Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.
Thousands of Trump supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to commit seditious acts that were motivated by ignorance and white supremacy, which obviously go hand in hand. But the looting and deadly violence never would have occurred without the encouragement of a treasonous crook in the Oval Office.
President Trump was the evil puppet master of an insurrectionist mob, and every second he remains in office between now and Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 poses a grave threat to our democracy.
Throughout his time in office, but especially since the 2020 election, Trump has repeatedly refused to respect one of the core tenets of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power. More than 60 lawsuits challenging the results of a free and fair election have been dismissed, and yet he still refuses to come to grips with reality. Even worse, Trump casually sat back and watched the mayhem unfold on Wednesday, refusing to provide adequate security and risking the lives of Congress members and their staff. In a video posted to social media before having his accounts indefinitely locked, Trump said he loved the people committing crimes he previously argued should carry a minimum 10-year jail sentence.
“We love you,” Trump said. “You’re very special.”
The inequity in how the overwhelmingly white rioters were treated by law enforcement Wednesday compared to peaceful protesters of color over the last four years couldn’t be starker.
In June, we saw the president order the firing of tear gas on peaceful protesters for a sacrilegious photo-op. Millions of people peacefully took to the streets over the summer and stood up for racial justice, only to have police and federal forces — at Trump’s urging — respond with militarized sweeps, rubber bullets, and other ammunition. Disabled health care activists have been dragged out of the halls of the Capitol more than once and 100-plus LGBTQ activists were arrested during a peaceful protest in October 2019 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The number of arrests after hundreds of people stormed the Capitol in an act of domestic terrorism: 52.
Entitlement, white supremacy, and a lack of respect for the rule of law were on full display in the attempted coup, all at the urging of a pseudo strongman who thinks the best way to wield power is through his clumsy thumbs and a smartphone.
Trump, of course, is not the only official who should be held liable for one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. Republicans in Congress have repeatedly echoed his lies and carried Trump’s water, spreading misinformation to sow distrust. Every single supporter of the president’s treasonous election claims has blood on their hands after five people died as a result of Wednesday’s riots, including a Capitol police officer. The applause we hear coming from our enemies abroad should inspire shame — shame to be shared exclusively by Trump and his loyalists.
Republicans who retain any sense of honor must join Democrats and leaders across the country in calling on Vice President Mike Pence and/or the President’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. If the 25th Amendment is not invoked, the House should move to introduce new articles of impeachment. We cannot wait to find out if Wednesday’s horror show was rock bottom for this failed administration.
But this is not simply a time for condemnation.
Those who were horrified by what we witnessed on Wednesday must take action. Asians and Pacific Islanders have a vital role in shaping our Democracy, and our impact provided a tipping point in the 2020 elections and the recent U.S. Senate races in Georgia. Asian Americans make up the country’s fastest-growing population of eligible voters, and voting data shows that roughly twice as many Asian Americans voted in the 2020 elections as the previous presidential race, according to the New York Times. The impact of our votes will no longer allow officials to see us as an after-thought in the political process.
But with power — even power as seemingly insignificant as one vote — comes responsibility. Too many people in our society have grown comfortable with the idea that the American way of life will sustain itself.
The truth is our Democracy is fragile. Progress is incremental. And apathy for doing our civic duty — voting, engaging on issues that affect our communities, calling out racism and misinformation — can lead to irreparable harm when one political party seeks power solely for the sake of power and personal gain.
One of the lasting images I’ll remember from this week is a picture of Rep. Andy Kim (D-New Jersey), who was photographed after midnight picking up trash left inside the Capitol. He didn’t have to do it, but he said he felt a personal responsibility. I suspect the API community as a whole will have a similar role to play in helping to clean up this mess.
I was proud to see members of Congress return to the floor late Wednesday to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Those who stood in the way of those efforts have shown which side of history they’ve chosen to align. Their disgraceful actions will not be forgotten.
All Americans must take this ominous moment in history and channel it into purpose. We must seek to repair the damage of the last four years. Connect with your local, state, and federal elected officials. Get to know them and hold them accountable to better safeguard our democracy.
If we have learned anything from the past week, it’s that democracy is not a promise made to us, but one we make to each other.
About the Author: Assemblymember Evan Low was elected to the California State Legislature in 2014 and represents Silicon Valley. He is Chair of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and Vice Chair of the Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.