In the end, Wednesday night, the mob failed. Congress did its constitutional duty in a Capitol stormed by supporters of President Donald Trump just hours before.
Congress accepted President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. And it handed final defeat to Trump, who claimed he was robbed by a rigged election while offering no proof. Trump’s fictional cries of a stolen election incited hundreds of his supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. to attack the seat of our democracy.
In the wake of the insurrection, every member of Iowa’s congressional delegation voted to toss out challenges filed by pro-Trump lawmakers disputing Biden’s clear victory. And all without exception condemned the violence that stunned the nation.
“Today’s violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on American democracy itself. This was not a demonstration of any of our protected, inalienable rights. These were un-American acts worthy only of condemnation,” U.S. Sen Chuck Grassley said in a statement.
“I support everyone’s right to protest peacefully and exercise their First Amendment rights, and I think many of the people who came to the Capitol … intended to do so,” 1st District U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson said in a statement. “However, the violent attempts to disrupt our democratic process were unacceptable, unpatriotic and ultimately unsuccessful.”
“Storming government buildings and attacking law enforcement officers is unacceptable,” said 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
We take some solace after Wednesday’s mob violence that Congress was able to do its duty, and that no Iowa members, in the end, joined the reckless drive to overturn the results of a free and fair election. In a Capitol where the parties agree on very little, watching lawmakers come together to condemn violent political extremism raises hopes that our climb back toward some semblance of unity might not be impossible.
But moving forward also means reconciling with what led to this dark moment.
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Iowa Republican leaders need to do some serious soul-searching. Sens. Grassley, Joni Ernst and other elected officials stood solidly by Trump as he sought the presidency in 2016 on a platform of hate and grievance and then during four tumultuous years.
Trump incited his supporters to commit violence long before Wednesday. He lied about voter fraud for years before his latest barrage of falsehoods spawned a riot. He’s shown disdain for our democratic institutions, sought to undermine mail-in voting during a raging pandemic and called for the jailing of his political opponents. He’s been attacking American democracy since he took office.
The danger of his conduct was obvious. But Iowa Republicans stuck with him, emulated his rhetoric and sought his endorsements.
We’re relived, at Wednesday’s moment of truth, that Iowa leaders did the right thing and finally, at long last, found a line they wouldn’t cross. But now they must reckon with why they did the wrong thing for so long.
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