Today is the saddest day I can ever recall for American democracy. People who have refused to accept the results of November’s presidential election stormed the U.S. Capitol. One woman has been shot to death. And sadly, the president of the United States is complicit in this day’s events.
Perhaps by way of confession, I acknowledge I voted for President Trump last November. I did so despite his obvious personal flaws because I believe that, in quite a number of respects, the policies he espoused during the previous 3½ years were, on the whole, good: the appointment of excellent judges; firm action in dealing with international terrorism; pursuit of peace in the Middle East, especially in bringing Arab nations to recognize Israel as a legitimate nation; efforts to control illegal immigration; improvement of economic opportunity for Black Americans; a booming economy until the onset of the coronavirus; and the list goes on. I believed President Trump’s policies were more in line with my beliefs than were those of President-elect Biden.
That said, a majority of Americans, Vermonters and Barre Town residents disagreed with my assessment and voted for former-Vice President Biden. In a technical sense, the election could be considered to be close, because a redistribution of about 45,000 votes in the states of Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and Wisconsin would have produced a tie vote in the Electoral College and election of the president by the House of Representatives; however, that was not the case. Consequently, it has been clear since at least mid-November that Joseph Biden has been duly and legitimately elected as our next president. Any assertion to the contrary is irresponsible.
Unfortunately, chief among those challenging the clear facts has been President Trump. He has claimed the election was “stolen” from him; he has promised to “primary” any Republican who has not supported his claims; he has demanded public officials, notably the secretary of state of Georgia, change the vote totals; he has deprived the incoming president of needed security briefings and in other ways has hindered the transition process from administration to administration; in the improvident exercise of his rights, he has had his attorneys file one incompetent lawsuit after another unsupported by any demonstration of evidence; he has split the Republican Party and, in my view, is largely responsible for the loss of the two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia yesterday; and he has exacerbated the polarization of the citizenry of this nation.
Most of all, his words today clearly incited his supporters to march on the Capitol, and even this evening, he attempted to justify the actions of the thugs — yes, thugs — who invaded the Capitol and rioted against American democracy this afternoon.
Clearly, the loss of an election hurts. When it is an election for president of the United States, and the incumbent is defeated, it hurts as intensely as any hurt can. But that is no excuse for the behavior of Donald J. Trump for the past two months. In the past century, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush all lost their bids for reelection. None of them behaved as Donald Trump has behaved, and each one facilitated an orderly transition of administrations. I sincerely believe the loss of this election has caused President Trump to take leave of his senses, and I believe his continuation in office, even for the remaining 14 days of his term, is a danger to this country.
In my view, the following actions should be taken, both in the short term and the longer term:
— The vice president and the Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Donald J. Trump from the office of president for the two weeks remaining in his term.
— The Republican Party should make it clear that it repudiates, without qualification, the actions of the rioters today and Donald Trump’s claims to future leadership of the Republican Party.
— Republicans need to stand up to Donald Trump’s threats to “primary” those whom he considers have not been loyal enough to him. True Republicans need to unite behind candidates whose principles and policies they endorse, not candidates defined by their loyalty to Donald Trump.
— For 2024, Republicans have a long list of well-qualified candidates for the presidency, including Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott and the list goes on. We need to resolve and be clear that Donald Trump will not be the GOP standard bearer in 2024.
— Americans of all persuasions need to reject the extremes and commit to working together, compromising (it’s not a dirty word) and governing from the middle. Neither the extreme left nor the extreme right commands a majority in this nation. A good degree of moderation is needed to get anything reasonable done.
— We need to renew our commitment to faithful adherence to the structures and procedures our founding fathers enshrined in the Constitution that has served us so well for more than 230 years.
And finally, we all need to pray for this nation.
Thomas Koch, a former legislator, lives in Barre.