To the Editor:
With just days remaining before the inauguration of Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States, we had hoped to be able to turn the page on the disastrous four years that would thankfully end at noon on Jan. 20, 2021.
But January 6, 2021, a day that will, itself, live on in infamy, has many Americans reflecting on what has happened to this country and one of its major political parties.
Let’s not harbor any illusions about what took place in our nation’s capital. Trump incited a mob to overrun the Capitol building in order to halt a process required by the US Constitution that would confirm Biden’s election as president. While we’ll never know the motivations of every participant, although one of the biggest reasons was Trump’s “Big Lie”, in this attack on America, there is evidence to suggest that at least some within the mob intended to take hostages. Videos of the event recorded participants urging the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence. Windows and doors were smashed in. Offices were trashed and looted. Blood was shed. People died. America was embarrassed before the world because a mentally unstable man could not admit that the American people had rejected him.
Had the perpetrators of this insurrection been more competent, we could have lost it all. Congressional leaders and the VP could have easily been taken hostage or killed. Trump would have declared martial law, as he threatened many times, and suspended the Constitution and we’d be just another banana republic under the thumb of a dictator. We were a lot closer to such an outcome than many of us may want to accept. The edifices of government mean nothing without people of honor and decency operating within their halls.
We didn’t reach this point as a nation easily, and it will take time to emerge from this dark age of American democracy. But we believe that the events of Jan. 6 speak to a fundamental failure of the US educational system. A mob descended on Washington because they lacked a basic understanding of how government works.
A citizenry that understands the workings of our electoral process, and the many checks and balances that are in place in each and every state to guard against fraud, would be less gullible in the face of the false claims by a dishonest president and his supporters regarding the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. Most of Trump’s insurrectionists were in their 30-60’s. This was not their first rodeo with presidential voting. How many times have we waited days to weeks for a true count? How many states have up to 3, 5, 10 days to count mail in ballots? What are their state laws for counting votes? Trump thought that every state stopped counting any ballots left at 2 am? Did anyone in CA say to themselves,” but it’s only been two hours since our polls closed?” You live in Florida, do you not know what the voting laws are? Can Florida open the votes before the election is complete, the day of the election? How many days after the election do we have to open those mail-in’s? We were in a pandemic, how many mailed in their votes? There were a extraordinary amount of mail-ins due to COVID-19.
Informed and educated Americans would recognize that claims that were rejected more than 60 times in courtrooms across the country, many presided over by judges appointed by Trump himself, have no legitimacy because they would understand the process by which courts examine evidence and weigh its credibility or lack thereof.
It is the same with the response to the coronavirus and resulting pandemic. Too many Americans lack a basic understanding of science. In too many schools, science is taught as history, rather than as a rigorous method for better understanding the world around us.
People who don’t understand how science operates, how elections function, or how the laws and norms that Trump so proudly flouts exist to protect us all against abuses of power, are ill equipped to recognize the dangers of a demagogue like Trump.
Fueled by social media and abetted by cowardly GOP members of Congress, who refused to hold Trump accountable for his lies and abuses of power, millions of Americans found themselves sucked into a rabbit hole of mass delusion from which they could easily be manipulated. Trump and his minions in Congress took advantage of his voters. They knew because of the indoctrination of “if I lose, it will be because they cheated”, for 1 year. Did anyone look at Trump’s polls for 1 year? He was never ahead of President Biden for 12 months. They also knew that the Trumpers do not have critical thinking skills. It led directly to the mayhem of Jan. 6.
President Trump, without question, incited that mob and deserves ever lasting ignominy as a result. But members of Congress, including every GOP member of Congress, abetted the mob through their own actions.
American people in the belief it would boost their political fortunes. It led, instead, to one of the most shameful events in American history.
The reveling memo in Bob Woodward’s book “Peril” which has not previously been made public, provides new detail showing how Trump and his team tried to persuade Pence to subvert the Constitution and throw out the election results on January 6. This is a direct link to Trump.
Clearly, there must be a reckoning. For GOP leaders who looked the other way through four years of Trump’s abuses, real soul searching is in order. Can the party recover from the Trump cult of personality and begin to stand for something other than his own self-aggrandizement?
Until that happens, even many longstanding Republicans believe their party is no longer fit to govern. The events of Jan. 6 strongly suggest they are right.