If there is any cold comfort in the events of the last two months, it is that the foundations of our democracy held against an unprecedented assault from the very top.
But it was a near-run thing, and the danger is not yet over.
Donald Trump did not create the paranoid, anti-democratic, violent worldview that was on display for the world as frenzied protestors stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, but he has encouraged it, taken every opportunity to legitimize it.
Donald Trump has opened the door and invited the ugliest fringe of American culture into the mainstream.
As lawmakers from both parties scrambled for cover and bullyboys brawled with police officers in the halls of the Capitol, the president was tweeting his love and support for the rioters.
This was not the first time. Trump refused to condemn the racist violence in Charlottesville. He merely told the White supremacist Proud Boys to “stand by” rather than disavow their menace. He has coddled, and at times kowtowed to, the world’s worst dictators and authoritarians.
Trump has achieved a shameful milestone: through his words and actions, he succeeded in allowing armed men with Confederate flags and Nazi-inspired symbology to roam the halls of the United States Capitol while our elected officials cowered in fear.
Donald Trump’s administration has been an astonishing display of incompetence and corruption, unparalleled in American history.
But his true legacy will be his failure to perform the most basic duty of the presidency: to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Historians generally agree that James Buchannan was America’s worst president. He did nothing as Southern States seceded. His crime was to stand by and take no action as the republic collapsed.
Donald Trump, by dismal comparison, has actively sought to undermine the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.
Removing Donald Trump from office is an obvious first step — he is too dangerous to remain in office even one more day. Waiting until Jan. 20, when Joe Biden will replace him as president, is to leave the awesome powers of the presidency in the hands of a reckless sociopath. The risk is too high.
Beyond Jan. 20, however, it will be necessary to dig out the foul roots of Trumpism. There must be accountability for Trump and for those who cynically enabled him. Voters should remember well those officials who stood by as Trump spread dangerous lies about the security of our election system and while he enabled and encouraged violent racist and anti-democratic forces.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, should vigorously pursue allegations of corruption, personal and political, by Trump and his hangers-on.
The Biden Administration must do what it can to reverse the poisonous policies of the Trump era and restore the crippled federal bureaucracy to some level of competence and honor.
We hope devoutly that Wednesday’s horrifying events will be a wake-up call to all Americans of good faith.
We know there will continue to be disagreements on matters of policy, but we hope we can all unite in saying “enough is enough” when it comes to enabling the dark and destructive forces from the ugly fringes of American politics and culture.
In his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln attempted to salvage the wreckage left behind by President Buchanan’s feckless response to Southern secession, saying, “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
If we remember and embrace these words, then Jan. 6, 2021 will be remembered not as the day American democracy died, but rather the day American Democracy was renewed.
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The Napa Valley Register Editorial Board consists of NVR President Davis Taylor, Editor Sean Scully, and public members Cindy Webber, Ed Shenk, Mary Jean Mclaughlin and Chris Hammaker.