If last week’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol in Washington by supporters of President Donald Trump was scary, the reported follow-up riots planned for state capitols as early as this weekend are downright terrifying. Since Trump appears unwilling to stop them, the responsibility falls to the Republican state legislators who have reliably embraced and enabled Trump for the last four years.
We need Republicans to act to prevent any further loss of life. Congressional Republicans failed miserably at this in the days and weeks leading up to Wednesday’s insurrection.
The protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol hunting for Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will not be dissuaded from further violence by additional calls from Democratic leaders. They believe, incorrectly, that Democrats stole an election. Some even wish us harm. There is no message of unity from President-elect Joe Biden and no olive branch from Democratic leaders in Congress that can stop this storm. At this point, we need Republicans to act to prevent any further loss of life.
Congressional Republicans failed miserably at this in the days and weeks leading up to Wednesday’s insurrection in Washington, with five people dying in the aftermath. Unbelievably, 147 congressional Republicans still voted to overturn the election results declaring Biden the victor of the 2020 election even after seditious rioters invaded their hallowed chamber.
Will Republican state lawmakers do any better with the protests planned for their states in the days before the inauguration? They must take action to quell the violence this time around.
We’ve seen this toxicity, destruction and anti-democratic force in our own state legislatures. In Michigan, armed protesters occupied the state Capitol, and a group of terrorists plotted to kidnap and possibly kill Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; their actions were undoubtedly spurred by inflammatory rhetoric from Trump. And in Pennsylvania, Republicans refused to seat Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster, whose election was certified by state election officials.
At last count, more than a dozen Republican state legislators had been identified as attending the rally preceding the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol, including Republican colleagues of ours in Pennsylvania and Michigan. One lawmaker — West Virginia Rep. Derrick Evans — even recorded video of himself celebrating his illegal breach of the Capitol. (Evans resigned his seat after being arrested and charged with unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.)
Those Republican state legislators were at the Capitol to pressure Congress to ignore the Constitution and overturn the results of a lawfully conducted presidential election. Republican legislators in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming sent letters to public officials urging them to delay certification or overturn the results entirely, seeking essentially the same thing as the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol and symbolically standing in solidarity with them.
There’s the North Carolina state senator who said Trump should suspend habeas corpus; the Virginia state senator who called on Trump to declare martial law over Biden’s victory; the six New Hampshire state representatives who signed a “declaration” dissolving the state government over the governor’s Covid-19 policies; the Michigan state representative who intimated during a radio interview that there could be violence at a rally in Lansing related to a “Hail Mary” effort to disrupt the confirmation of Electoral College vote; and the Oregon representative who opened security doors in the state Capitol to allow violent protesters to enter and interrupt a special session of the legislature.
In short, Republicans in America’s state legislatures have consistently followed Trump’s lead in the dereliction of their constitutional duties, embracing Trump’s culture of denial and — most recently — perpetuating the lie of widespread election fraud in hopes of stealing the presidential election from the voters.
That makes GOP state legislators just as responsible for impending violence as the president. They must quickly choose: Will they stand with Trump or with America?
Staying silent as extremists plan their attacks on capitols cannot be an option for Republican state lawmakers any longer.
The FBI is warning of planned efforts by armed protesters to “storm” state, local and federal courthouses as well as state capitols in the days leading up to and including Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony in Washington. Twitter cited similar intelligence pointing to a second attack being planned for Sunday in its announcement that it was banning Trump from its platform.
Staying silent as extremists plan their attacks on capitols cannot be an option for Republican state lawmakers any longer. And tepid statements bemoaning violence after the fact can’t be enough to get them off the hook. The Republican state legislators who helped Trump fan the flames of division and distrust must now take responsibility for putting out the fire.