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Truth and consequences

As a matter of policy, the Press has always left coverage of national politics and the partisan issues that divide us to others so we can focus on the work of our local government and the life of the community we serve. 

But it’s been hard to look away from the news out of Washington, D.C. To put it baldly, a sitting president, attempting to cling to office, encouraged thousands of his followers to march to the Capitol, disrupt the lawful proceedings of the 117th U.S. Congress, and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. And disrupt they did, many of them trashing the country’s citadel of representative government, threatening the lives of our elected officials and members of the press, attacking the officers sworn to defend them, and interrupting a procedure prescribed by the very Constitution many claimed they were protecting.

In a time of pandemic and nationwide economic distress, an unruly mob was prepared to commit violence to defend a lie. “Stop the Steal,” they urged, absent any evidence of fraud on a scale that would invalidate the 7-million-vote margin by which President-elect Joe Biden won the election or his 306–232 win in the Electoral College. Time and again—in state investigations, official recounts, and the decisions of state and federal courts—the claims of widespread fraud or unconstitutional actions have been shown to be untrue—
unproven allegations. 

As outgoing Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell stated last week, if the Congress or president were to overturn the results of a lawful popular election on the basis of allegations alone, we would send our democracy into a “death spiral.” The will of voters could be denied, might would make right, and every incumbent would be tempted to cling to office—the outcome the Founders feared most and did their best to preclude as they drafted the U.S. Constitution. 

In our imperfect republic, citizens are the deciders, not unelected autocrats or monarchs.  Our government, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. But to govern wisely, citizens need a verifiable truth. The pursuit of that truth is the job of the nation’s free press and other watchdog organizations; it’s also the responsibility of our elected representatives. Sadly, many helped spread the fable that the 2020 presidential election was somehow stolen. 

Their behavior and that of other perpetrators and participants was seditious. And by encouraging an attack on a coequal branch of government, the president violated the oath he swore Jan. 20, 2017, to protect and defend the Constitution. “If that’s not an impeachable act, I don’t know what is,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and longtime supporter of the president, was among the first to say.

We hope Congress will exercise the power granted by the Constitution to deal with such a gross violation of the presidential oath of office and remove him permanently as a threat to our republic. For the sake of the country’s future, the president, those who attacked the Capitol, and their enablers must suffer consequences for their actions, or we risk the death spiral of which we have been forewarned.

These are perilous times and they call for an active response from engaged citizens. As tempting as it may be to shut off the news and try to ignore the turmoil in Washington, or to take to the streets in a new wave of protest, we urge our readers, some of whom will disagree with our position, to join us in condemning violent political action wherever they see it, however they can, for the sake of our nation and our life as a community.

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