What storming the capitol means for the country

Jackson Rickert, Opinions Editor, Columnist

There’s an elephant in the room, and no, it’s not the GOP this time. It’s the attempted coup — the storming of the capital. I think a lot of people don’t really understand how close we came to complete disaster. Sure, the storming of the capital is an affront to what we as a nation should stand for, but more than that, it was a threat. A reminder that democracy is fragile.

What worries me most about what happened last Wednesday is how quickly we’ve moved past what took place. Sure, there’s the impeachment. There’s a definite political shift away from Trump, and no one but a select few seem to be happy about what happened. But I feel as though we, as a country, have yet to take stock of the real ramifications of what happened. Not just how we got here, but also where we could have really been.

Members of Congress could have been killed. Think about that, really take a moment to digest that. A mob stormed the Capitol with the (at least partial) intent of killing members of the federal government. What if one of these people, many of whom were armed, had killed even one congressperson? What would that mean for us as a country? What if they killed the vice president? What if they killed more than that? Bombs were found a few blocks away at the RNC and DNC. What then? What would that mean going forward, in a world with a partial Congress, no vice president and no certified election?

Obviously, that was the worst case scenario, and it didn’t play out, but that isn’t really the point. You can imagine the disarray, the chaos of what would have, what could have ensued if that had come to fruition. And it almost did.

Amidst all of this, we’re still seeing Trump apologists swearing up and down that he’s done nothing wrong, that he wasn’t involved in the terrorism and treason that occured this past week. Even in the Senate and House of Representatives, we’re seeing people stick with Trump. This is not a left or right issue, this is not a policy issue, this is not a social issue, this is not an economic issue and it isn’t even about the man anymore. The fact is that Donald Trump is a threat to this nation.

Which brings me to my main point: what happens to Trump isn’t really the point. Regardless of what happens in the impeachment, which is still an important step to checking his power, Trump will be out of office before the end of the month. But what happens with that?

Trump’s earlier incitement of and spurring on the riot at the capitol leaves the door open for more violence. There has been a huge amount of fear surrounding the upcoming inauguration and the safety of the Vice President, even to the point where the capitol needs to be guarded by the National Guard. Are there really “good people on both sides?”

Above all, ours is a nation composed of and led by the people. Violence against the leaders of our government and especially against our most dearly held and just practices such as free and fair elections is not only an affront to the American people, it is dangerous. It sets the frightening precedent of separation between the leaders and the followers in our nation of, by and for the people. 

Ultimately, that’s what’s at risk. The very heart of democracy was held at gunpoint last week, and I don’t think enough people really understand that. You can talk about what happened in whatever way you want. You can focus on the politics of the fact, you can focus on the material danger. But what I really took away, what I think the country most of all must learn, is to treasure democracy.