If we gloss over the attack on our Capitol, January 6, 2021 may be seen in the rear view mirror as the worst day in our country’s history. Moving on from this without holding the perpetrators accountable may very well sound the death knell of our democracy as we know it.
Having worked in and around government for the past four decades, I know how important it is for federal officials to communicate with the American people during unprecedented times. Here is what we all deserve to know right now.
Our leaders need to openly acknowledge how our justice system is tilted in favor of White Americans at the expense of Black people in this country. No one can escape the vivid images of White privilege on display yesterday in contrast to the heavy-handed police response against Black Lives Matter activists last summer.
Democratic leaders also need to make clear how they will hold the President accountable. It is deeply disappointing and dangerous that Congress is now adjourned. Instead of taking swift action, this break signals that the President — who should be held responsible for inciting violence — will be allowed to act with impunity. The failure to act will only exacerbate domestic terrorism and fuel acts of sedition.
Congress should move to impeach and convict Trump to bar him from holding office ever again. Initiating impeachment proceedings would also force Republican members of Congress to go on the record and declare whether they are on the side of Trump’s fascist thugs or our democracy. At a minimum, lawmakers should censure Trump and condemn his actions.
Republican leaders also need to take responsibility and look within their own party to confront those who helped encourage this insurrection. By spreading disinformation and trying to overturn the results of the election, Republican lawmakers have given domestic terrorists the justification to take matters into their own hands. The Republican Party must clean house before it can restore its credibility with the American people.
The President’s cabinet also has a responsibility to seriously consider invoking the 25th amendment for the good of our country. If they believe Trump does not pose a clear and present danger to our nation, they should issue a public statement saying so. But they work for us, not the President, and they should — at the very least — sit down and have that discussion. They owe us this.
I know from personal experience that a strong voice from a White House in crisis is critical to our country and our democracy. If White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany can’t face a free press and answer any questions after what happened yesterday, she should resign. Reading a prepared statement and then fleeing without facing questions just doesn’t cut it.
Regardless of whether White House officials decide to jump ship just days before the end of Trump’s term, these staffers owe us all an explanation for their role during the President’s reign of political terror. We pay their salaries, and a clear-eyed explanation of what happened and why they chose to stand behind Trump might help avoid another dangerous presidency.
Trump has revealed to all of us how unprincipled politicians will continue to recklessly play with fire until we all get burned. Every time we let Trump and his henchman get away with something, they are emboldened to try something even more sinister. Simply put, we have to make the political pain of this disturbing behavior disproportionally higher than the political gain of malfeasance.
Too many Republican leaders today are more interested in preserving their own power than protecting our democracy. But failing to act now could very well turn yesterday’s events from an ugly and shameful episode into a pivotal turning point that sparks the destruction of our democracy. It is impossible to overestimate what’s at stake if we don’t move quickly and decisively to crush the anti-democratic forces that threaten us all.