At a rally on Wednesday morning, Trump told his supporters that the 2020 election was a grave crime and that Republicans and Democrats on the Hill were about to destroy American democracy by accepting the results. They terrorized lawmakers and staff, they fought with security forces, they broke American democracy.
At his rallies, he encouraged followers to assault protesters and provoked violent threats against journalists. As my colleague Mark Foll man has reported, Trump has long played footsie with far-right radicals.
Elizabeth Neumann, a former Department of Homeland Security official who focused on counter terrorism and threat prevention, contended in a Washington Post op-ed that Trump has been fomenting violence: “Language from campaign materials and Trump ’s extemporaneous speeches at rallies have been used as justification for acts of violence.” His “inconsistent and muddied” criticism of violence and white supremacists, she pointed out, exacerbated the problem: “Extremists thrive on this mixed messaging, interpreting it as coded support.” With such talk, he has become the instigator of one of the most significant terrorist actions in modern American history.
He has been enabled and supported for years by the Republican Party, Fox News, and other right-wing media, and the conservative movement, even as he fueled hatred and division and his corruptions were repeatedly exposed. They excused his aiding and abetting of a foreign adversary’s attack on the United States.
They turned a blind eye to the brazen abuse of power that led to his impeachment. They cheered him, as he downplayed a pandemic, ignored public health guidance, and allowed tens of thousands of Americans to perish in preventable deaths.
They remained silent as he presented tens of thousands of lies and false statements to the American public. Shortly before the violence broke out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did deliver a speech explaining his decision to oppose Trump ’s attempt to overturn the election, and he spoke emotionally about protecting American democracy and preventing it from entering “a death spiral.” This performance came far too late.
And though blowing up the election was a Truman bridge too far for McConnell, he and other Republican leaders had long accepted Trump ’s authoritarian rhetoric and moves. Afraid of his base, they empowered Trump and permitted their party to become a cult of personality centered on a pathologically narcissistic wannabe-strongman.
But they went along, as he led a political movement driven by fear, paranoia, resentment, grievance, and falsehoods. At the same time, Trump and his fans demonized Black Lives Matter and screamed about antifa.
But it is the Trumpets’ assault on Congress that is the most violent political act in decades. Before the proceedings were interrupted by Trump ’s terrorists, Sen. Ted Cruz, a leader of the Goers challenging the electoral count, claimed this count had to be suspended because “nearly half” of Americans have “deep concerns” about the election’s legitimacy.
And if the Republicans continue this attempt to subvert the election once order is restored to the Capitol, it will show they are in league with violent extremists to serve Trump and retain power. After the election, when Trump would not concede, Republican officials, following suit, would not recognize the results.
He then posted a video in which he asked the rioters to leave the Capitol but reaffirmed the bogus grievance motivating them: the “election was stolen” and “everyone knows this.” He then added, “We love you.” He told the criminal thugs who had overrun Congress that he loved them. Mark the day in your calendars: On January 8, 2021, Twitter gave President Donald Trump the proverbial heave-ho, banning him permanently.
Earlier in the week on Wednesday, the social media site had locked the president's account for 12 hours for violating its rules on Civic Integrity and Violent Threats. Twitter explained that those tweets have to be viewed in the context of the recent coup attempt by far right Trump supporters, who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.
The company “determined that they were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021,” ultimately deciding to permanently suspend Trump's account. Jason O. Gilbert, who works for “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” tweeted that “well, it took 4 years but the #Behest campaign finally vanquished an online bully,” referencing the public initiative by First Lady Melania Trump opposing cyberbullying.
Although many of Trump's tweets were perceived as hateful and incendiary, the company justified keeping him there by arguing that it is in the public interest to see what powerful politicians have to say. The social media giant began to draw the line in May, however, when they included fact-check labels on two of his tweets after Trump used those posts to falsely claim that mail-in ballots were fraudulent.
Trump responded by attacking Twitter's free speech rights, saying that he would “strongly regulate, or close” down social media platforms that he perceived as hostile to himself and his supporters. He later followed through on that threat by signing an executive order that instructed the Federal Communications Commission to draft a regulation to exempt social media platforms from certain liability protections.
His own attorney general, William Barr, announced after an investigation that there was no evidence of Biden winning the election through fraud, prompting Trump to fire him. Mr Trump said ahead of the vote to the Save America rally “we’re going to walk down” to Congress before calling on them to “do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated”.
Mr Trump ’s claims of electoral fraud have been dismissed by independent observers and a number of legal challenges launched by his campaign were unsuccessful. Mitt Romney, former Republican nominee for President, issued a statement condemning the “insurrection” in Washington and blamed Mr Trump for the protesters action.
“Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy. Josh Enable, former Chief of Staff for Mr Trump ’s Department of Education, also weighed in to condemn the President for the protests.
The joint session certifying Mr Biden’s election win in Congress resumed at 8pm local time (1am GMT), with heavy security details stationed to protect the politicians. Since the protests took place, Mr Trump issued a video telling supporters to “go home” while continuing to claim the election was “stolen”.
You see, white evangelicals embraced the president, some begrudgingly and some enthusiastically, because he addressed many of their concerns. Many evangelicals and leaders invested money, time, and conviction towards the promise of MAGA.
Most evangelicals (me included) are grateful for the Supreme Court justices he appointed and for some religious liberty concerns he addressed. He’s burned down the Republican Party, emboldened white supremacists, mainstreamed conspiracy theorists, and more.
So as we sort through the coming months and years, we must be clear on three reasons why we have arrived at this point: The past half decade has offered near daily examples of people co-opting the gospel for sinful ends.
Racism, nationalism, sexism, and host of other sins have found purchase within the evangelical movement in both overt and subtle expressions. During the 2016 election, and at many points since, many evangelicals justified their full-throated support by promising to be a check on Trump ’s character.
When evangelicals finally had access to the White House, they seemed unable or unwilling to use their prophetic voice to speak truth to power. “When I served under President Nixon, one of my jobs was to work with special-interest groups, including religious leaders.
We would invite them to the White House, wine and dine them, take them on cruises aboard the presidential yacht … Ironically, few were more easily impressed than religious leaders. Committed to reaching the world, the evangelical movement has emphasized the evangelistic and artistic elements of the mission.
The result of this discipleship failure has led us to a place where not only our people, but many of our leaders, were easily fooled and co-opted by a movement that ended with the storming of the capitol building. At the root of these three causes lies our inability to live up to our calling as evangelicals: to righteously, prophetically, and compassionately proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
If the evangelical movement is to flourish in the coming generations, we must face (and even embrace) this reckoning. As leaders and members we must acknowledge our failings but also understand the habits and idols that drew us to Trump in the first place.
But into this temptation we hear the words of Jesus : “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).