On Jan. 6, 2021, the world watched in horror as thousands of insurrectionists launched an assault on the U.S. Capitol. As commander-in-chief, Donald Trump’s primary duty is to protect America’s and Americans’ safety. Instead, he commandeered members of his base – who, like him, refused to accept his defeat in the 2020 presidential election – to go to Capitol Hill to subvert the electoral vote to certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
It was a bone-chilling experience to witness the mob viciously attack and desecrate this cherished seat of American democracy, but also one that felt frighteningly familiar. I personally dealt with the fury of Trump supporters when I publicly came to the defense of the widow of my constituent Sgt. La David Johnson after the president spoke dismissively and callously in a so-called condolence call. As we saw last week, they know no bounds.
I also was angry because having watched for years Trump’s willingness and ability to stir up crowds based on misinformation and bald-faced lies, my intuition told me that there would be trouble when congressional lawmakers returned to Washington to certify the election results. To assuage my concerns, I sought a briefing from a member of the Capitol Police on the kind of security measures that would be put in place, and even offered some suggestions of my own, such as erecting a perimeter around the Capitol to keep lawmakers and our staff safe as we performed our constitutional duties.
Despite the assurances that I was given, the Capitol Police found themselves as much at the mercy of a mob as the rest of us were. Many were assaulted as they struggled to prevent the crowd from entering and defacing the building. Sadly, one officer died as a result of his injuries; a second later committed suicide. And, it has been reported that some members of the Capitol Police are being investigated about whether they acted in cahoots with the insurgents.
Touring the Capitol that night between votes was surreal. What once felt like one of the safest places in the world, and one whose interior is truly a sight of beauty to behold, had over the course of a few hours transformed into a crime scene, complete with broken glass and doors; overturned furniture; documents scattered on office floors; the residue of pepper spray, tear gas and fire extinguishers on statues and in the air; and more. These images, as well as those of the physical violence we witnessed on our television screens, will be forever imprinted on my brain.
I couldn’t help but wonder: If a group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators had taken over the Capitol, would the walls be covered in blood and would I be stepping over body bags? The answer is a resounding yes. The events of last week were stunning examples of white privilege and the extraordinarily disparate treatment that people receive based on the color of their skin. It also was a stark reminder of how our nation will never heal or be whole if we do not confront and address the bias in the criminal justice system.
In the end, however, the responsibility for this tragic day, which ultimately claimed six lives, belongs to Donald J. Trump. From the day he descended down the elevator in the atrium of Trump Tower to announce his plans to run for president, he has sown discord and dissent. On every issue of importance and urgency, from the coronavirus to national security, he has abdicated leadership or acted irresponsibly, and has for four years been a very clear and present danger.
The Trump chapter of American history is filled with shameful and often cruel words and actions. But inciting what basically amounts to domestic terrorism took his unfitness to serve in the highest office in the land to a desperate new low. For that reason, I will enthusiastically cast my vote to make him the first president to be impeached twice. Some people ask what the point is, given that his administration ends in seven days. I believe that anyone who does not support this step is complicit in his actions.
After its trifecta loss of power in 2008, the Republican Party underwent a period of soul searching that aimed to widen and diversify its political tent, and even elected an African American to head the Republican National Committee. Not only did that plan not work, but in the past four years, the GOP has become more of a cult than a political party, and its members have demonstrated time after time that for them, providing cover for a wannabe autocrat like Trump far outweighs the good of the American people and our democracy.
That is why it is so vital that every eligible American exercises the right to vote in every election. Because, let’s face it, that’s what the insurrection was really all about – disenfranchising voters, particularly Black and brown voters, who made their voices heard on Nov. 3, 2020, and delivered an unimpeachable victory to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, making history in the process.
Now is not the time for silence or complacency – in Congress or in the voting booth. The world is watching and we must hold Trump and his enablers accountable.