Merriam Webster defines the word “patriot” as “a person who loves his or her country and is ready to boldly support and defend it.” The dictionary then explains that in the lead up to the American Revolution, the definition was expanded to mean “seditious rebel against the monarchy.” While many of the criminals who assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6 claimed a connection to the patriots of 1776, they were far from it. They were not patriots rebelling against a monarchy but a violent mob eager to throw out the results of a free and fair election and install their own candidate, one all too willing to act like a king.
This utter treachery begins with Donald Trump and his “Big Lie” — the claim that his victory was stolen by Democrats through election fraud — but it does not end with him. Republicans in positions of influence participated in and advanced the former president’s attack on our democracy and the full-fledged effort to overturn the will of the voters. And Trump’s angry base was eager to believe every deceitful word from these officials and spread this disinformation. After the “Stop the Steal” rally, they transformed themselves into Trump’s army and invaded the U.S. Capitol.
The right-wing militants call themselves patriots, but when they broke into the Capitol to halt the peaceful transfer of power, they became traitors to the values of this country. As they roamed the sacred spaces of government, calling for the head of Vice President Mike Pence, they committed treason. And when they paraded a Confederate flag where it had never before been, they showed their true colors as loyalists to white supremacy, not the United States.
Five people died at the Capitol as a result of their reckless, illegal attack. Members of Congress huddled under desks and behind office doors, fearing for their lives. Americans around the country remained glued to their screens, worried whether our government would survive the day.
For these terrors, we must hold all those responsible to account: participants in the invasion, Republican politicians who deliberately stoked election fraud disinformation or who stood by silently, and Trump himself. He called his followers to Washington, D.C., incited them with fighting words and a false narrative about a stolen election, and then he directed them straight at the Capitol. Trump carries the responsibility for the criminal acts and deaths that we all witnessed.
In the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6, many Republicans joined with the Democrats and publicly called out Trump for the attacks. But a week later, Democrats impeached Trump with a single Article of Impeachment, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” against the U.S. government and “lawless action at the Capitol.” Most Republicans, on the other hand, were already reverting to form, siding with their former leader and his base. These cowardly members of Congress actually chose to support a president who led a dangerous rebellion, not against a monarchy, but to establish an authoritarian, wholly anti-democratic government.
Now, in the midst of a deadly pandemic — when senators must also confirm key appointments made by President Joe Biden and pass the desperately needed COVID-19 relief package — we call upon these men and women to serve as fair and honest judges and convict Trump. While many Republicans may have already made up their minds to acquit, if they actually are true patriots, they will listen to the evidence and then cast a vote for accountability and justice for all.
Our country is divided, but as we face the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, now is the time to come together to hold all those responsible to account. The mob who invaded the Capitol. The GOP and the elected officials who stoked violence and repeated lies. And Trump who sparked a vicious and deadly attack on our government. All right-thinking Republicans must join with their colleagues across the aisle to demand Trump’s conviction, affirm Biden’s presidency, and pledge to work with Biden and the Democrats for the good of the country.
At a time of such serious crisis, it is a shame we have to take even a moment away from the critical work of dealing with the pandemic and providing economic relief to the American people. But justice demands this action. Our Constitution demands it. We must rise out of the ashes of this cowardly attack and create a country where our leaders reflect the very best of us, not the worst.
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