Words matter. That’s been said so often as the nation’s political divide grew. It was uttered by analysts and politicians Wednesday as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol and stopped the process of confirming the 2020 election.
Words mattered as dangerously ambitious Republicans, like Josh Hawley, of Missouri, and Ted Cruz, of Texas, stirred the coals of the Donald Trump presidency and declared intent to reject the results of the Electoral College.
Words mattered as the president encouraged the mob early Wednesday.
“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” Trump told them. “And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
Words mattered as Trump, after the rioters breached the Capitol, stuck to claims that he won the election rather than scold them for their insurrection.
“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace,” he said. “So go home. We love you, you’re very special. We’ve seen what happens, you see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home, and go home in peace.”
Now, five are dead and the nation forever shall have this ugly scar, all because of words – false claims that the election was rigged, as well as an absence of calming words when they were most needed.
Hopefully, the speech given by Sen. Mitch McConnell will matter. Just before the mob broke into the Capitol, McConnell urged lawmakers to accept the results and move on.
Said McConnell: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We would never see the whole nation accept an election again. … We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate realities, with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”
While predictably critical of Democrats, he also spoke of “protecting our constitutional order.” It was too late in the process, in our opinion, but still important in a time of confusion and distrust.
Trump claims he won the election “by a landslide.” It’s a delusion. If it were true, the courts would have considered it; as it is, this election is decided. This isn’t about longing for a Biden presidency; rather, it’s about truth, and maintaining the nation’s sacred tradition of peaceful transfer of power.
All Americans should be embarrassed at what transpired Wednesday. The president is to blame, but he's not alone. His enablers should be ashamed. A century from now, people will know that in 2021, in our time, a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in hopes of overturning an election.
And in the wake of this mess, we hope the nation – everyone – can better understand the importance of what we say, or don't say.
Words, or a lack of them, can stir violence. Words can instigate, or calm.
The choice is ours.