Even after the riot subsided, Trump continued to incite his followers on Twitter. As he wrote: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” As a bonus, Congress can prevent him from ever holding office again.
Second, why was security at the Capitol so lax? Certainly the Defense Department, which controls the National Guard in D.C., had forewarning. Likewise, what explains the failure to conduct mass arrests after the siege? Those responsible for these failures need to be held fully accountable.
Third, will the insurrectionists be expelled? House and Senate members who brought spurious objections seeking to overturn the will of the voters, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have violated their oaths and forfeited the right to retain their seats. They perpetuated the lie that the election was stolen and then sought to overturn the will of the people. (The photo of Hawley pumping his fist in the direction of the violent protestors should end his career.)
Ideally, they should be expelled from their respective congressional chamber, though that would require a two-thirds vote. Assuming that’s not possible, they should be stripped of committee assignments. If they are lawyers, they should be stripped of their law licenses. Republicans unwilling to stand behind insurrection should kick them out of the party and mount primary challenges to them when they next appear on the ballot. They have not only endangered our democracy, but encouraged a violent mob.
Fourth, what lesson will the remaining Republicans extract from Wednesday’s failed coup? The Republican Party is at risk of extinction. It will forever be associated with a violent attempt to overthrow the elected government. Some current members might decide to leave the party and find, as Abraham Lincoln once did, a new party to replace the empty carcass of a failed one. They could, as an initial matter, repudiate the refusal by Trump and others to respect the election results. They could pledge to refrain from obstruction (e.g., filibustering a voting rights reform) and to cooperate with Biden to swiftly confirm his nominees, pass a stimulus bill and proceed to the rest of an agenda widely supported by Americans.
Finally, where does this leave democracy reform? The events leading up to Wednesday prove that a wide array of measures to restore democracy and decorum must be considered, ranging from elimination of the electoral college (or at least, serious revision of the Electoral Count Act to avoid interruptions, delay and obstruction) to D.C. statehood (which may have better allowed the city to deploy guardsmen for its defense).
Attorney general nominee Merrick Garland should designate a special counsel to investigate post-election conduct, including the call Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made to Raffensperger, in which Graham allegedly suggested throwing out legal votes; the Trump-Raffensberger call; and the riots at the Capitol. Beyond that, Garland must lead a top-to-bottom housecleaning of the Justice Department, including investigations into any discussion between the Trump White House and Justice officials related to individual enforcement matters and sentencing decisions; expanded power for the inspector general to investigate misconduct by the attorney general or lawyers; and stiff new ethics rules.
Republicans are already moving to strip away no-excuse absentee voting and other measures that allowed a record number of Americans to participate in the 2020 election. Those efforts must be stopped. Meanwhile, lawmakers must strengthen pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act; fight for automatic registration; expand secure, no-excuse voting by mail; end gerrymandering; and eliminate onerous voter ID laws.
Jan. 6, 2021, will go down as one of the most despicable days in U.S. history. But it can also mark the end of a morally vacant and authoritarian party as well as the start of an era of reform. It will be up to the voters to make sure their representatives learn the right lessons.