What a heart-wrenching day for our nation. The live videos of the hordes of Americans flooding the US Capitol were literally nauseating.
One of the most disturbing images was of a man sitting in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chair. For those unfamiliar with my views, my firm convictions about what are good policies for the country overlap with the speaker’s ideas almost never. Yet I was viscerally repelled by that picture of that prideful, grinning, unkempt man sitting in her office chair—the man who would deign to unlawfully barge in our Capitol, disregard law enforcement officers, and raucously lounge at the speaker’s desk. Her office represents many things, among them are democratic republicanism, rule of law, debate, and peaceful disagreement. The man in the chair represents a rejection of this reality: lawlessness, brute force over reason, and mob rule.
In the days and weeks and months, after we get through a peaceful transfer of power—Lord willing—we will dissect and debate over how we got here.
For starters: our country is enduring enormous pressure right now. We are months into a pandemic caused by a novel virus that leaked across the borders of China, an enemy state, and that the Chinese government covered up and still lies about. Pandemic-prompted government mandates have shuttered businesses, plunged families into financial crisis, have kept families away from the churches of which they are covenanted, have kept children out of in-person learning, and lonely elderly parents and unwell wives and husbands separated from their loved ones.
And while everyday Americans endure the mandates, they repeatedly see on their TVs government officials hypocritically flouting their own mandates. Many of those same officials permitted and even cheered protesting that veered into lawless rioting in the streets that harmed innocent Americans and destroyed businesses and livelihoods in the name of racial justice against police brutality. Resentment burns as brightly as the distrust. And while everyday Americans can see plainly what is happening before their eyes, many media figures with large platforms excused the inexcusable, and even defended the destruction or downplayed the vandalism of our monuments and businesses, and promoted the anti-American 1619 Project that gave a patina of serious intellectualism to an erroneous, insidious, and destructive view of the meaning of the American regime.
But none of the toxic combination of forces, events, and behavior excuses or even lessens the behavior of the president of the United States leading up to the events that unfolded yesterday. In fact, the enormous weight of his office, what it represents, and the potential to affect so many people demands he rise to the occasion and steward his power for the good of others. The fact—and it is a fact—that he not only failed to rise to the occasion, but made it far worse during these extremely trying times makes his behavior unusually disgraceful.
The president saw the pile of parched leaves that was his base, poured on gasoline in the form of conspiracy theories and accusations about widespread election fraud (that did not prevail in courts of law), lit a match, and flicked it onto the pile. And rather than seeing the enormous fireball he created, he watched it burn for far too long, and then moved too slowly and without commitment to dampen and extinguish the flames.
Thousands of Americans flooded the National Mall, to their minds, in defense of just elections and for the president. The vast majority were there because they have lost trust in the elites whose vocations are to serve them, represent them, keep them safe, and carry out justice. Most were well-intentioned and were peaceful. The president encouraged them to gather in DC, and the president told them untrue things about the presidential election—that it was stolen and that they were disenfranchised. They were not. And he exploited them.
A small fraction of that massive, whipped-up crowd stormed our Capitol, the sacred building that represents deliberation and the rule of law. Now a young woman, an Air Force veteran, is dead.
It is a day for national weeping—but only a day. Many Republican elected officials—including Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Tom Cotton, and Congressman Liz Cheney—used their unique positions of influence and came out early to defend the integrity of the electoral college and therefore republicanism. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stands out as one who rose to the occasion and gave a historic defense of our Republic and the rule of law. I commend it:
We have so much work before us to address the many problems that plague our country, and I admit to feeling uncharacteristically discouraged by the last several weeks culminating in the events yesterday and by the ensuing animus between Americans that have played out on social media and elsewhere. The division is toxic, and the inability to see its causes is disastrous. It is my hope and fervent prayer we can, with clear eyes about our fixed and fallen nature, and with confidence in God’s grace to enable men and women to do good in spite of our fallenness, recommit to the defense and the betterment of our exceptional nation.