After the chaos of Jan. 6, we should each demonstrate in word and deed a renewed and active commitment to American self-government.
Keith Allred // Tennessean
On Nov. 1 in The Tennessean, I expressed how crucial it is to the ongoing American experiment that the losing candidate and their supporters honor the voting results.
Threats to the proud American tradition of the peaceful conclusion of elections were already gathering on the horizon, regardless of who won.
The increased polarization of our times and the divisive campaign made it clear that if their candidate lost, either side would find it difficult to accept that outcome. The pandemic and foreign adversaries’ concerted efforts exerted pressures on the states’ voting systems that created concerns on each side about the security of our election.
The election is now over. As prescribed by the Constitution and federal statute, Congress has counted the certified electoral votes sent to it by each state and confirmed that Joe Biden has been elected president and Kamala Harris vice president. Thankfully, many patriotic local, state, and federal officials from both parties have met the storm that did indeed come with integrity and fidelity to their oaths.
We should all be particularly grateful to the hundreds of Republican officials and Republican-appointed judges. It took extra courage for them to put the republic before partisan interests despite extraordinary pressures to do otherwise.
However, the faithful discharge of their duty by the many has been overshadowed by the violations of sacred American traditions by a few at horrifying, historic levels.
Future generations of Americans will shake their heads at the aftermath of the 2020 election. Setting himself starkly apart from every one of his 44 predecessors, the president of the United States encouraged supporters to go to the Capitol and “show strength.”
Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the West wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
On their march from the rally convened by the president, citizens exercising their sacred rights in our republic to protest and dissent transformed into a lawless mob. Committing violence against police they claim to support, they laid siege to the Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from completing its constitutionally prescribed process.
President Trump departed even more consequently from 230 years of presidential leadership by staying silent for hours as the violence escalated on screens being watched across the globe. Even when he did finally call for peace, he praised the rioters as special people.
The insurrection and President Trump’s rejection of the best of American tradition failed at multiple levels.
The rioters were unsuccessful in preventing the count of the states’ certified results. In the process, they powerfully reminded us why we embrace evidence and the rule of law over violence for the resolution of our disputes. One of the most important reasons is totally practical. It simply doesn’t work.
Rather than advancing, President Trump and the mob set back their own objectives. They horrified and alienated many with whom they had had common cause. Senior administration officials who have been loyal to President Trump, including Vice President Pence, distanced themselves.
Senior Republican Members of Congress who have also been loyal supporters of the president, including Senate Majority Leader McConnell, repudiated the effort to overturn the election through riot.
Every-day Americans were repulsed by the chaos
If President Trump sent muted and mixed messages, many Members of Congress displayed the most impressive leadership of their careers by denouncing the failed coup in stirring and passionate terms.
Members of Congress who had been planning to join the protests of Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s electoral votes thought better of it. The total number of states that senators were willing to protest dwindled by two-thirds.
Many everyday Americans who voted for Trump were repulsed. And those already opposed to him were fueled by the Trump’s excesses and the insurrection to new levels of opposition. If the election were held again, the president would likely lose by much more than seven million votes. As Vice President Pence said to re-open the temporarily delayed process, “violence never wins.”
Our shared horror at the coup attempt on January 6 poses a question to each of us: will we each step up to do our part to get to a better place? Frightened and sickened, we could turn away and ignore our divisions. Instead, we should each demonstrate in word and deed a renewed and active commitment to American self-government.
What are the duties of citizens now?
There are crucial roles to be played by leaders and citizens.
President-elect Biden has a solemn responsibility to lead our efforts to come together as he has pledged to do. Senators facing a 50/50 split and Representatives facing one of the most closely divide Houses in history should focus on measures wise enough to attract bipartisan support.
By approaching Inauguration Day and beyond in peace, we as citizens can do our part to extend the longest record the world has ever known for abiding by the voice of the people.
By treating each other with dignity and respect, Trump and Biden voters alike can honor the best traditions that we share as Americans.
Taking these steps, we can each play our part in passing onto our children a republic that continues as a shining example of government by the people. We owe that to ourselves and to them.