The following column is the opinion and analysis of the Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board.
The United States is a democracy.
And neither Donald Trump nor his mob of followers can change that reality.
Americans and the world watched Wednesday as throngs of people waving Trump flags, holding Trump signs and shouting the fiction “Trump won!” enveloped the Capitol. People broke windows and stormed the building to stop the lawful, democratic operation of our government.
At least one woman has been shot dead. Police officers have been injured.
Rioters got into the House and Senate chambers, taking photos of themselves. Offices, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, were breached and trashed.
This is not protest. This is domestic terrorism.
Protest is voicing an opinion. This was a takeover of the U.S. Capitol while the Senate and House were in session performing their constitutional duty. They were given gas masks and evacuated.
This attack on our country from within did not happen in a vacuum. No longer can the United States point to our peaceful transition of power from one elected president to the next as a beacon, an example for other nations.
The insurrection was stoked by the slow burn of President Trump’s monthslong fantasy that he won the election and it was being “stolen.” Trump lit the match Wednesday morning, telling followers “we will never concede” the election, even though election results have been verified by states (including by Republican officials), allegations of fraud have been evaluated and found to be without evidence in the courts, including by judges appointed by Trump.
The responsibility also belongs to the group of Republican senators and representatives, including Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, who went along with the charade by trying to disrupt and delay the constitutional process of recognizing Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) played his part in the U.S. House by objecting to Arizona’s electoral college votes going to Biden.
State Rep. Mark Finchem joined the Trump followers at the Capitol, promoting the lie that Trump won the election, describing himself in a tweet as “holding the line” and on Wednesday posting support for the crowd — a clear act of civic malfeasance.
This is what we must deal with — the recognition that our national rhetoric and national reality have grown so far apart.
Our Constitution is durable. Our form of government has been tested since its inception. At the same time, we must not ignore the disparity between how roughly civil rights protesters were treated when they’ve gathered peacefully in recent months and how the rioters who broke into the Capitol were calmly escorted out by police officers.
We must not allow those who violently attack our government because they refuse to believe their candidate lost an election to be the force that shapes us as a nation.