“Donald Trump” | Photo by Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0
The American Constitution created a republic, a government-run by representatives of the people freely elected. In other words, it created a government of laws and not of men. It provided for president with defined and limited powers. Not an imperial monarch with divine rights. Not for an authoritarian president who is above the laws.
Thus said, elections have always been a peaceful means for change(s). As a tradition, the United States elections’ results are accepted courteously as the definitive expression of the people’s sovereign will. The transfer of power from one administration to the next is peaceful, civil, and following laws spelled out.
Until now, the year 2021.
President Donald Trump repeatedly declared months before the November 3, 2020 elections rigged if he losses. He lost. It follows, to his mind, that indeed he was right. The verbal attacks on the electoral system became more virulent, discrediting American democracy and casting doubts on the last elections’ credibility. He refused to admit defeat while persistently advancing theories about why he lost. He pressured state election officials in battleground states to do his bidding to overturn the elections’ results in his favor. He demanded that legislators act as he wanted them to.
While the Senate and the House of Representatives were in sessions on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, to count the electoral votes to declare the winner of the presidential elections officially, Trump’s followers stormed the U.S. Capitol. Before they proceeded to overrun the U.S. Capitol, Trump addressed them, reiterated his beliefs that the “election was so corrupt,” “a pure theft in American history,” “an egregious assault on our democracy,” and that they have “to save our democracy.” He sounded the marching orders, thus: “And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. We are going to walk down – We’re going to walk down, we’re going to walk down the Capitol. And we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them…”
“The truth is that Trump’s claims and assertions have all been dismissed by judges and justices, some of whom were appointed by him because they were unsupported by evidence acceptable in our courts of law. Fundamental to our system is the mandate that ours is a government of laws, not of men.”
His words encouraged those who listen to his words without questions. His assertions were fiction, yet his followers continued to heed his words and marched according to the beat of his powerful emotional appeal. Fanaticism, in the guise of loyalty, can be blinding.
The truth is that Trump’s claims and assertions have all been dismissed by judges and justices, some of whom were appointed by him because they were unsupported by evidence acceptable in our courts of law. Fundamental to our system is the mandate that ours is a government of laws, not of men. Any claim must be backed by proofs as required by law.
Appealing to his followers’ sense of patriotism, he told them that what they were doing was to “save our democracy.” Their actions, however, had the effect of undermining and destroying it. Trump’s conduct, particularly before and after the November 3, 2020 election, suggests a disregard of the law.
I wrote some time ago in this column about freedom and responsibility. On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the release of expression and petition the supporters of President Donald Trump exercised the government of grievances as they assembled and demanded to overturn the presidential elections that Trump lost. However, the freedom terminated and crossed the line to criminality when they forcibly breached the U.S. Capitol’s security, occupied the Senate and the House of Representatives. Also, when they destroyed public and private property and committed acts of thievery, in addition to preventing Congress from performing its constitutionally-mandated duty.
By most accounts, what transpired in the U.S. Capitol was shocking. I never thought it could happen to the United States, considered the bastion of democracy. I never imagined that the U.S. Capitol, the world-recognized symbol of legislative authority, could be overrun by a mob of supporters of a sitting president watching live on his television together with his advisers.
“What happened last Wednesday should awaken us. It showed the vulnerability of our institutions because of our undoing. It tended to show that lies, when repeatedly fed to the human mind, especially to the uninquisitive mind, are believed to be the truth, especially when coming from a person in authority.”
Watching the events on television reminded me of the burning of the White House by the British in the War of 1812 and the German parliament’s burning in 1933 by supporters of the then prime minister (Hitler) to consolidate his control of the government. It reminded me of the staged or planned ambushes and other crimes in less developed countries, including the Philippines, to justify the imposition of martial rule, extend the leader’s tenure to, supposedly, save democracy and create a new society. Likewise, it reminded me of the movies I have seen depicting the takeover of the seats of power by some terrorists. What is surprising is that this is the year 2021, and what happened on Wednesday, January 6, is not expected to happen. Not in the U.S. Capitol, the citadel of American democracy.
What happened last Wednesday should awaken us. It showed the vulnerability of our institutions because of our undoing. It tended to show that lies, when repeatedly fed to the human mind, especially to the uninquisitive mind, are believed to be the truth, especially when coming from a person in authority. He can use lies to lead people to roads not worth traveling. What happened is a call for vigilance and an open mind to recognize the lies from reality.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Manuel B. Quintal, ESQ., practices law in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist of Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York, from 2006-2009. He was Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines and New York State. He has graduate degrees in Political Science and an LL.M. major in International Law.