Jan. 6, 2021 will go down as one of the most disgraceful days in United States history. It is normally the date set every four years for Congress to confirm the Electoral College vote and the election of a president and vice president. It is normally a day of formalities and unity. This year it was a day when a mob led by home grown terrorists including members of QAnon, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, supported by President Trump and his sycophants in Congress, broke down doors and windows to storm the Capitol building, overwhelming police and threatening members of Congress and their staffs.
What I find incredible is they were spurred on for weeks by a group of Republicans who supported President Trump’s wild claims the election was stolen. They helped Trump rile up his supporters, feeding them lies and conspiracy theories already debunked by state Boards of Elections, state legislatures and courts at all levels including the Supreme Court.
I can possibly understand Americans who have very little or no education believing some of these lies. But incredible as it seems some of the people spreading these lies and inciting insurrection were educated at our most prestigious universities. These elite schools should be embarrassed by their graduates who have committed sedition and they must take action in response if they are to save their reputations. This is not about First Amendment rights, which some claim, rather the actions of their graduates trying to overturn a basic tenet of our democracy, the right to vote and have your vote counted. They called for and supported insurrection.
I don’t know all the schools involved but we do know where some members of Congress who voted to overturn this election went to school. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) attended both Stanford and Yale. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attended Harvard, as did Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). Stefanik even serves on the advisory board of the prestigious Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard where hundreds have already asked them to sever any connection with her.
One hundred and twenty-eight members of the House of Representatives and seven senators participated in efforts to overturn legally certified elections and invalidate the votes of millions of people in numerous states. They should all be charged with sedition, which their speeches and votes surely were. The definition of the term sedition is “conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.” Their speeches on the floor of the Congress, and statements to the media, surely fit this definition.
Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned President Trump if he doesn’t resign she would introduce impeachment proceedings in the House. By the time this column is published that may have happened. We must not allow an American president to walk away without repercussions for the violence and insurrection he fomented. There should also be charges filed against Rudy Giuliani and Eric Trump for their statements inciting violence at Trump’s rally, which preceded the mob going from the White House to storm the Capitol.
The individuals who breached the Capitol must be considered domestic terrorists and should be dealt with as such. Their actions were an insurrection. The FBI is rounding them up across the nation and the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. and Justice Department, as well as the D.C. Attorney General, are looking at appropriate charges to file against them.
What must happen is an in-depth investigation of the Capitol Hill police, which may find some were complicit with the mob.
One thing that should not be overlooked is how law enforcement prepared for and dealt with this nearly all white mob. It is clearly different than it would have been if this mob had been Black or brown. The racism is clear and very troubling.
There is much still to learn about all this and we must be prepared for more violence leading up to the inauguration on Jan. 20. We must punish all we find complicit, and all those who entered the Capitol, to the full extent the law allows. We must make clear to all Americans and to the world acts of insurrection and sedition will not be tolerated if our democracy is to survive.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.