Donald Trump's 'big lie' about imagined voter fraud birthed conspiracy theories, violent extremists
We’re going to start in a familiar place, but we’re going to state it again.
Joe Biden won the office of United States president in a free and fair election, and he will be sworn in this Wednesday. President Trump lost the popular and electoral college vote, and on Wednesday, he will be heading to Florida to begin the next phase of his life.
These facts were clear as of Nov. 7, give or take a day. But for Trump and many in the Republican party who followed him, they were all part of a far-fetched conspiracy. In a nation wracked by a pandemic and political distrust, the president’s unwillingness to concede fueled political extremism. What seemed like a silly goof in late November (remember the Four Seasons Total Landscaping news conference?) spawned a full-scale domestic terror attack in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.
Now, with the inauguration nearing, the same extremists who broke into the hallowed halls of our democracy are threatening violence at 50 state capitols. Precautions are wisely being taken, and eyebrows are being raised.
It’s time for plain talk: Violence and threats of violence are totally unacceptable. Lawmakers must denounce them, and denounce them forcefully. We cannot allow peaceful protests — protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution — to become riots. Everyone in and around state and federal governments should welcome a peaceful exchange of ideas, but that means listening as well as speaking.
A peaceful exchange of ideas doesn’t include manifestly untrue conspiracy theories. The “big lie” spouted by Trump — that he was cheated out of an election he won — is nonsense. It has been nonsense from the start. If our leaders aren’t willing to denounce that lie, and to give it no quarter, they have no business being our leaders.
We are all still sorting through the implications of last week’s assault on our democracy. There is much still to be learned about how it happened and why.
But there must be accountability, on every level.
The impeachment of President Trump by the U.S. House of Representatives is just the beginning. The domestic terrorists must be arrested, charged, and tried. If elected leaders gave them aid or comfort, they must also be held to account. We expect thorough investigations, both from law enforcement officials and congressional oversight bodies.
We have our political system — we have elections — to resolve our difference of policy. That is why we have senators, representatives, governors, presidents and the rest. We have agreed, as a country, to forego violence in resolving our disputes.
Those who would break that social contract, either in Washington, D.C., or in Topeka, have no place in our democracy.