The U.S. Capitol was assaulted on Jan. 6, 2021. The most powerful country in the world saw the seat of its government ransacked and the elected officials who are a part of that government placed in grave danger.
It was an attack on one of the world’s most recognized symbols of democracy. It was an attack that came about because some people cannot accept the results of the democratic process that building represents.
The crowd that gathered on the Capitol grounds was large enough that there were undoubtedly some people in it who were unaware of what was about to take place. Some people became convinced to participate in events along the way. Others may have gotten caught up in the moment, standing outside the building. Some were whipped into a frenzy by Donald Trump’s rhetoric during his rally that took place just down Pennsylvania Avenue.
But it is becoming obvious there were many people who went to Washington, D.C., with the sole purpose of doing whatever was necessary to interrupt the counting and certification of the votes of the Electoral College. Whatever the original motivations of attendees may have been, the crowd became a mob. As more information comes to light, it even appears some people had more than one goal in mind.
Whether it is the gallows that were erected in front of the Capitol; the explicit chants of some of the hordes running rampant in its hallways; or the imagery of some of the assailants with flexi-cuffs, body armor, and handguns, the chilling realization sets in that there was intent to go well beyond protest – possibly all the way to the violent overthrow of Congress and the assassination of a sitting vice president.
It is painful and surreal to have to consider those things as even remote possibilities in the United States of America. But the sooner we realize there are people capable of convincing themselves the best way to practice democracy is to destroy the one they already have when they disagree with its results, the sooner we can effectively address the situation. That will take time and will not be easy.
The good news is, one of the things that could help put things back on the right path is going to happen on Jan. 20, despite efforts to prevent it. It is not that Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the next president; it is that Donald Trump will not be president anymore. That, in and of itself, is a step in the right direction.
During Trump’s first impeachment, there was reason to wait and see what evidence was presented before reaching a decision about whether he needed to be removed from office. Now, there is ample reason and evidence to get him out of the Oval Office as quickly as possible. He has some culpability in what happened at the Capitol last week. He did everything he could to indirectly provoke the incident.
As is his way, he crafted his language to try to disguise his intent and to leave open an escape hatch in terms of legality and public relations. As he grows more desperate to cling to power, his ability to speak in that way, allowing him to claim whatever meaning for his words he needs them to have at any given moment, is diminishing. His intent is becoming clearer every day.
Will that be enough to accelerate his White House exit through impeachment or the use of the 25th Amendment? That seems unlikely. And that is unfortunate.
Jason Nichols is District 2 Democratic Party chair, an instructor of political science at Northeastern State University, and former mayor of Tahlequah.