Watching what is happening in Congress is heartbreaking to me, as a small-d democrat, and as an American. That our elected representatives would attempt to undermine a free and fair election is frightening. What has our country come to?
Whatever it has come to, it has been a long road to get here. Listening to Mitch McConnell wax lyrical about American democracy and our institutions and advise his Republican colleagues against “partisan vengeance” is so rich I could gag. This is the man who has spent the past decade engaging in partisan vengeance, from saying “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” to refusing a hearing on Merrick Garland, to railroading Amy Coney Barrett onto the Supreme Court, to, to, to. Any speech about the need to come together as Americans without some repentance of his own sins just rings hollow.
His comparisons to the lone Democrat who objected to the 2004 election as well as Democratic concerns about the 2016 election also ring hollow. To begin with, John Kerry distanced himself from Barbara Boxer’s objection in 2004. Kerry, unlike Trump, conceded shortly after Bush’s victory was declared. He accepted the results of the election. There was no concerted effort by Democrats to undermine the validity of Bush’s re-election or to steal the election from him.
The same is true for 2016. Democrats — and many others, including some Republicans — expressed deep concern about Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Turns out, they had good reason: nearly 40 people were indicted during the course of the Mueller investigation. But again — and this is crucial — Democrats accepted the validity of Trump’s election.
There were no attempts to invalidate the results of the 2016 election, no claims from Democratic leaders that Trump was illegitimate, no attempt by Hillary Clinton to undermine the will of the people, even though the will of the people was in fact for her to be president considering she won the popular vote. Congress certified Trump’s victory, and he was sworn in without issue.
Yes, there was sustained protests and opposition to Donald Trump. Welcome to democracy, where the losers don’t magically shut up. I wouldn’t dream of telling Trump supporters to sit down and shut up, not least because it would do no good, but also because it is fundamentally illiberal. Let them protest the day of Biden’s inauguration, just as we did. Let them form a #resistance to Joe Biden. Let them organise and vote in droves in 2022 and 2024.
That is what we did, because that is what you do in a democracy. It’s what makes elections peaceful and our republic function. The loser knows they will live to fight another day.
What we did not do, Ted Cruz, is insist that Trump won through fraud and engage in a collective delusion about a stolen election. Texas’ answer to Harry Wormwood stood on the floor of the Senate and insisted that it was a “reality” for half the country that the election “was rigged.” That isn’t true. It isn’t a “reality” for half the country that the election was rigged, it is a delusion. A lie.
Cruz asks what it says to those who think the election is rigged if Congress certifies this vote. Well, it says “turn off Fox News and rejoin us in reality.” Encouraging the insane in their baseless and harmful fantasises is not healthy — for them or for the republic. Yet that is what Ted Cruz is asking Congress to do. Disgraceful.
This is a dangerous moment. Now I’m watching Mike Pence being rushed out of the Capitol by the Secret Service, while Trump supporters gather outside. Not sure what is going on, but MSNBC is saying Capitol police are evacuating the chambers, and a protestor — you can’t really call them that after they cross the Rubicon like this, but I’m not sure what to call them at this moment — have breached the Capitol. Multiple members of Congress are being told to shelter in place, Chuck Todd just reported. My God.
Who among us is surprised by this, though? Chaos, confusion, anger, aggression — this was always where this road ended. Adam Kinzinger just called it an attempted coup, and he is right. It is one Republicans are resonsible for. Republicans have created a monster, and now they’ve lost control of it. They have no one to blame but themselves. They brought us here with their illiberal machinations and attempts to steal an election they know to be free and fair.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, we now have to contend with this unruly beast. Who knows where or how this ends, but I fear it is nowhere good. A tragic but — thanks to Cruz and McConnell and of course Trump — inevitable turn for democracy. For America.
Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan