Now we know what a coup in America looks like.
It’s an affront to decency and democracy. It makes a mockery of values we claim we hold dear. Peaceful transfer of power? Not when an armed mob of pro-Trump supporters storms the U.S. Capitol, disrupting the certification of president-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college win.
A failed coup is still a coup, and that it won’t work doesn’t make it any less appalling.
When violent insurrectionists attack the seat of government, injuring police officers and forcing lawmakers to shelter in place, democracy is in a fragile place. That doesn’t mean it can’t recover, or that its wounds are irreparable.
But we need to recognize what happened Wednesday for what it was: a treasonous assault on our democracy.
And it needs to be treated as such.
Republicans who backed President Donald Trump’s evidence-free push to overturn the results of the election were always playing with fire, even if they refused to admit it.
“‘What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?’ No one seriously thinks the results will change,” one anonymous senior Republican official told the Washington Post in the aftermath of the election.
On Wednesday, the downsides of humoring Trump were on full, agonizing display, with at least one person killed in the mayhem that ensued after the mob stormed the Capitol.
It was a disturbing scene, and the consequences should be harsh.
First and foremost, Trump needs to be impeached.
There is absolutely no reason for him to stay on until Jan. 20, lying about the election results and riling up the most extremist elements of his base. Let Vice President Mike Pence oversee the transition to the Biden administration.
His enablers – a group that includes our own U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik – must also be called to account.
Ideally, they would resign. At the very least, they should withdraw their objections to the election results and try to locate their spines and consciences.
Finally, members of the mob who broke the law and engaged in violence should be arrested and prosecuted. There’s a difference between lawful, peaceful protest – which I have never objected to – and the chaos that unfolded at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Lawmakers might also consider taking a deeper look at why the mob was able to storm the building so easily. The ease with which they did something that ought to be very difficult calls for a broader investigation.
I never expected Trump to succeed in his effort to overturn the election.
But that doesn’t mean he – and those willing to storm the Capitol on his behalf – can’t do a lot of damage on his way out the door.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.