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Trump Needs to Forcefully Condemn the Rioters, Not Coddle Them

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Never in my life did I expect to see the president of the United States refuse to unequivocally condemn a mob that broke into the U.S. Capitol. There is no place for political violence in America, and the president needs to be the first person to always insist upon that. Tragically, President Donald Trump not only failed to denounce the mob but even praised some of them, essentially coddling rioters.

Following a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally, Trump supporters attacked Capitol Police, stormed the U.S. Capitol, and forced an evacuation, effectively stalling Congress from counting the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden.

Trump released a video statement encouraging his supporters to “go home now.” He went on to say, “go home, we love you, you’re very special.” In a follow-up tweet, the president wrote, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

Yes, the president of the United States said to the mob storming the Capitol, “we love you,” and suggested that this break-in was merely a natural consequence of Democrats allegedly stealing the election.

To be fair, the president also tweeted, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!” He encouraged his allies to “support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

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Trump’s comments remind me of the way Joe Biden responded to the Black Lives Matter and antifa riots over the summer. Biden asked protesters to remain peaceful, but he also repeatedly praised the protests that devolved into riots and condemned America’s “systemic racism,” repeating the arguments that enflamed the riots in the first place. Biden refused to full-throatedly condemn the noxious ideology behind the riots.

Like Biden, Trump has called for peace even while suggesting that this political violence followed from a legitimate grievance. Yet even at his worst moments, Biden did not say “we love you” to antifa and he did not insist that riots were the natural response to systemic racism.

On Wednesday, Biden gave the full-throated condemnation that belonged on the lips of Donald Trump.

“At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault, unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times,” Biden said. He condemned the break-in as “an assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself. … An assault on the rule of law like few times we’ve ever seen it.”

“This is not dissent, it’s disorder, it’s chaos, it borders on sedition, and it must end,” Biden said.

The Democrat blamed Trump for inflaming the violence. While Biden has repeatedly done this in circumstances where Trump was not responsible for the violence, he was arguably on firmer footing here.

Trump Urges Supporters to ‘Go Home Now, We Have to Have Peace’

The 2020 election was not a pristine exercise of democracy, as many legacy media outlets have claimed, but it wasn’t a “steal,” either. As Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) pointed out, it is unlikely that the very serious irregularities and mistakes in the 2020 election were responsible for Biden’s win. Trump’s legal team had many chances to present evidence in court, and when push came to shove, they caved.

It is important for Americans to demand election reform after 2020, but it is also essential for them to accept that Biden won. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.

President Trump decided he would fight the loss, which is his right. Yet the president did not just call for recounts or raise specific problems — he repeatedly claimed that he won by a “landslide.” He also cited the 74 million Americans who voted for him as an achievement. That 74 million number is indeed an achievement — but if the president says the election results are in doubt, he should not brag about the election results.

Tragically, Trump’s supporters were primed to listen to him, rather than the legacy media and other sources, because the legacy media has proven itself heinously biased against Trump, again and again. In fact, a Media Research Center poll found that many Americans who voted for Joe Biden said they would not have done so if they had heard about one of eight key election-related news stories that the legacy media suppressed (like allegations of Joe Biden’s personal connection to Hunter Biden’s corruption). If these Americans had not voted for Biden, Trump would have won the election.

I sincerely wish Donald Trump had won the 2020 election. Trump’s record on naming originalist judges and justices, defending America against claims of Marxist critical race theory, defending life, bringing peace in the Middle East, and many other issues is exemplary, while Joe Biden has little to show for his decades in public life — and he has a long history of going soft on China.

Trump did not win, however, and his rhetoric after the election has been dangerous. The president never encouraged his supporters to storm the Capitol, but he did support various schemes to overturn the election results, including crackpot theories about the vice president’s ability to reject Electoral College votes from certain states. (Mike Pence wisely refused to take this course.)

When Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Trump had a moral duty to vocally condemn their lawless attack. This situation also gave him an opportunity to demonstrate that he supported law and order more than Joe Biden had over the summer.

Instead, Trump arguably proved himself worse than Biden. The president coddled violent elements among his supporters, even when they broke into the People’s House. This was despicable. Trump’s comments were beyond the pale.

The president needs to reverse course. He should follow the lead of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who called for the mob to face “prosecutions to the fullest extent of the law.” He should not equivocate or suggest that it was natural for some of his supporters to break into the Capitol. He certainly should not praise them or declare his “love” for them.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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