Opinion

It’s time for America’s center to stand strong

The mob that stormed Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon handed a huge gift to the very forces it claims to oppose.

And while the roots of this madness were many, with some blame across the spectrum, it’s fundamentally on President Trump.

It’s been building all year: The pandemic and lockdowns left everyone a bit crazy.

The left erupted first, in the summer riots and vandalism in the wake of George Floyd’s death — which center-left leaders did nothing to condemn, as many even denied that peaceful protests had turned violent and elected Democratic officials rushed to ensure that the violent would pay no price.

But that doesn’t remotely excuse charging Capitol Hill and forcing both houses of Congress into recess when they were supposed to be ratifying the clear results of the presidential election. What began as a peaceful protest devolved when a faction assaulted police barricades and trespassed in the building.

The path forward requires both sides to utterly disown their own extremists, rather than pandering to them. Otherwise the cycle will continue — riot begetting riot, grievance and excess feeding grievance and excess.

The president’s attempts to tweet the genie back in the bottle were unhelpful. Saying the violence should stop, and his later “I was robbed, but go home in peace” video, fell pathetically short.

This, after two months where he ignored every fact to continue claiming, loudly and obsessively, that he’d been robbed when he plainly lost, albeit by a hair in a few swing states.

What did he think was going to happen after he led a mass rally in Washington’s center urging his most diehard supporters to stop Congress from doing its duty? He told people who think themselves patriots that a coup was underway — they rushed to stop it.

The president’s cynical enablers bear some blame, too: Sen. Ted Cruz, in particular, knows full well that his effort to challenge the Electoral College votes flies in the face of the Founders’ intent. He wants the Trump vote for himself, so he chose pandering over principle.

Bad enough the president’s obsession — and his demonizing of every Republican official who wouldn’t bend to his absurd demands — likely cost the GOP two Georgia seats and control of the Senate in Tuesday’s voting. Wednesday’s obscenity will hobble the party for years — dividing it between those who cling to Trump’s fantasies and those who disown them; encouraging moderate voters to distrust every Republican candidate; driving up Democratic turnout as moderate liberals feel compelled to fight this frightening new right.

And all this could well wind up empowering left-wing forces that are roughly as awful as the rightists who went berserk in Washington. Antifa and the like are every bit as full of misguided moral fervor, while cynical Democratic leaders will play the mirror image of Cruz’s game.

America’s broad, strong center must reject this madness, and rally to those leaders who’ll stand up against political violence of all kinds.

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