By Chloe Hunt '21
“Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal...You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong...we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
Those are the words of Donald Trump speaking to the Save America rioters before they stormed the Capitol. He continued to tell his supporters they must “fight like hell” because otherwise, they would “not have a country anymore.” Likewise, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s loyal followers, made it clear to rioters that the fight had just begun.
“Let’s have trial by combat,” Giuliani said. “I’m willing to stake my reputation, the President is willing to stake his reputation, on the fact that we’re going to find criminality there.”
Rhetoric has repercussions, and as President-elect Joe Biden said, “At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite.” Wednesday, January 6, Trump incited thousands to storm the Capitol in a deadly siege. Windows were smashed. Lawmakers feared for their lives, and some of their offices were terrorized.
Confederate flags filled the operational heart of our democracy. Nooses were erected outside of the building. Protestors brought weapons, seemingly prepared for battle. White supremacists and conspiracy theorists donning Trump merch gallivanted through the Capitol, leaving threats, stealing mail and other items, and assaulting officers.
Considering that Trump tear-gassed peaceful protestors for a photo-op and reinstated the law that mandated 10-year prison sentences for vandalizing Confederate monuments, you would think that his response to the siege would have been brutal. After all, he stands firmly for “law and order,” right? He also tweeted messages during BLM protests saying, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” so you would think that he would not want to see the Capitol Building terrorized, right?
No. Instead he put out a video message – a one minute video message – that affirmed his supporters’ mission. He stated that the election was rigged, and both sides know it. He briefly said “go home,” but he also said to these mobsters that they were great people, and “we love you.” Nowhere in his speech before the siege did he say “protest peacefully.”
We have known who Trump is for some time, for years in fact: an egotistical maniac, a liar, somebody who lost the 2020 election not because people loved Biden, but because people wanted somebody who was not Trump. Trump’s rhetoric proves dangerous time and time again, and finally, the walls are closing in as White House staffers resign and the possibility of invoking the 25th becomes more likely.
After this devastating event, many Republican legislators have flip-flopped and decided that they do not support Trump’s assault on democracy. Two anomalies are local: Representative Ben Cline and Representative Morgan Griffith. Cline and Griffith continue to contest the election results, even signing their names to lawsuits to overturn legitimate votes.
They continue to support these baseless claims and echo the rhetoric that is dangerous and deadly. This is why I, alongside other constituents in the area, ask both Representative Cline and Representative Griffith to resign. Both lawmakers have proved they cannot uphold their responsibilities to the Constitution, and by feeding into Trump’s sore-loser, delusional, narcissistic rhetoric, they support the violence and chaos like we saw on January 6th.