You’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem, and today marks the one-year anniversary of very big problem for the Republic: the first break in America’s 244-year streak of peaceful transitions of presidential power.
Last Jan. 6, a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol building to confirm President Elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory over President Donald J. Trump was interrupted by a seditious Trump-supporting mob.
The soon-to-be former President had incited them during a rally earlier that day. Live news video of Trump supporters storming the United States Capitol building, breaking windows to gain entry, roaming Statuary Hall, legislator’s offices and the floor -where Rhode Islanders send our representatives to speak for us – were later joined by reports of Trump supporters surrounding state capitols in Texas, California, Georgia, Michigan, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Five deaths have been attributed to the events of that day, including the shooting of rioter Ashli Babbitt as she attempted to force her way into the House chamber where members of Congress were sheltering, and USCP Officer Brian Sicknick, who died of a stroke as a result of injures sustained as he and his fellow Capitol Police Officers defended the Capitol, Congress, and, it is impossible to overstate, America itself.
Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) urged then-President Donald J. Trump to resign, and failing that, for Vice President Mike Pence or Congress to remove him from office for his role inciting the riot. RI’s U.S. Attorney vowed to hold any Rhode Islanders who participated accountable. Nationally, more than 675 individuals have since been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, including more than 210 charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, among them Rhode Islander Timothy Desjardins, 35, of Providence in November. Desjardins is charged with engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds, civil disorder, and assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers with a dangerous weapon, among other charges.
Prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection, Warwick Post asked several Warwick City Council Candidates if they supported the peaceful transition of power in the United States. The question, unthinkably naive a handful of years ago, was prompted by years of Trump’s irresponsible, groundless and self-serving efforts to sow doubt in American elections, as well as his refusal commit to a peaceful transition of power.
Many Warwick candidates, to their credit, answered the question by pledging their support for continuing to honor the peaceful transition of power in the United States, stating their commitment to honoring the will of the people, the basis of American democracy.
Two candidates, John Falkowski running for Ward 3 and Tom Trudell running for Ward 6, did not answer that question. It wasn’t a tough ask. Not a hardball question. Not by a country mile. Answering that question is the very least of what a candidate should expect to be asked when the President refuses to acknowledge his duty, and intent, to honor the will of the people.
It’s arguably the most softball of softball questions in politics.
Two months later, the question was, to the horror of many, proved very relevant. The candidates who answered to publicly support peaceful transfer of power, those people are part of the solution. You should ask them about their answers at meetings and events. Thank them for opposing a wannabe dictator, and taking the opportunity to defend the ideal of honoring voters’ will.
It’s important to point out that these candidates stood up for the same principles soldiers and veterans defended with life and limb. Warwick’s landscape is peppered with monuments to their sacrifices. Those sacrifices were for an America where the rule of law prevails, where free and fair elections settle the political direction of our government.
You should also ask the candidates who had the chance to stand up for those American values, and the cornerstone of American democracy, and passed it up.
Ask them why they passed up a no-brainer opportunity to defend America before their fellow citizens, friends and family.
That’s important because the Capitol rioters hailed from all over the United States, from all walks of life, including at least one Rhode Islander. That signals a breakdown in at least the perception of local communities’ commitment to American democracy. These people, incredibly, thought they were the good guys as they struck deeper at the physical and idealistic heart of America than King George III, the traitors Benedict Arnold and Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the USSR or its vestigial authoritarian state successor, Russia, could have imagined.
Next time — and both recent public evidence and pre-WWII history telegraph a next time is likely, they might win. If they do, at the very least, for God’s sake, they should know they’re not the good guys.
More elections are coming up, with new debates, and new questions. We’ll ask candidates about all that, but count on this: Candidates will get regular opportunities to pledge their support for the peaceful transfer of power, and to promise to honor the will of the people.
You’ll get to decide if their answers make them worthy of your vote.
Assuming they take the trouble to answer.
To be part of the solution.
This is a test