Emboldened by months of lies and years of baseless conspiracy theories and with nothing in their hearts but misguided hatred, a group of seditionists stormed the U.S. Capitol this week in what will go down in history as the darkest day for American democracy since the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861.
It was not a revolutionary act of patriotism to save democracy. Let us call this foolhardy feat what it is: Insurrection in an attempt to undermine democracy.
“They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed. They failed. They failed to attempt to obstruct the Congress,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said from his desk in the Senate hours after the attack meant to prevent stop lawmakers from certifying the Electoral College vote. “This failed insurrection only underscores how crucial the task before us is for our republic.”
Before the despicable rebels burst through the doors and windows of our hallowed halls of democracy both McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence sharply rebuked President Donald Trump’s unfounded and unproven allegations of election fraud.
No court in the country bought Trump’s arguments, nor did any state.
U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, a retired Navy SEAL, on Thursday rightfully slammed Trump and his fellow party members for lying to the public.
“Let me tell you something very clearly: They’ve been lying to people,” he told Fox News. “They’ve been lying to millions. They’ve been lying that Jan. 6 was going to be this big solution for election integrity. It was never going to be.”
Rather than admit he actually had no case or evidence, Trump doubled down and publicly paraded out what attorney’s refer to as the conspiracy defense.
We’ve seen it dozens if not hundreds of times in criminal trials and cannot recall a single occasion where it worked.
This strategy suggests that a majority of people involved in whatever the process might be — something like a murder investigation or this time an election — conspired with malice against a single person.
It is the type of defense employed by mobsters, con-men and the desperately guilty. Instead of accepting that he lost both the popular vote and Electoral College, Trump concocted wild theories and blamed everyone he could think of, most notable the press.
He began stoking flames of hatred for the media in his 2016 campaign for the White House and has continued to do so. His attempts to undermine confidence in the people whose job it is to tell the public when politicians lie is unparalleled outside of extremist hate groups.
Journalists for years have been fact checking anyone who holds public office. This is nothing new. And while some journalists have axes to grind, the vast majority don’t. We value truth, integrity and lawfulness above all else. We have no political agenda.
“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they’re doing and stolen by the fake news media. That’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing. We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” he told his supporters, many of whom later stormed the Capitol.
And yes, those seditionists were Trump supporters. We’ve heard from conspiracy theorists, including our own U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, that the violence was stoked by antifa, a loose conglomeration of anti-fascist protesters.
There is zero evidence that anyone involved in the siege of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday is connected to any liberal or anti-fascist causes. Some of these seditionists have become upset that they’re being identified as left-wing actors.
“I am not antifa or blm,” Jake Angeli, the shirtless man who stood at the Senate dais wearing a viking helmet with his face painted red white and blue wrote on Twitter. “I’m a Qanon & digital soldier. My name is Jake & I marched with the police & fought against BLM & ANTIFA in PHX. Look up OAN’s coverage of July 4ths rally in PHX capital. I was standing against the BLM mob out numbered but unphased. Look it up ...”
QAnon is the baseless conspiracy theory that Trump is leading a behind-the-scenes fight against a shadowy cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who control the U.S. government and the world. It is, at its core, the anti-Semitic conspiracy of blood libel, dressed up for the Internet.
These failed insurrectionists immediately left a rally led by Trump and unlawfully entered and desecrated a federal building while chanting pro-Trump slogans and right-wing conspiracy theories, wearing pro-Trump and QAnon apparel and waiving flags with Trump’s name and face on them. They told reporters on the scene that they were there to start a revolution for Trump.
“We’re storming the Capitol. It’s a revolution!” a crying woman who said she had been maced by police told Yahoo News.
Our president’s immediate response to the seditionists?
“Go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
It took a full day — A FULL DAY, let that sink in — before the president fully denounced the violence. In what kind of twisted world is this acceptable, even for those who don’t believe in the integrity of our election system?
The hypocrite did exactly what he accused Democrats of doing over the summer during Black Lives Matter rallies that devolved into violent clashes and looting. After the death of George Floyd, we sharply denounced violence around our nation in a front page editorial.
We do the same today in joining with the words of our nation’s vice president, who through this ordeal showed immense bravery.
“We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms. We grieve the loss of life in these hallowed halls as well as the injuries suffered by those who defended our Capitol today and we will always be grateful for the men and women who stayed at their posts to defend this historic place. To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins, and this is still the people’s house,” Pence said.
Trump’s rhetoric is not fully to blame. The Republican Party for too long enabled his conspiracy theories. Both McConnell and Pence were often viewed as subservient, but we shudder to think of the unknown ways in which they must have reined in the president over the past four years.
“If you turned a blind eye to a conspiracy theory, you can’t now come to the floor of the Senate and say you’re ignoring the people who believe the election was stolen. Go out there and tell them the truth, which is that every single member of this Senate knows this election wasn’t stolen, and that we, just as in the Roman republic, have the responsibility to protect the independence of the judiciary from politicians who will stop at nothing to hold onto power,” Senator Michael Bennett, D-Colorado said in an impassioned speech.
Shamefully, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was among the chief peddlers of Trump’s poisonous lies. We feel certain Cruz did this not because he believes there was election fraud but to curry favor with Trump voters for his 2024 re-election campaign after narrowly defeating Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018.
Cruz will carry with him a dark stain that could end his political career.
Meanwhile, as ashamed as we are of Cruz, we are proud of Sen. John Cornyn, who reminds us what a true constitutional conservative is. From the beginning, he acknowledged he had seen no evidence of election fraud but supported, as we did, the president’s right to issue legal challenges.
“The process needs to play itself out and ultimately if there’s no evidence, what that means in a court of law is you lose and that would be a definitive resolution of the election,” he told us in late November.
When those challenges fizzled or became increasingly frivolous, Cornyn acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect. When it came time to possibly object to certifying the election, Cornyn stood with the will of the people rather than one man who has continued to lie and subvert that will.
Rather than becoming a voice of madness, Cornyn supported Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, in his legislation to establish a bipartisan advisory committee to examine the integrity of the November election and tell people the truth.
The Republican Party now faces a choice. Do they become the party of sensible law and order conservatives like John Cornyn, Mike Pence and Tim Scott, or do they become the party of sedition, insurrection and QAnon? The best choice is clear, but how and when the GOP reaches its conclusion is, like the 2020 election was, solely in the hands of the people.