We have now seen what happens when large numbers of people refuse to accept the peaceful transfer of power. The tragic events of Jan. 6 are a watershed in American history, the first time the Constitutionally mandated business of Congress was disrupted by an insurrectionist mob.
The majority of Republicans refuse to believe the results of the election, and their leaders refuse to tell them the truth that the election was free and fair. That means that many of my neighbors refuse to believe what the institutions of our society are telling us. If we do not believe the institutions of our society, we have anarchy. What we saw on Jan. 6 was anarchy. Is this really how we Americans want to conduct our democracy? If your side loses, you get a mob up and go stop the democratic proceedings?
All the conspiracy theories were debunked. No credible evidence sufficient to convince a court of the land was found to support any of the allegations of widespread fraud in the election. If that does not convince you, then we have anarchy.
During the attack on the Capitol, I watched as a reporter asked a man why he was participating. He responded, “The Supreme Court wouldn’t help us. What else are we supposed to do?”
Well, when the Supreme Court rules against you, you accept the ruling of the highest court of the land. You may be angry, you may disagree; you may want to go out and throw rocks through every bakery window whose baker wouldn’t bake a cake for a gay wedding. But you don’t go out and throw that rock. And most of all, you do not storm the U.S. Capitol with the intention of stopping the legal certification of the electoral vote.
If all the institutions of our society are disregarded, there is no society. It is anarchy. The institutions of American society have determined that it was a free and fair election. Months before the election, President Donald Trump started saying he could only lose if the election was stolen. So Americans sprang into action to make the 2020 election as transparent and fair as it could be in the middle of a pandemic.
The 2020 election was planned, conducted, supervised, investigated and certified under more scrutiny than any election in history. Local and state election officials, state bureaus of investigation, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, both political parties and nonprofit national and international election observer, all supported every court up to the Supreme Court in finding the election free and fair, without widespread fraud. Joe Biden won by 6 million votes in the popular count and won the Electoral College by 306 to 232.
If you still believe against all reason and evidence that the election was stolen, you are entitled to that opinion. You are not entitled to attack our democracy and threaten our institutions. The peaceful transfer of power means that we accept the decision of our fellow voters, our neighbors across this land, in elections that are certified by the authorities that we have designated.
How would you feel if circumstances were reversed? What if the people of New York, on behalf of their candidate Hillary Clinton, had argued that the 2016 election was stolen? What if the Attorney General of New York sued to reject the votes of the people of the 5th District of North Carolina?
What if the supporters of Clinton had stormed the U.S. Capitol and killed a Capitol policeman to stop the certification of the Electoral College victory of Trump? What if Clinton’s supporters had defended their actions with unprovable conspiracy theories, and asked for investigations because so many of them were angry?
If Clinton’s supporters had done all this, I would have been furious. I am now furious that Trump’s supporters have pushed us further into what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the “death spiral of democracy.”
The spiral only continues if each and every one of us continues downward.
Lynne M. Getz, professor of history, Appalachian State University