When going to bed yesterday evening, I drifted to sleep in the knowledge that I would awake today and see reports of disputes and objections to the result of last November’s Presidential Election. Members of Congress had every right to take these actions – though, to be frank, they were (and are) ridiculous and pathetic attempts to dispute the clear and legitimate victory of president-elect Biden, in order to assuage the bruised ego of President Donald J. Trump.
Never for a moment did I imagine, last night, that upon my waking, notifications would clog my phone informing me that the leader of the free world would incite his supporters, telling them to march ‘up Pennsylvania Avenue’ to the Capitol Building.
Yet that which was unthinkable has dominated my television, my phone, my news sources.
What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States.Senator W. Mitt Romney
Let us make a few things very plain.
Treason is not patriotism. Sedition is not patriotism. Insurrection is not patriotism.
Today President Trump demonstrated that he would rather burn American democracy down than concede his own defeat. The American founders and framers, who devised a Constitution designed to distinguish their New World from the absolute monarchies of the Old World, feared such an event. The peaceful transfer of executive power was the highlight of this Constitution.
The scenes surrounding the storming of the Capitol befit a tyrannical, authoritarian regime, not the beating heart of Western democracy. The assault against law enforcement, the evacuation of elected officials, the tragic death of a woman, has debased the seat of the world’s oldest democracy before the eyes of the entire world.
Respected Republicans, from President Bush to Senator Romney and even Trump’s current Vice President Michael Pence, have dissented and condemned these inexcusable actions supported by President Trump.
This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic. I am appalled by the reckless behaviour of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement.President George W. Bush
The President of the United States is the servant of American democracy and republicanism, not its master. The peaceful transfer of power is not an abstract, but a fundamental necessity.
Lies and conspiracy theories from those in positions of power are dangerous and undermine the very foundations of civil society. These lies and conspiracy theories have led to literal blood on the flagstones of western democracy. These lies come not from irrelevant officials, they come from the top – from the President! – from those who have sworn duties to uphold the Constitution. These things matter – the incoming President summed it up perfectly:
At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite….President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Words matter, and the denigration of traditions and legal civic practices and processes are dangerous.
Let this be a reminder to us all that, comfortable as we are, our democracy, our values, our traditions, are not guaranteed. If they are not maintained, mobs of revolutionaries and radicals are on the fringes, ready to sweep in. Respect for civic institutions is not mere ceremony: it is necessity and must be reinforced and maintained lest the mob storm, rage and grind those institutions into oblivion.
Truth matters. Honesty matters. Integrity matters. If you take nothing from this dark day for western democracy, take this: the truth is never dispensable. Facts may be ugly, and there will be times in your life when things don’t go your way. But the choice that all rational citizens must make – face the facts, accept the truth and never accept violence or the desires of the mob – is the only choice. Let this be a reminder of the necessity of respecting institutions and always speaking truth to power. The alternative to taking these actions is unthinkable. The alternative is the first storming of the United States Capitol since 1814.
The alternative is blood on the flagstones of democracy.
Alexander Back is the Vice President of the Conservative Club