardless of party, should push back against anyone who attacks our country. We are, after all, Americans first and foremost and we have to be united behind the values that forged this country in the first place.
It’s time for elected officials to put country before Trump, and their oath to the American people ahead of party.
Ken Martin is the chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party.
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