Like most Americans, I was ashamed, appalled and embarrassed by the scene in Washington on Wednesday night when our fellow countrymen walked up to the Capital en masse, stormed the building and ran the members of the House and Senate into hiding until Capitol Police could clear the scene. This was more than a “peaceful demonstration” of dissatisfaction with the election. Numbskulls breaking into Pelosi’s office and shuffling though her desk, walking around the rotunda with lecterns from the chambers, breaking windows to gain entry … that’s more than expression. That’s vandalism, and in the seat of our nation’s government, it rises way above that. “Insurrection” is an overstatement, but not a big one.
President Trump told the crowd to head for the Capitol. He told them he’d go there with them, then climbed into his limo and went back to the White House to watch the mess unfold. Did he tell them to commit acts of vandalism and violence? Of course not. But he left a crowd of unhappy, fervent supporters leaderless outside the doors of a building where they felt an injustice was being committed. I’m not sure what else a rational person could have expected, so yes – he screwed up. And for that, I think he’s written his own political and public-life epitaph.
Elections being “stolen” aren’t new. Ask Richard Nixon – Mayor Daley bragged about making sure Illinois went for Kennedy in 1960. And Al Gore partisans will be more than happy to remind you that they feel the same way about the 2000 recounts here in Florida. But – when something goes wrong, you pursue the legal remedies and failing that, you then work to fix the flaws so it doesn’t happen again. That’s the only way the American Experiment is going to continue working. Otherwise, we simply turn into another third world entity where the politician with the biggest mob wins.
For my part, I hope SOME good comes from the shock value of those scenes at the Capitol, in the form of a wake-up call for all of us. Mobbing the seat of government is almost a natural extension of the coarseness we’ve let creep into our national discourse over the last few years. And it’s that coarseness I mourn even more than those unsettling TV scenes. Today, we
• Vandalize the private homes of political leaders we oppose and graffiti their doors.
• Routinely label errors and opinions we disagree with as “lies” instead of discussing them.
• Demonize people we oppose in office with the single goal of “raising their negatives” in advance of the next election.
• Boycott, refuse to do business with and sometimes eject customers from businesses based on their politics.
• Accept and get our news only from sources likely to reinforce conclusions we’ve already drawn.
• Paint entire populations and groups of people with vile and hateful labels merely because they disagree with us.
Feel free to fill in your own additions to the list if you like. This one took me all of three minutes.
And we do it, in large part, because the other tribe “did it first.”
“He hit me first” never worked for me when I was on the grade school playground, and I’ll bet it didn’t for you, either. Neither did “everyone else is doing it.” It’s juvenile, and as we’ve seen, the cycle of payback simply accelerates to the point where we now find ourselves a perilously small step away from armed conflict among ourselves.
The only solution is a FULL STOP. It’s time we all simply agreed to the basic premise that ALL of us want an effective military, a prosperous economy, low unemployment and upward mobility for all Americans of every race, creed and ethnicity. NO candidate capable of making it onto the national scene would make it into office without that basic, core set of desires. We can – and should – disagree on how to GET to those goals. Many officeholders have personal flaws and manners that we don’t find appealing. And every two years we have a chance to either place a “check” on their ability to do things their way – or replace them. But if we spend the next two years or four years with half of us trying to “pay back” the Democrats and the Biden administration for the terrible things they did to the Trump administration, that cycle of payback is going to ratchet up one more notch and none of us … NONE of us … want to find out where it could end.
I have a friend who described this nation as an aircraft carrier. Change captains, and the new one may want to change course. But it takes a LONG time to move a ship that big, and before anyone can turn it far, we’ll have another election and can change out the crew down the street on Capitol Hill. And the ship won’t move without a willing crew. It’s happened that way for the last five Presidents.
I wasn’t happy with the November or January election results; I wouldn’t have been dancing in the streets if they’d gone the other way, either. If you put up with my patter on the air, you may have gleaned that I think both major parties are full of beans. But before we start that “not my President” junk on a new holder of that office, consider the possible results of another few years of the garbage we’ve just endured in our national dialogue. You don’t have to be a supporter; but we owe it to each other to raise the level of our discussion to address the issues at hand rather than engage in another four years of personal diminimization that make US a less civilized society and over the long haul, do far more harm to ourselves than the person we hope to throw out of office.