The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump is inciting chaos on Jan. 6, both in and outside the Capitol

President Trump rides in a motorcade vehicle in Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

JANUARY 6, the day Congress meets in a joint session to accept the results of the presidential election, should be a testament to America’s enduring democracy. Yet it may become a demonstration of its poor health. President Trump, along with craven enablers such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), is seeking to upend what should be solemn but largely perfunctory proceedings to ratify the victory of President-elect Joe Biden. The result could be a shameless show of support by numerous congressional Republicans for erasing the votes of millions of Americans — and, perhaps, mayhem incited by the president in the streets of D.C.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!,” Mr. Trump tweeted earlier this month in an appeal to his supporters to come to the capital to buttress his campaign to overturn the election results. He followed up Sunday, “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it. Information to follow!” And again on Wednesday, “JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!”

That the president is actively seeking to incite street protests is a matter of more than a little concern to D.C. officials who — based on the behavior of some of Mr. Trump’s supporters at two previous rallies — fear there could be violence. While daytime demonstrations were largely peaceful on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12, destruction and bloodshed broke out when night came. During the Dec. 12 event, four people were stabbed, and members of the Proud Boys — a far-right group linked to white supremacy and categorized by the FBI as an extremist organization — were seen roaming the streets and assaulting bystanders. Black Lives Matter banners belonging to Black churches were torn down, and the leader of the Proud Boys proudly claimed responsibility for burning one of the banners.

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Nonetheless, Mr. Trump — who told the Proud Boys during the first presidential debate in September to “stand back and stand by” — issued his uncamouflaged summons to “Be there, will be wild!” So much for the law-and-order president. Just as hypocritical are the Republican members of Congress — the latest being Mr. Hawley — who plan to raise objections to the certification of electoral votes for Mr. Biden. They cite completely baseless allegations, uniformly rejected by the courts, of voter fraud. Their aim is not, as they profess, to ensure election integrity, but rather to cater to the whims of a would-be autocratic president and burnish their credentials as Trump loyalists for future elections.

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Republican congressional leaders have acknowledged that Mr. Trump’s desperate efforts to stop Mr. Biden from being sworn in to office are bound to fail. Not, though, before more harm is done to the United States’ political system and its standing in the world. We can only hope the damage from the chaos Mr. Trump is inciting doesn’t extend to human lives.

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