Enough is enough.
Any last shreds of credibility and dignity that the Trump presidency and its most fervent supporters had were swept away Wednesday by the grotesque spectacle of Americans storming the Capitol Building. The final throes of the administration were not those of aggrieved frustration, they were those of destructive rage.
We watched in horror as a wave of violent chaos forced its way into our seat of democracy. Mobs smashed windows, sent members of Congress and their staffers cowering as deliberations in both the House and the Senate were suspended and security officers were seen with guns drawn and held at the ready.
At least one person reportedly was fatally shot within the hallowed halls and there were reports of at least three other deaths associated with melees outside the Capitol.
Americans have witnessed such scenes before — on TV screens in film and video from far-off failed states or banana republics, not from our own capital city, which should serve as a beacon of carefully and proudly maintained democracy for all the world.
President Trump, who has fomented the kind of anger and violence that boiled over Wednesday, needs to unequivocally concede that he lost the election — not through fraud but by the choice of the people. He needs to do this not just for the nation, but for himself, truly making good on his affirmation late Wednesday that there will be an “orderly transition” from his tenure to that of President-elect Joe Biden.
For there will indeed, despite Wednesday’s disgraceful episode by the mob, be a transfer of power. Despite the challenges — perhaps even threats to our democratic system not seen since the Civil War — the institutions of our government worked.
During a once-in-a-century pandemic, our presidential election was not canceled or postponed — indeed, more people voted in the Nov. 3 presidential election than in any other in our history. Our courts, with judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, turned aside unprecedented challenges of states’ vote totals.
Congress, despite being disrupted by the violence Wednesday, affirmed Biden’s victory as the Senate and House rejected objections against the vote totals in several states, including Georgia and Pennsylvania.
And Vice President Mike Pence Pence, who had a largely ceremonial role in Congress’ affirming of the results of the Electoral College, ignored the hectoring of his president. In a statement shortly before presiding, he said he could not claim “unilateral authority” to reject the electoral votes that make Biden president.
Despite the rejection of Team Trump’s claims of widespread voting fraud, it’s fair to acknowledge that questions remain. Rep. Tom Reed, while stating that he would uphold the Constitution and would not object to any state’s electors, nevertheless said, “We can rebuild trust in our elections by transparently addressing the last-minute, confusing way some states conducted voting in 2020.” We second that sentiment, not least in Pennsylvania, where late changes to the voting process helped open the door to claims of malfeasance.
But for now, the focus must be to complete the transition to a new Biden administration and for the nation to unite in its efforts to end the pandemic, set in motion the recovery of our economy and, wherever possible, reach common ground that is for the overall benefit of Americans.
There will be disagreements and spirited debate. Reed, a Republican from Corning, N.Y., in an address on the House floor Wednesday night, acknowledged that he will be “passionate” in his opposition to the majority party in the House.
“But I will stand with you tonight and send a message to the nation and to all Americans that what we saw today was not American. … And I respect my Republican colleagues and my Democratic colleagues, but today let us pause and remember what happened here today. Let us pause that our tenure in this Congress will far surpass the time we stay here.
“And it will let us cast our votes today recognizing what we do here today will set the course of this institution for years to come. And this institution, Madame Speaker, shall not fail. Because the United States of America shall forever be a beacon of hope. The inspiration to all.”