Joe Biden will become the nation’s 46th president today at noon, and Kamala Harris will become the nation’s first Black female vice president — and the first vice president of South Asian descent. This morning marks the end of Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency, during which he was impeached twice — most recently for instigating the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
For those, like us, eagerly awaiting the return of normal, competent and even boring governance, this Inauguration Day is a hopeful one.
This country desperately needs an administration that will — in Biden’s words — “manage the hell” out of the devastating COVID-19 crisis, which has now claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans.
We need the uplifting history being made today by Harris.
We need to be reminded that a powerful will still exists to perfect this union of ours — however imperfect and fractured the recent weeks have shown it to be.
But this country needs something else, before we can move on: We need every member of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County, to plainly disavow Trump’s Big Lie: the false and baseless claim that Trump won in November and his victory was stolen from him.
It wasn’t true in November, and it’s not true today. It was thoroughly disproven in court and in numerous election audits and recounts across the nation. And those who propagated the Big Lie cannot be permitted today to pretend that they weren’t part of the shameless campaign to discredit the free, fair and legitimate election won by Biden and Harris.
Disavowing the Big Lie should be demanded of those attending today’s inauguration. It should be a requirement of those who want to keep their seats in Congress.
Because the Big Lie continues to damage our democracy. As a Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed Sunday, “more than 6 in 10 Americans say Biden was legitimately elected as the 46th president, including more than 9 in 10 Democrats and more than 6 in 10 independents. But 7 in 10 Republicans say he was not legitimately elected.”
“That suggests,” the Post noted in its news story on the poll, “that Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud, propagated by many other Republicans, have taken root within the party despite the absence of credible evidence, dozens of failed legal challenges and multiple recounts.”
American democracy was essentially born in Pennsylvania. That’s one reason we were so appalled that eight GOP members of Congress from Pennsylvania — including Smucker — voted to reject the commonwealth’s electoral votes for Biden and Harris.
Even after an insurrectionist mob — spurred by the Big Lie — ransacked the U.S. Capitol, killed a Capitol Police officer and threatened to do bodily harm to Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Smucker and other Republicans voted with the seditionists.
One week later, Smucker voted against impeaching Trump for engaging in “high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.”
Because, apparently, Smucker doesn’t truly believe in the Constitution — the very rule of law in this nation.
As we’ve noted before, Smucker sought to disenfranchise the 3,458,229 Pennsylvanians — including the 115,847 Lancaster County residents — who voted for Biden and Harris. As the representative of the 11th Congressional District, Smucker is supposed to represent all of its residents, regardless of party. Seeking to erase someone’s sacred vote is the very antithesis of representation and democracy.
So, as much as we want to move on today, as a new administration enters the White House and embraces — as the last one failed so utterly to do — the hard work of tackling the pandemic, we cannot forget that another crisis besets us.
And that’s a crisis of truth. Too many Americans have not accepted the truth about the November election. And too many politicians, Smucker among them, have failed to tell the truth in a straightforward way.
In his most recent newsletter to constituents, Smucker said this, without a trace of irony: “Following every election, Republicans and Democrats must come together to govern, and that is true now more than ever.”
He wrote of his fear that in the coming days, “more will be done to divide, not to unite us.”
Come together to govern? He’s worried that more may be done to divide us? Smucker was among those responsible for supporting a lie that led to an actual insurrection. Coming together will be impossible until he and others accept responsibility for their anti-democratic actions.
Smucker and other Republicans could at least take a cue from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Though not without considerable fault of his own in sowing distrust about the presidential election results, McConnell at least had the spine to say this Tuesday about the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol: “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”
That’s a start, anyway.
Full healing isn’t possible until the cause of the sickness is diagnosed and remedied. And the sickness in this instance was caused by a grave and damaging lie. It needs to be rejected loudly and clearly by all Republicans.
Mealy-mouthed, politically safe evasions won’t suffice.
Let today be a new start for this nation — one rooted in truth.