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Editorial: The enablers of this horror must also be held accountable

Jan. 6, 2021, is a day that will live in infamy in America. It will never be forgotten, any more than the 2,977 deaths on 9/11 will be forgotten. 

But in this case it was not foreign terrorists who attacked us but domestic ones — a mob of Americans in bright-red MAGA hats, “6 Million Wasn’t Enough” and “Camp Auschwitz” shirts, storming Capitol Hill in an attempted takeover of the legislative branch of our government.

Determined to keep their leader in power, the mob came prepared for battle. Some wore military-style assault gear. One man was photographed carrying plastic zip ties in his coat pocket, apparently hoping hostages would be taken and dragged outside for a show trial or perhaps summary execution before a red-hatted firing squad. 

As more video was released it became clear that the attack was far more violent than it first appeared. One segment shows an angry crowd shouting, “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” A makeshift gallows was even set up outside the Capitol. Watching all the video leaves little doubt some of the terrorists would have committed murder if they’d caught up with the elected officials they hate.

The events of Jan. 6 summed up where four years of Donald Trump have landed us. This is what he and his congressional enablers have wrought in our country. 

One terrorist was shot dead by a police officer. One rioter beat an officer with a fire extinguisher. That officer, Brian Sicknick, 42, died from his wounds. He was a military veteran. But he didn’t die on foreign soil; he died trying to protect the Capitol from a mob of his fellow citizens inspired by a sitting president. That’s a first in American history.

If two men go into a 7-Eleven to rob the cash register and, unbeknownst to one of them, the other pulls out a gun and shoots and kills the person behind the counter, they both can be charged with murder. That’s how the law works. The one can’t stand before a judge and say, “Oh, man, I didn’t know he had a gun. I just wanted some money so I could buy more Oxycodone.”

And the law makes everyone in that mob complicit in Mr. Sicknick’s death. Politicians who lied to the delusional Trump followers about a rigged election that could be overturned helped ignite this fire. They are co-owners of this American horror.

Why? Because words have consequences. If you stand in a crowded theater and shout “Fire!” and people are trampled to death on their way out, that’s not free speech. Spewing out lies that inspired a violent mob is just another way of shouting “Fire!” 

These rioters believed Trump when he insisted he won by millions of votes and that election officials in battleground states rigged the results so he lost. These conspiracy theories don’t even rise to the absurd level of a moon landing that was staged in a television studio. 

Citing Trump’s lies, and his actions to overturn the election, even the editorial board of the conservative Wall Street Journal called on him to resign. That’s the first step. Those who spread Trump’s lies must also be held to account. Had they not joined in the chorus, the insurrection might have never happened.

Even after they experienced the harrowing siege of the Capitol, 147 members of the House voted to reject the votes of the Electoral College for Joe Biden. One of them was 1st District Congressman Lee Zeldin, as loyal a Trump follower as there has been these past four years. Standing in the House chamber in the aftermath of the terrorists’ rampage, Mr. Zeldin found no reason not to continue supporting Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. 

If Mr. Zeldin, who calls himself a conservative Republican, truly believes the election was rigged, then he should lay out the proof so we can evaluate it. Dozens of sitting judges, federal and state, didn’t see any proof of this. 

Does Mr. Zeldin know something they didn’t? If he doesn’t have the goods, if he was just playing up to his leader, then history must judge Mr. Zeldin harshly. His actions after the rioting were anything but conservative, which, in a more innocent time in America, implied respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.

This week, a petition went online demanding that Mr. Zeldin be expelled from the House. It says, in part, “Mr. Zeldin, along with other seditionists, attempted to subvert the will of the people in his actions. He looked to overturn a free and fair election that was decided by the American people because he didn’t like the result.”

Mr. Zeldin’s party, the Republican Party, is now officially dead, buried under a Trump banner waving in the breeze. All those GOP party members who didn’t speak out during Trump’s four years, all his supporters who kept their silence or made excuses for his actions or honked their horns during Trump caravans have only themselves to blame for the death of their party.

Meghan McCain said this about the Republican party her father, John, was so much a part of: “This is why Trump was always a deal with the devil. The party abandoned everything at the feet of a cult of personality and now we are left in complete shatters. We get what we deserve. Conservatives like me are left homeless and in the vast, vast minority.”

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