On Wednesday, January 6th, thousands of self-identified Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol. Many who participated in this chaos at the Capitol came directly from President Trump’s “Save America” rally, where he urged his supporters to “stop the steal” of the election. He encouraged them to march to the Capitol to protest the certification of President Elect Joe Biden’s victory, and the crowd happily obliged. Incited by Donald Trump’s hour-long speech, the sea of people carried American flags, Confederate Battle flags, Trump flags, Gadsen (Don’t Tread on Me) flags, and, ironically, Police flags as they scaled the Capitol walls and breached police perimeters. The rioters entered the Capitol building by breaking through doors and windows, forcing members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to evacuate their chambers. Offices were looted and vandalized, homemade explosive devices were found on Capitol grounds, 5 people died and dozens more were injured. Still, President Trump resisted sending in reinforcements. Instead, he called the rioters “great patriots” and told them to “go home in peace” while repeating his widely disproven election claims in a Twitter video. After the grounds were cleared, Joe Biden’s victory was finally certified, but the damage had already been done.
For weeks before the attack, Donald Trump and his campaign sought to undermine the results of the election, and his loyal supporters believed every word. Trump broadcasted falsified claims on social media and in his speeches. He claimed that he ‘won this election by a lot’ and that Joe Biden won because ‘the election was rigged.’ His supporters wanted to believe that someone or something had stolen an election that was rightfully theirs, and the fact that others in power were accepting what Trump was saying only made it easier. These people in power enabled his lies to spread. He praised Republican lawmakers and media sources that supported his side of the story. While Donald Trump himself did not storm the Capitol, he fed the fire for weeks before it occurred. Because of this, Twitter chose to permanently ban his account, and other platforms followed suit with similar actions. This chain of events brings forth issues that, prior to this election year, were unprecedented. No President has ever been censored online. No president has ever been impeached twice. Never have so many prominent law makers opposed a legitimate election result. Never has America been so divided.
This riot is destined to change American politics. Hopefully, it will change the way we think about those in positions of power, as they have a profound influence over the public. We should hold them to a higher standard and expect them to put the country first. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.” Perhaps our politicians should take this piece of advice from former President Roosevelt.