Normally by this time I would have written a blog post wishing everyone a “Happy New Year.” This year, however, given what has happened in our country over the past several months, I decided that I needed to wait. No, the cause of my waiting is not the COVID pandemic. As terrible as the impact of the virus has been on many families around the world, I am confident we will find a way to overcome it. The reason I delayed my “Happy New Year” blog post is because of a pressing, sincere concern: a concern for our country and our democracy.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) called it “the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Trump.” This event, this horrific onslaught at the very core of our democracy, is something that I am still struggling to come to terms with. On Sunday, the WSJ published a photo of National Guardsmen marching in front of the U.S. Capitol with the headline, “Troops, Blockades and Eerie Quiet Pervade a Locked-Down Washington.” Even after reading the article several times, I found myself asking, “Is this really happening in the United States of America? Is it true that Washington, D.C. is in ‘lockdown’ with 20,000 National Guard members?” One of my European friends called me wanting to know, “What is happening in America?” I honestly did not know how to respond. Yes, it feels surreal and hard to believe that what is happening is actually nonfiction, but it is real, and it is happening.
As you know, I talk and teach almost daily about the importance of BALANCE and of maintaining a BALANCED PERSPECTIVE. As a result, I am very aware that many of my fellow Americans believe that there was significant fraud in the presidential elections last November. I was actually supportive of President Trump and his allies filing more than 60 lawsuits across numerous states challenging the legitimacy of the election. I viewed this as their constitutional right. I believe that the ability to challenge, argue, and protest are some of the great ingredients of a well-functioning democracy. This makes a lot of sense to me.
Here’s what does NOT make sense to me: After virtually all of the lawsuits were dismissed — many in states where the judges were Republicans — the arguing and protesting continued. Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, said in dismissing one of the Pennsylvania lawsuits, “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”
This was followed by Attorney General Barr, a strong Trump supporter, stating that the fraud was not significant enough to impact the outcome of the election, and that Joe Biden won the election. I thought this would bring the controversy to an end.
What I did not expect was the response from President Trump up to and including the January 6th assault on our capitol. Trump repeatedly encouraged his supporters on Twitter to show up for a “big protest” in Washington, D.C. on January 6, the day that Congress was to certify the Electoral College votes. At a Georgia rally on January 4, Trump told supporters:
“…I really believe we’re gonna take what they did to us on November 3rd — we’re gonna take it back.”
If there remains any doubt as to Trump’s culpability for the January 6th attack, here are several of his actual statements at his rally right before the attack — not so-called “mainstream media” spin:
”Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will ‘stop the steal.'”
“Unbelievable, what we have to go through, what we have to go through and you have to get your people to fight. If they don’t fight, we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don’t fight. You primary them. We’re going to let you know who they are, I can already tell you, frankly.”
“And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, on January 6th, sixty three days after the election, 133 Republican congressmen and 7 Republican senators continued to protest the election results!!!
Given President Trump’s statements and the conduct of 140 of our congressmen and senators, should anyone be surprised at what happened on January 6th? I don’t think so. By the way, I will admit that what DID surprise me was that President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Guiliani, who I used to respect for everything he did in NYC in the aftermath of 9-11, actually “warmed up the crowd” outside of the U.S. Capitol by stating, “Let’s have trial by combat.”
Okay, so where do we go from here? My prayer is that, as we have done in every presidential election since April 30, 1789 (that’s 232 years), we can have a peaceful transition of power and find a way to work together as citizens of the United States of America rather than sliding into another civil war. I hope we can demonstrate to the world — as we have done since 1789 — what U.S. democracy really means. On the eve of the inauguration of our new president and vice-president, I wish all of you not only a “Happy New Year,” but a “Happy New Beginning” — a beginning of a better America; an America that sees a return to values-based leadership.