On Tuesday, January 6th the odious rhetoric of the past four years took a scary, unpatriotic, and anti-democratic turn when Trump supporters stormed and took over the Capitol. It was the first time the Capitol was violently seized in 200 years, and the first time it was ever done by our fellow Americans.
This outcome was predictable. The actions were the culmination of years of falsehoods and enabled grievances taken to their extreme. Many are blaming President Trump and his cohort’s rhetoric on stage, and while their comments were the final spark, the causes of these violent actions were years in the making. It took years of lawmakers enabling President Trump’s worst violent and anti-democratic impulses, downplaying each one as a mere attempt to goad his opponents or trying to provide a more appropriate explanation of what he really meant or rationalizing that he only says these things for “entertainment.
The insurrectionists did not think he was joking or only making violent statements for “entertainment”. There was an often-repeated phrase analyzing the 2020 election: Trump supporters took him seriously, not literally; his opponents took him literally but not seriously. Those who took violent action on the seat of our democracy took him both seriously and literally.
The incident in Washington, D.C. was not isolated. Other protests, a number of them violent, happened in state capitols around the country. They repeated the falsehood of a stolen election. A stolen election, if true, would be the most anti-democratic of acts. One might then try to justify taking illegal, anti-democratic, and violent action to “restore” democracy. However, the President and his allies never once provided a scintilla of credible evidence to support their false and dangerous claims. For lawmakers and other prominent people to humor the President in this context was dangerous and sowed the seeds for what happened. It will be a stain on those enablers’ political lives and their reputations forever.
At CalWild, we avail ourselves of democratic and political processes as a way to protect public lands. The attacks of January 6th will not deter us from that. We will stand with those willing to protect the truth, with those willing to protect our democratic institutions, and most fundamentally with those willing to ensure the just, righteous, and democratic continuation of our republic.