[Note: This editorial first appeared in the UpNorthNews morning newsletter on Thursday, Jan. 7.]
Here are the words we wrote in an editorial on Tuesday: “The safety, the security, and the rights of every American depend on maintaining and improving American democracy.”
But just 24 hours later, we saw direct attacks on democracy—the first was rhetorical, a shameful and un-American political stunt to cast doubt on an American election, and the second was physical and downright nauseating.
We wish we could say we were surprised. But there is no shortage of warnings that there would be consequences when ideologies and media figures whip a crowd into a frenzy with years of disinformation. We were conditioned to think of attacks on America as external threats, carried out by people who tried to destroy the caricatured version of the United States they’d convinced themselves was real.
But as we learned on Wednesday, America has internal threats of attack, too. This time, it was a mob of predominantly whiny white people who could no longer tell the difference between the America we live in and the dark, fantasy version coming from their TV and radio shows. While this attack did not seek mass disruption through death, its aim of mass disruption through the hijacking of an election actually caused more long-term damage to our democracy.
This was an attack on every American voter. When we go to the polls, we know we may not be casting ballots for the winning side, but we know our votes are sacred, handled properly by good Americans, and counted fairly. This was reaffirmed again and again in court after court over the past two months. And still a mob tried to say your vote doesn’t matter and should be second-guessed or taken away.
This attack, this desecration, and this deadly tragedy did not happen organically. It happened because of the direct words and actions of Sen. Ron Johnson and Congressman Tom Tiffany who chose to back the first American president to try to seize power by force.
They and every Republican who supported various efforts to overturn an American election have broken their oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. They need to resign. Or they need to be expelled. They are no longer fit to serve this country or this great state.
Johnson, a still-proud purveyor of Russian-inspired disinformation designed to undermine US elections, was asked after the tear gas had cleared if he and the president bore any responsibility for the carnage.
“No,” he said simply.
Tiffany was among several conservatives who tried to be too cute by half, conjuring up past events that involved protests against racism, protests against police violence, protests against a proposal to strip away workers’ collective bargaining rights.
We’re sorry, in which of those was the United State Congress breached in this nation’s first-ever violent attack on the peaceful transfer of power? Such a comparison is as delirious as it is disingenuous, with more than a hint of the systemic racism that fueled the white nationalists who engaged in domestic terror in the halls of our Capitol.
Here’s a reminder for Johnson and Tiffany and everyone still flying a Trump flag: You don’t have to like the results of how Americans voted. But, by God, you have to accept it. And if you undermine it, there must be consequences—not so much for the sake of punishment but for deterrence. We must not risk sending a message that this kind of sedition is harmless and acceptable after the next contentious election.
This editorial space endorses lawful efforts to pursue these consequences because President Trump cannot be left in power for these next 12 days. And Ron Johnson and Tom Tiffany cannot be trusted to put their country and their state ahead of their party and their personal ambition. To finally use one of their favorite phrases in its proper context instead of as a dog whistle: This is about law and order.
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