Wednesday morning, President Trump addressed the crowd that would later become a mob, invading and vandalizing the Capitol and attacking police officers trying to safeguard the heart of our nation’s democracy.
“Our country has had enough,” Trump yelled. “We won’t take it anymore.”
He shouted lies about the election — that he won, that it was fraudulent — he has been repeating since early November, when it became clear he had lost. He whipped up the crowd, firing his supporters with the idea that something precious had been taken from them.
“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical Democrats. We will never give up. We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
Just a few hours later, the crowd advanced on the Capitol, breaking through a skimpy police presence, flooding the steps and the balcony of the monumental building, streaming through its grand halls and rooms, taking videos with their phones and smashing things.
In the melee, a woman was fatally shot and several police officers injured.
How do those who have enabled and emboldened Trump, while also claiming they “Back the Blue” — like our congresswoman, Elise Stefanik — justify the fury that the mob turned on police officers, after being whipped into a frenzy by the president?
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Stefanik and others will be trying out excuses over the next few days, saying how surprised they were by what happened.
But Trump called for this, and politicians like Elise Stefanik, with their silence, went along with him.
Wednesday’s riot didn’t start as a rally for a just cause. It was prompted by lies. The election wasn’t stolen, as Trump kept shouting. He lost fair and square.
Some of the mob may believe Trump’s lies, but people like Stefanik don’t. She knows he lost, but she and others have engaged in a cynical game of pretending otherwise for their own gain.
In explaining why she was going to object to the Electoral College results — a process that had just begun when the riot broke out — Stefanik referred to Article II and the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution, saying they “make clear that I have an obligation to act on this matter if I believe there are serious questions with respect to the Presidential election.”
But that’s not true. Those parts of the Constitution lay out the process for Congress to accept the results reported by the states. They say nothing about making objections. Justifying herself with the Constitution is part of her game.
This riot didn’t just happen. The anger of the Trump presidency has been building toward it. It built when Trump excused violence in others, the way he did with the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, and when he pardoned people who had committed violent crimes, including murder. It built when he trotted out his grievances, stoking resentment in his followers, and justifying their urge to lash out.
But one angry, dissembling man cannot create all by himself the dark mood that hovers over America now. It takes a crowd of enablers to accomplish that — people who see an opportunity to advance their own interests at the country’s expense. Elise Stefanik has been one of those people, a shame for everyone in her district but mostly for herself.
Local editorials are written by the Post-Star editorial board, which includes Ben Rogers, president and director of local sales and marketing; Brian Corcoran, regional finance director and former publisher; Will Doolittle, projects editor; and Bob Condon, local news editor.