Not since Aug. 24, 1814, has an invading force occupied the U.S. Capitol.
Then, it was British troops during the War of 1812.
Wednesday, it was a mob instigated and choreographed by the president of the United States. Donald Trump’s aim was unmistakable — to intimidate Vice President Mike Pence and the Congress on the day Joe Biden’s election as the 46th president was to be certified.
What was supposed to be a purely ceremonial event transformed into a political stunt as Republicans, including Reps. Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., joined the sedition caucus in objecting to legitimate, scrutinized and litigated election results. Wednesday’s violence appears to have sobered McMorris Rodgers’ judgment; she pledged to certify the vote.
Now seared into our memories are these images:
l Guns drawn, Capitol Police stand behind a barricaded door to stop rioters from ransacking the House chambers.
l A Trump supporter occupies House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk; another assumes the chair of the Senate’s presiding officer.
l A protester mocks the tribute to former President Gerald Ford in Statuary Hall.
l A protester carries off the lectern from the House floor.
l A protester accomplishing what Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee could not — flying the symbol of the Confederacy in the Capitol.
There are before and after moments in this country — a cataclysmic event transforming one era into another.
For some, it was the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor that ended America’s isolation.
For others, it was the Nov. 22, 1963, murder of President John F. Kennedy in broad daylight in an American city.
And of course, there waere the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and in the skies over Pennsylvania.
Before Wednesday, there were people in this country who were willing to delude themselves into thinking character does not matter in a president.
There were people who were willing to look past a president who lied, who traded in conspiracy theories and who operated in the world of alternative facts.
There were people who saw more of a threat from fellow Americans with a different viewpoint, a different religion or a different skin color than from foreign foes.
There were people who believed in an equivalency between those peacefully protesting on behalf of civil rights and others who violently advocated white nationalism.
There were people who could tolerate — or at least ignore — a president browbeating his way into stealing an election.
There were people who seemed to agree that this president could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City and not lose support.
And there were people who for the past two months have allowed Trump to undermine and weaken public faith and confidence in the world’s last best hope for democracy.
Wednesday, the bill for those delusions came due.
With it is the recognition that Trump cannot be coddled, managed or even tolerated without inflicting even greater damage upon our country.
So it is time for those who enabled Trump — among them McMorris Rodgers and Fulcher, but also Congressman Mike Simpson and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, all R-Idaho, — to make themselves clear.
With this shocking and unacceptable mayhem on Wednesday, the Trump era ended.
They must say so unambiguously and with conviction.
They must cease any and all comments that even hint at the idea that Biden was not elected legitimately.
With that comes an obligation to acknowledge how they all aided and abetted Trump’s sabotage of the orderly transfer of power these past two months.
And finally, they owe us an apology. Trump could not have injured this nation without the support of people who placed their own political needs, their party and their president above the best interests of the United States.
The debris littering the People’s House is the physical manisfestation of their choice.
America has begun a new journey toward reconciliation; let it begin with them. — M.T.