Donald Trump put his vice president, Mike Pence, in a tough spot. He publicly pressured Pence to attempt an illegal ploy to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
To his credit, Pence chose duty to country over loyalty to Trump and announced Wednesday that he could not and would not do Trump’s bidding. It’s too bad Pence didn’t say this weeks ago. Maybe it would have helped defuse the hostility that culminated in Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol.
There are many fingers of blame to point for the frightening and deplorable assault on the Capitol Wednesday by violent supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.
The first one, of course, has to be directed at the rioters themselves, who must be held accountable for their decision to storm a seat of government in a hopelessly vain effort to keep Trump in power. No matter the intoxication of a mob gathering or the enticement of others, every lawbreaker must be held personable responsible for his or her decisions. You break the law, you pay the price. Isn’t that what conservatives, including the ultraconservatives who worship at Trump’s feet, say?
But not far behind in responsibility for what transpired is Trump himself. The president has spent the last two months — not just at Wednesday’s rally in Washington or the days just prior — fomenting his supporters’ anger and passions with totally unsubstantiated claims that he was cheated out of reelection. Dozens and dozens of courts, including the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, and numerous authorities, including from his own party and his own administration, have rejected Trump’s claims that voter fraud occurred on a scale large enough to deprive him of victory.
It’s a bald-faced lie that Trump has been peddling and continued to peddle even while most of the rest of the country was stunned and disgusted by the insurrection he incited.
In two weeks, Trump will be a bad memory. But what will linger is the stain assigned to the rest of the blameworthy: those Republican officeholders who backed his baseless claims of election fraud, backed his shameless efforts to try to overturn the results in states he narrowly lost, and backed his attempt to derail the normally perfunctory process of certifying the Electoral College totals. The damage to our democratic institutions — not to mention the blood of the one victim in Wednesday’s riot — is also on their hands.
At least two of these co-conspirators, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, have presidential ambitions. Cruz, who was humiliated by Trump during the 2016 GOP nomination contest, has capitulated to his former adversary in hopes of securing the support of the GOP’s far right four years from now. Hawley is a similarly craven opportunist.
If either of them is the future of the Republican Party, that party is in trouble. It may keep the Trump base in its corner, but most of the rest of the country will be repulsed by what this type of appeal produces: a divided, angry and explosive nation, one that is susceptible to betraying what makes us the exemplary of the world.
For nearly two and a half centuries, the United States has had the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. Even those who narrowly lost bitter elections would rise above their hurt to gracefully concede to the winner and ask their supporters to accept the majority’s choice.
The era of Trump has broken that enviable tradition. No matter their political persuasion, all Americans should demand its return.