The House of Representatives on Wednesday took the historic step of impeaching a U.S. president for the second time. It was the harshest punishment it could render to a head of state who incited an insurrection in an attempt to overturn an election.
In the end, it was not the final bipartisan vote tally that was so astounding. The arguments Republicans made for why Donald Trump should face no consequences for his actions are what should give us pause.
One after the other, House Republicans took to the floor to compare last week’s violence in Washington with the violence that occurred across the country last summer after Minneapolis police killed an unarmed Black man.
This is how Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania linked the two events.
“I know my colleagues on the left want America to believe that the president incited a spontaneous riot that they like to call an insurrection. … The truth is the multiple lawless and violent events last summer, including the monthslong siege of the federal courthouse, burning, looting and physical violence in so-called sanctuary cities more closely fits the definition of insurrection.”
Perry’s argument was that an insurrection and civil unrest are the same. They are not. And the refusal to acknowledge the difference is a betrayal of our democracy.
It is a legitimate argument that violence of any kind must be condemned. No one of good conscience, Democrat or otherwise, should try to defend the summer of looting and violence that left at least 19 people dead and destroyed businesses.
Though some might find it despicable that Confederate monuments have stood on public land since the Civil War, no one should support the brutal, unlawful way in which young people climbed on top of the statues and tore them down.
But what we saw this past summer was an uprising primarily by minority groups that had long been repressed in America. It was a demand that the government treat everyone equal, and that police be held accountable for killing George Floyd, who was held facedown on the pavement with an officer’s knee pressed on his neck.
The Washington riot was something entirely different. It was born from a lie, perpetrated by a president who refused to acknowledge that he had lost a fair and democratic election.