It is stunningly clear that Donald Trump is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. He has constructed an alternate reality of conspiracy theories and wishful thinking and unleashed a bloodthirsty mob to enforce it for him.
The nation cannot endure another two weeks of his illegal and unhinged efforts to maintain power. Vice President Pence and the Cabinet officers have a duty to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Pence must step in as Acting President.
We cannot speculate on the reasons for Trump’s unhinged behavior. But we cannot allow it to threaten our national security. As shocking as it was, the insurrection was not even the worst of the deadly consequences of his utter inability to face unpleasant facts.
More than 360,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, with new records for one-day death tolls being broken every few days.
On the very day he was whipping an armed mob into a violent frenzy, nearly 4,000 Americans died of the virus that he has allowed to rage, virtually unchecked, throughout the nation.
We do not know what the next two weeks will bring, but it almost certainly will bring more lies, more incitements to violence, and further breakdown of the functioning of the federal government at a time when we need it the most.
Nation’s security threatened
Inciting an insurrection is sedition. It is among the gravest of crimes against the nation.
Removal from office is the very least of the consequences Donald Trump should face. But the penalties that he should pay should not be our primary concern at the moment. He must be removed for the security of the nation.
The spectacle of Confederate flags being paraded through the Capitol was a sickening reminder of his months-long crusade to invalidate ballots in states where Black voters turned out in record numbers.
Outside, rioters flashed the “OK” hand signal that has been adopted as a White power symbol. They hung nooses. They flew the Kekistan flag, modeled on a German Nazi war flag.
Rather than condemn the violence, the chaos and the racism, Trump consoled the mob with words that recalled his appalling “‘very fine people on both sides” remark following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
“We love you, you’re very special,” he told the mob in a videotaped statement. “I know your pain; I know you’re hurt.”
Donald Trump has repeatedly forced Americans to choose between love of country, and love of Donald Trump.
It is one our great failures as a nation that we have been brought to the brink of disaster by his desperate need for constant adulation – which includes constant degradation of his political rivals and of the journalists who accurately report on his behavior.
The insurrectionists scratched “Murder the media” a door of the Capitol. They smashed journalists’ equipment and assaulted a photographer.
“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” an unnamed Republican official asked with regard to the support some members have given to Trump’s election fantasies.
The answer is horrifyingly clear.
Immediate action needed
Congress must formally censure every member who stoked the insurrection by promoting Trump’s fictitious narratives and baseless conspiracy theories about the election.
This includes those who supported falsehood-based objections to the counting of electoral votes.
While they may consider their lies nothing more than political theater, “the prop revolvers were loaded with live bullets, and half the audience thought the drama was real,” professors Henry Farrell and Elizabeth N. Saunders wrote in the Washington Post.
We can take a measure of solace that the mob failed to prevent Congress from completing its count of the electoral votes and confirming that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the lawful President-elect and Vice President-elect.
Furthermore, the results of Georgia’s runoff election offer hope that the incoming Senate will take its constitutional responsibilities seriously.
Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will replace two senators who supported and encouraged Trump’s election fantasies.
But we cannot afford to wait for Congress to act. Vice President Pence and the members of the Cabinet are well aware of their responsibility under the constitution.
They must act now to protect the country or bear responsibility for any tragedy that results from Trump’s worsening recklessness.
Marc Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.