To say we are at a critical juncture in the history of our country – the greatest experiment in democracy the world has ever seen – is a vast understatement.
It is clear that we are in this horrific state due to a lack of responsible leadership, as I said in November an abdication of responsible leadership, in large part due to commitment to lies over truth.
And to go deeper and realize that the destruction we witnessed last week was directly incited by the current President of the United States, in an unspeakably irresponsible, brazen and cowardly act to try and disrupt the counting of valid electoral votes – one of the fundamental elements of our democracy coupled with the peaceful transfer of power – is in a word, unthinkable.
And to go yet another level, it’s astounding to note that after the destruction at the Capitol (including five deaths) and the heroic efforts of several woefully-compromised police officers to protect our Congressional representatives, more than 100 Republican members of the House and Senate voted against certifying the election results – thus supporting the continued fallacy that the Biden-Harris victory was not legitimate.
That is unfathomable.
For weeks countless Republican lawmakers have continued to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election results, pandering to the often-mentioned Republican “base.” They would do well to reflect on the video footage of the destruction at the Capitol this week, and consider the key question: Is this part of the base to which they are so committed to support, and in so much fear of alienating? A mob of domestic terrorists whipped into incendiary fury by the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mo Brooks, Donald Trump Jr., and the outgoing President?
And why? Because these “leaders” are consumed by the arrogance that comes with power, and they are solely concerned with prioritizing their own interests over the good of the country. They remain solely committed to promoting lies over truth in order to push their own agendas for personal gain.
These individuals are anything but leaders, they are in fact cowards, because they are unwilling to speak the truth to their base for fear of consequences to their own personal interests.
And we need a re-commitment to truth like never before.
We saw incredible acts of heroism from the Capitol Police on Wednesday, while we simultaneously saw incredible acts of cowardice from Republican “leaders” like current President Trump and Rudy Giuliani who actually made calls to Congressional allies to encourage them to delay the electoral certification to allow more time for a mob of domestic terrorists (a mob which they released) to bear down on them with the intent of harming the Vice President and the Speaker of the House (the number 1 and 2 successors to the Presidency).
Astoundingly, Trump was reported to be “borderline enthusiastic” by the actions of the mob and refrained from taking action to send resources such as the National Guard to address the situation in order to let it rage. All in the hope of delaying certification of valid election results in a narcissistic effort to cling to power while members of Congress were under attack.
All of this is a stark reminder of the fragility of our democracy today, and it requires us to look inward regarding our expectations of our leaders.
We need to start with some core concepts. First, truth matters above all else. Without commitment to truth, our democratic institutions and way of life will crumble. Second, we all need to understand the power of words. Our words matter, and we must use them responsibly. Third, our actions have consequences, and individuals that act irresponsibly – especially those that act to threaten and harm our democratic institutions and our people – must face the consequences.
For four years, the non-stop stream of lies and trampling of democratic principles and institutions by the Trump Administration has set back the state of American democracy and weakened our position in the world to an incalculable degree, all while strengthening repressive regimes and weakening the potential for the spread of democracy in other countries.
And on January 6th we saw the impact of continued epic lies and incendiary words. We again did not see leadership from the Trump Administration, we again saw an abdication of leadership. Instead, we saw sedition, we saw insurrection, and we saw treason.
The words and actions of outgoing President Trump and his cortege of Republican “leaders” – their deliberate efforts to disrupt the certification process, damage the Capitol building, and harm individuals – are completely antithetical to the principles of democracy.
As Senator Murphy of Connecticut noted in December, you can’t hate democracy and love America.
Our current situation stems from an unwillingness to embrace truth, and our democratic institutions absolutely depend on truth – along with responsible leaders who have the courage to speak the truth, act accordingly, and place the good of the country over their personal ambitions.
For those Republicans in Congress who are still willing to support outgoing President Trump and block efforts to either impeach him or have him resign – they simply must consider long and hard that this individual intentionally incited a mob to not only disrupt one of the most core proceedings of American democracy, but to do great harm to those engaged in it.
And if those actions don’t deserve swift and extensive legal consequences, what does?
They might also consider that it took four days for the White House to lower the flag to half-mast in honor of the fallen officer, indicating that outgoing President Trump’s support remains with the invaders of the Capitol versus those who did their best to defend it and the Congressional members within. To those Republicans, had you been killed in the riot, it’s doubtful that he would lower the flag for you, either.
And last, they might consider that ironically, by supporting the invasion of the Capitol and the overturning of the electoral certification, they are supporting the very “socialist” ideals that the Trump Administration and its allies profess to despise.
I was in the Capitol a year ago. I marveled at the beauty of the building, and more importantly, all that it stands for – including the concept of unity.
Somehow, we must strive to emerge from this crisis in a more unified state, which will take time.
And everything starts with a re-commitment to truth from our leaders, along with a commitment to responsible speech and actions, prioritization of service to country over self-interest, and a return to balance through respectful collaboration and honorable compromise.
We need leaders who can actually lose with dignity and honor in order to preserve, rather than weaken, our democracy.
Going forward, upon restoring our democracy, we will hopefully be able to make rapid progress on so many pressing social and environmental issues underpinning the SDGs – issues which must be addressed to improve both national and global security. Issues that can, and must, unite us.
But as for this invasion of the heart of our democracy, there are no qualifiers, no buts, no rationalizations to minimize the destructive actions of President Trump, his key allies, and the insurrectionists. The U.S. and the world are facing the consequences of those actions. The instigators must too, to the full extent of the law.