Our country is built on vital principles that deserve steadfast support from the public and politicians: The rule of law. Devotion to the Constitution. Government through orderly democracy. Responsible behavior by the people and their representatives.
Those guideposts have directed the course of our nation for centuries. They provide the foundation of American government. On Wednesday, rioters outrageously trampled those values by desecrating the U.S. Capitol. The mob assault was fueled by wild-eyed conspiracy theories, provocations by a handful of shameless federal lawmakers, and false claims from President Donald Trump, who irresponsibly urged the rioters to march on Capitol Hill.
The thuggish attack on the Capitol stands as one of the most reprehensible spectacles in our nation’s history. Americans should be united in revulsion at it.
The assault deliberately interrupted the constitutionally required process by which the House and Senate approve the state-certified results in the presidential election. Shockingly, some rioters “hunted” the Capitol complex for Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump had blasted for failing to show the “courage” to overturn the election results.
Amid the mayhem, lawmakers and staff made a desperate evacuation. Rioters continued their violation by traipsing through the House chamber and lawmakers’ offices. They posed as patriots, but it’s hard to think of a more despicable, un-American action.
Congress sent the right signal Wednesday night by resuming its session — and by rejecting the effort by a handful of opportunistic lawmakers to block certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win. The Jan. 20 inauguration date is only two weeks away and can’t come soon enough.
Wednesday afternoon, Trump had a central duty to address the nation and rebuke the rioters for their appalling actions. Scandalously, he refused to criticize them. While calling on them to respect law enforcement and “go home,” he emphasized his false claims of a stolen election and said of the rioters, “We love you; you’re very special” — this, at the very time these thugs were brazenly prowling the Capitol, posing for selfies in the House chamber and rifling through lawmakers’ offices.
This was a shameful failure of leadership by the president. And it is part of a longstanding pattern by which he feeds a grievance mentality based on irresponsible claims. Sen. Ben Sasse has summed it up correctly: “Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the president’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
Abraham Lincoln, for whom Nebraska’s capital is named, long ago warned of the dangers of mob hysteria. The “mobocractic spirit,” he said, can be so destructive that “the strongest bulwark of any government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed” by it.
Our country must now move constructively away from this week’s horrendous events. We must rededicate ourselves, across lines of party and ideology, to our common principles of respect for law, duty to the Constitution and orderly government. Responsible-minded leaders must speak out, urging calm and mutual respect. Any new provocations, including from the president, must be met with the strongest rejection and resolve.
Our proper guide as a nation lies not in thuggery and lies, but in decency, justice and fellowship. These are enduring American principles. Let’s hold tight to them and move forward together.