Saturday, July 9, 2022
Saturday, January 8, 2022
Editorial: The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol illustrated the risk of political violence. Voters in Republican districts can help stop it.
The task for people who support our democratic republic couldn't be clearer.
We ask those Americans to remember:
Donald Trump egged on a mob, and that mob, flying Trump flags and wearing his paraphernalia, broke through police lines and knocked out windows of the Capitol. More than 140 officers were injured; five people died.
They roamed the halls of Congress, some of them flying Confederate flags, some of them defacing the building, some of them threatening to hang then Vice President Mike Pence, who let Trump know he wouldn’t violate the Constitution and overturn the election as he presided over the formality of the Electoral College count that day.
Among the rioters were well-organized right-wing extremists, including members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, who saw an opening for violence and took it.
Trump could have intervened immediately. Congressional leaders, some staffers and his own son pleaded with him to do so. Instead, he belittled Pence in a tweet just moments after officers hustled the vice president out of the Senate chamber and then waited for hours to signal his supporters to go home. A Washington Post investigation found Trump watched the tragic events unfold on live TV and did nothing, "repeatedly failing to perform even the basic duties of his job."
Trump's White House had been warned trouble was ahead but did nothing to stop the chaos once launched, according to reporting by ProPublica. In fact, Trump encouraged it. He incited the riot.
Since the attack, Trump and his apologists have lied repeatedly about what happened.
They lied and said left-wing radicals were responsible for any violence. Police interviews of those arrested show the exact opposite — the attackers say they were doing what the president asked them to do to keep him in power.
The insurrectionists were not “tourists.” They weren’t “patriots.” It was not a "false flag operation" run by the government.
And while some of those downplaying the attack say it had nothing to do with race, "white supremacists and far-right militia groups were among the most active participants, and many rioters wore racist t-shirts," as reported by PolitiFact, which called lies about the attack and its significance the "lie of the year."
Black officers endured withering racial slurs. U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said he faced a torrent of racial abuse as he confronted rioters. Eugene Goodman, who is also Black, made himself a decoy to lure rioters away from members of Congress and Pence as they fled to safety.
Put to the test, Officer Goodman stood up as a hero in defense of democracy on that infamous day. Some of the same representatives he protected would later betray him and his country.
What Tiffany and Fitzgerald did
In contrast to Eugene Goodman, U.S. Reps. Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin were no heroes of democracy. They were among 139 Republican House members who voted against electors from either Arizona or Pennsylvania or both. They did this even after their lives where threatened by the marauders. Johnson, after saying he would do the same, thought better of it in the hours after the attack.
The votes by Tiffany and Fitzgerald were shameful and will be marked so by history. There is no evidence of anything amiss with the choices voters made in either Arizona or Pennsylvania — votes they chose to ignore and erase at the bidding of their leader.
Both later told reporters they would have voted to overturn the certified votes in their own state if only they had been given the chance. If they felt that way, they should have declared their own elections invalid. Fitzgerald and Tiffany were voted into office on the exact same ballots, counted in the same way. They have not done so.
What Johnson did
After casting doubt on the election results for weeks by claiming he“was just asking questions,” even as he admitted to a former Republican operative that he knew better—that Trump lost, fair and square — Sen. Johnson has continued to trample on the truth about the first attack on our Capitol since British troops invaded in the War of 1812.
Johnson downplayed what happened, saying it “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection” to him, ignoring the fact that that the violent mob used poles, clubs, tasers, fire extinguishers, boots, fists and bear spray to pummel police, and investigators found guns in the crowd and pipe bombs nearby. "A peaceful protest," he called it.
Later, Johnson claimed he wasn’t afraid during the attack because “I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law,”even though hundreds broke the law, sending some officers to the hospital and others to their graves. In fact, more than 700 people now have been charged with federal crimes in the Capitol attack, including several from Wisconsin.
Most unforgivable of all: Johnson chose to stoke racial resentment. He said if the march had been led by members of Black Lives Matter (instead of white supremacists like the Proud Boys), “I might have been a little concerned."
That’s more than a coded message — that’s using a bullhorn to encourage the very worst impulses in those people who still believe that the pigment of a person's skin has something to do with their value as a human being. The laws of our democratic republic, thank God, no longer recognize that belief as valid. No elected official in America should either.
If, as many expect, Johnson breaks his earlier promise to Wisconsin voters to not stay in office longer than 12 years and decides to run for a third term, he should be denied reelection on the basis of that racist remark alone.
There are more reasons to oust Johnson. They include his meeting in November with leaders of the Republican-controlled state Legislature, after which he advocated taking control of federal elections away from the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission. This would potentially set up a stacked election in the future where a partisan Legislature gets to decide how to count ballots and who gets the state's electoral votes.
It’s the kind of thing autocrats do — not officials elected to represent voters in a democracy. If you're the type of person who doesn't care, so long as your side is in charge, you should keep in mind that power often shifts from one party to another in our state and nation. Such a system would work as well to keep a Democrat in power against the voters' will as it would for a Republican.
What Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature are doing
Despite zero evidence of significant problems with the 2020 vote, despite recounts that have, in fact, delivered a few more votes to Biden, despite courts here and across the nation — in red states as well as blue — rejecting all legal claims of wrongdoing, and despite an audit by a nonpartisan arm of the Legislature that turned up no significant fraud, Republican leaders in Wisconsin continue to “investigate” the election.
In reality, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is simply stoking the Trump base as midterm elections approach and hoping to gain greater control over balloting. And he's using taxpayer funds to pull off this campaign stunt — which the state Senate's Election Committee Chair, a Republican herself, rightfully calls "a charade."
After Trump berated Vos for not doing enough to prove his lie that the election was stolen, Vos responded like a frightened underling and hired former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to “review” the election results.
This taxpayer-funded boondoggle is a running joke, with Gableman ignoring actual election experts and consulting, instead, with conspiracy theorists. The bill: $676,000 and counting.
Shut this "review" down and spend the money on something that would actually help Wisconsin citizens like fixing roads, supporting schools or expanding broadband service. Or give it back to the taxpayers. We're not here to finance your or any party's political nonsense, Mr. Vos.
Republicans in the Legislature also pushed bills to make voting harder — claiming they cared about “election integrity.” Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed them. Remember: There is a minuscule amount of fraud in elections in Wisconsin — every investigation finds no more than a few ballots to be invalid from both sides. The Republican bills were solutions in search of a problem, designed to tamp down their opponents' vote tallies while continuing to spread the lie about the last election.
What you can do
Support efforts in Congress to investigate this national tragedy. The Jan. 6 Committee in the House should be given whatever time it needs to complete its work. Let them show what they find to the public so the citizens of this country can demand the fixes necessary to preserve our democracy and keep the voters in charge of their government.
Hold enablers like Johnson, Fitzgerald, Tiffany and Vos accountable. Tell them you expect them to respect the right to vote and the results of elections.
Put pressure on elected representatives who know the truth but are paralyzed by fear to work for the good of our democracy to thwart political violence. If they pay attention to anyone other than Trump and the people who finance their campaigns, it will be to voters in their district — especially the ones most likely to vote in primary elections.
Frankly, it will take honest Republicans and independent voters who believe in representative government to fix this problem and end the threat of violence overturning election results. They are the people who live in the districts that have elected representatives who are ignoring or, worse, seeking the support of racist and conspiracy-soaked followers who continue to fly their leader's flags, wear his hats and eat up whatever he shovels their way.
As the Economist noted in an editorial last week, the Republican Party "still contains a large number of decent, patriotic voters who have been manipulated by a cynical group of leaders and propagandists into believing that, in saying the election was stolen, they are defending democracy. To presume that these people can be permanently treated as dupes would be a mistake."
Let's hope Republican and independent voters who believe in our democracy will also believe their own eyes, stand up for what's right, and demand their representatives do the same.
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