The only other siege of the U.S. Capitol was by the British in 1814, when they torched the White House, the Capitol, and other federal buildings.
Wednesday’s assault, over 200 years later, was more insidious since it came from within. Thousands of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in his name. Incited by an earlier rally, when Trump declared he would “never concede,” some breached the Capitol Building, disrupting Congress’ constitutional duty of certifying the Electoral College results. The stunning scene was one of the darkest days for our republic’s democracy, when the so-called president incited violence toward the country and government that he is entrusted to lead. Then again, the country and the government are not truly his; they are just props in his deluded and lie-fueled reality show.
Except in the actual reality, we witnessed an effort to overthrow democracy. The actual reality is that we witnessed an attempted, and bloody, coup.
Early Wednesday afternoon, the House and the Senate were in their respective chambers, debating objections by some senators and representatives to the Electoral College results.
Rioters broke into the building, shattering glass and breaking windows, with some making their way to the Senate floor. In the entrance to the House chamber, rioters and Capitol Police had an armed showdown. Others made their way to the office of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and left her a note reading, “We will not back down.”
At least one woman died after she was shot by law enforcement. One police officer was transferred to the hospital. Despite the bloody incident within the Capitol Building, it was hard not to compare the patience of the Capitol Police with the predominantly white crowd with the aggressive response of law enforcement to Black Lives Matter in D.C. — or in Philadelphia.
The images of the unprecedented attack on the United States Capitol are shocking, but not truly surprising. Since before the election, Trump and his enablers in Congress and in elected offices throughout the nation, including in Pennsylvania, have pushed lies and conspiracies about the validity of the election. That set the stage for the violent insurrection that unfolded in the nation’s capital Wednesday.
Despite absolutely no proof of voter fraud or any widespread issues with the election in Pennsylvania, eight of the nine members of the Pennsylvania Republican delegation to Congress planned to object to the Electoral College votes from the commonwealth.
Their names are Dan Meuser, Scott Perry, Lloyd Smucker, Fred Keller, John Joyce, Guy Reschenthaler, Glenn Thompson, and Mike Kelly. This insurrection is Trump’s legacy, but also theirs — among the many other enablers within the party.
A few of these Pennsylvania Republicans have condemned the violence. That is far too little, too late. The insurrection is the logical conclusion of their political theater, an objection to a free and fair election that they knew would not change the outcome. In their hope of a nice tweet from Trump, or a spot on Fox News or Newsmax, they’ve poured the fuel that gave a mob the excuse to storm the Capitol.
Any blood that was spilled today is also on their hands. If they still object to the Pennsylvania results when the certification eventually continues, their action will be a tacit approval to the siege.
The Pennsylvania state Senate Republicans who on Tuesday refused to swear in a Democratic colleague are as complicit. These stunts erode democracy.
Four years into his presidency, there was no reason to expect Trump would rise to the occasion. And he didn’t. Following a statement by President-elect Joe Biden, imploring Trump to “step up,” Trump told supporters in a taped statement, “It’s time to go home.” He also repeated the lie that the election was stolen and he won in a landslide — the excuse for this coup attempt.
In less than two weeks, Donald Trump won’t be president anymore. That is a fact. What we hope is that the ugly vision of seeing democracy physically breached will be a wake-up call to understanding how close we were, on Jan. 6, 2021, to actually losing it.