Hopes were high among many going into the new year, buoyed by the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. There was little fanfare or the usual nostalgic reflection, but rather a hurry to turn the page to 2021, as if the change in the year would serve as a salve of sorts.
But instead, the pandemic — at its peak in the Bay Area and across the country, with hospitals overwhelmed and the U.S. approaching 400,000 deaths — has become a backdrop in the aftermath of an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
At the behest of President Donald Trump, who called on his supporters to come to the Capitol to "stop the steal" — a reference to his fraudulent and inflammatory claim that the election he rightfully lost was "stolen" from him — a mob stormed the Capitol while Congress was convened on Jan. 6 to certify the Electoral College results from the presidential election. The shock that ensued was not incredulity that this president could incite violence — because that's been proven time and time again — but rather the juxtaposition of the riot at America's capitol, the disturbing sights of the Confederate flag and a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt and white supremacist-caused destruction at a site that's considered the hallowed grounds of democracy, where the democratic process of confirming the results of a presidential election was playing out. The shock came from seeing how easily this happened, and, as more details emerged, from knowing how much worse it could have been. (And the full effects won't be known for some time, as a growing number of lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus amid reports that some Republicans refused to wear masks while crowded in a secure space that day.)
But it should surprise no one that the president won't take responsibility for his actions, that he said this week that his rhetoric leading up to the insurrection was "totally appropriate." Nor should it surprise people that many Republicans leaders, some of whom have been spreading the lie about the election themselves, are suggesting that Congress move past one of the darkest days in our country's history without any action against the president, all in the name of unifying the country.
Whitewashing over the events at the Capitol Jan. 6 would not only not unify the country: It would go against the oath of office leaders take to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and a send a message to citizens and adversaries alike that such actions are tolerable, and that our democracy can be trifled with. It could encourage another security lapse with more dire consequences, as law enforcement officials have already warned about armed protests being planned at all state capitols and the U.S. Capitol in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Jan. 20.
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, a resolution for the second impeachment of President Trump came to the House floor, stating that he "gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States."
We agree with the 232 U.S. representatives who voted to impeach Trump a second time. The president should be impeached and removed from office, not only for the reasons cited in the resolution but also because he has demonstrated — through the insurrection and beforehand — that he is a threat to our country's security and democracy every day he remains in power.
The rioters and those who aided the mob must also be held accountable. We should come together, as our country has in previous attacks, and unify under the notion that we will not tolerate violence and attempts to interfere with our democracy.