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Return to truth

On January 6, 2021, the United States Capitol was attacked by a mob of Trump supporters objecting to the results of a free and fair election. The mob stormed the Capitol building, smashing windows, vandalizing, looting, and threatening the safety of lawmakers. By the end of the day, five people were dead and the Confederate flag had flown in the Capitol rotunda.

The events of January 6 can only be described as an act of domestic terrorism, an attempted coup, and an assault on American democracy. To move forward, it is necessary that we acknowledge this reality, and recognize what brought us to this point. The violence in our capitol was the direct result of elected leaders spreading disinformation, amplifying conspiracies, and endorsing anti-democratic sentiment and behavior.

First, responsibility unequivocally lies with the former President. For months, President Trump claimed that the November election would be “rigged” against him, proposing a list of unsubstantiated theories ranging from mail-in-voter fraud to dead people voting against him.

Despite a complete absence of evidence for any of these claims, and assurances from the Attorney General, DOJ, and DHS that the election was secure and legitimate, Trump continued insisting on electoral fraud after his defeat. The Trump campaign filed 63 lawsuits questioning election results. Sixty-two of these suits were either dismissed or lost in court due to a lack of evidence. But the absence of evidence did not stop the President from insisting that the election was stolen, and did not prevent many of his supporters from believing this lie.

On the morning of the insurrection, Trump and his inner circle held a rally in front of the White House and encouraged supporters to march on the Capitol Building, with the President saying, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore”. As his supporters forced their way into the building and Congress members donned gas masks and took cover, President Trump refused to authorize the National Guard to intervene. Instead of ordering the violent mob to stand down, the president repeated the fallacy of a stolen election before finally telling the insurrectionists, “go home, we love you and you’re very special”.

The sitting U.S. president encouraged a mob of domestic terrorists to attack the Capitol. But despite his reckless and seditious behavior, responsibility does not fall solely on the former President. Trump and his pseudo-ideology were enabled by an army of rich donors, right-wing political operatives, conservative media outlets, and elected officials. These enablers are complicit in using disinformation to manipulate their supporters and sabotage American democracy.

One such enabler is the 1st District’s own Jack Bergman who chose loyalty to his party and to the president over his own integrity and his responsibility to his constituents. In December, Representative Bergman endorsed a lawsuit that sought to overturn election results in several states including Michigan, citing unfounded claims of voting irregularities. The 1st District’s own representative attempted to throw out the votes of his constituents. The irony of this maneuver is that Mr. Bergman challenged the outcome of the presidential election, but did not question his own reelection that was conducted using the same exact ballots and voting machines.

In January, 136 House Republicans including Representative Bergman, and 10 Republican Senators led by Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, objected to the certification of the presidential election results based upon the still unsupported accusations of voting irregularities. A public statement released by Mr. Bergman’s office stated, “Americans deserve to know only legal votes are counted and reports regarding irregularities, fraud, and failure to follow election laws are thoroughly investigated.” What this statement fails to mention, is that

after 63 lawsuits, numerous investigations, and every state counting and certifying their votes, there is absolutely no evidence for these accusations. What the statement does not say, is that Mr. Bergman, and the wealthy donors and party officials holding his puppet strings, are themselves responsible for concocting and circulating the baseless rumors that caused Americans to question election results in the first place.

The cowardly, sycophantic behavior of Mr. Bergman and his colleagues has caused many Americans to believe the lie of a stolen election. But now, the lie is out of its creators’ control and has taken on a life of its own. Millions of Americans have lost faith in our elections and institutions. Millions of Americans cannot distinguish fact from fiction. Some are so convinced of this lie that they have taken up arms against their own country. This holds dire consequences for the future of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.” America must remember these words. January 6th demonstrated what happens when one of America’s major parties divorces itself from reality. If Republicans continue to peddle disinformation and value political opportunity more than truth and integrity, America will lose its educated electorate and democracy will die.

If American democracy is to endure, truth must come first. Elected leaders, government actors, media outlets, and every citizen must make decisions using facts, data, and science. As a new administration enters the White House and a new day dawns, the United States must commit to truth.

Nick Wilson is a junior at Boston College and is studying environmental sciences.

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