Is Trump responsible for violence on Capitol Hill?
- Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the amount of mail-in-ballots skyrocketed. Tensions over mail-in-ballots were high as many believed fraud to come hand-in-hand with absentee voting.
- On Saturday, November 7, media channels like CNN, PBS, Fox News, and Facebook broadcasted that Biden won the election with 290 electoral votes against Trump’s 214 votes.
- Trump had previously refused to concede to Joe Biden, claiming he “will never give up” until he promised a “smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power” on January 7, 2021. Prior to the November election, Trump’s 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton advised the same for Biden, that he “not concede under any circumstances.”
- Wednesday, January 6, Trump supporters rallied on the US Capitol “interrupting challenges to Biden Electoral College victory.” After chaos ensued, there were four fatalities, 52 arrests, and 14 police officers injured.
- In June 2020, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris helped raise bail funds for the summer’s violent rioters.
There's a line between free speech and speech that directly incites violence. As a society, we need to apply this line equally to all public figures consistently. We cannot rely on fuzzy concepts like 'dog whistles' or implied intentions to punish people who speak dramatically or passionately. When Bernie Sanders claimed 'thousands of Americans would die, because they would no longer have access to health care,' he was not held responsible for the actions taken by his homicidal supporter, who went on to shoot Steve Scalise at the Congressional softball game, nor was he held responsible for the hateful and violent speech of his staffer.
Obama is likewise not responsible for the BLM shooter who killed five cops in July 2016 at a Dallas BLM rally. He had previously said regarding police shootings, 'change has been too slow and we have to have a greater sense of urgency about this.' What's recognized then should be recognized now: individuals are responsible for their actions, which must be lawful. The First Amendment makes care to separate the protections for speech from a citizens' right to take action via protest.
Trump is not responsible for the rumored Antifa agitators and protestors who occupied the Capitol when he said, 'I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.' He merely acknowledged where his supporters' demonstration would lead them, and he certainly never instructed anyone to overtake the building. After a few agitators broke some windows and climbed some walls, others were lead in by police. Meanwhile, Trump repeatedly tweeted for order and peace. Though the media is happy to fan flames, calling this a Trump-led insurrection does not make it so.
While the likelihood of legal proof is dim, it's clear President Trump's bombastic tweets and speeches over the past two months are responsible for the violence that took place in our nation's Capitol on Wednesday.
In retrospect, he'll no doubt claim his comments were hyperbole and were taken out of context by 'understandably angry patriots,' but the fact remains that for over four years, and particularly the past two months, he has whipped his loyal followers into a frenzy. His concession speech late Thursday, which would have been quite appropriate two months ago, now appears as a lame attempt to distance himself from Wednesday's violence, which he both agitated and encouraged. Elected officials and appointed positions alike express dismay over his rhetoric, and some are resigning as a result.
While exasperation with legacy media is entirely justifiable, Trump has goaded it into a feverish rage. Combined with his combative narcissistic behavior and near-paranoia regarding loyalty, then thrown into the crucible of his Twitter feed, it has created a toxic brew of seemingly righteous anger among his devotees. Some among his staff and even elected officials have lent credence to his outrageous claims, which had furthered the claims' plausibility to those already inclined to believe them. Whether due to an incomplete understanding of his influence or, more likely, a disregard for it, Trump has capitalized on conspiracies containing barely a grain of truth. He's pushed many previously annoyed, disenfranchised Americans to the point of willingness to 'take a bullet' for his cause simply by playing on their frustration to, by all appearances, do not much more than bolster his own sense of self-importance.