You can’t ‘lower the temperature’ when your democracy is already on fire
A common refrain we’re hearing from politicians and pundits who insist on denying current reality is that leadership right now needs to focus on “lowering the temperature.”
You know, in case a violent mob decides to storm the Capitol or something.
From lawmakers the past couple of days:
“Trying to impeach a President with less than 10 days left in office is the worst way to lower the temperature in our country. If Democrats say they want unity, this isn’t the way to show it.” – Congressman Ted Bud (R-NC)
“I’ve reached out to President-elect Biden today & plan to speak to him about how we must work together to lower the temperature & unite the country to solve America’s challenges.” – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
“I am opposed to yet another impeachment of President Trump by Nancy Pelosi that will further inflame tensions in America. We need to lower the temperature and unify Americans behind issues we can all agree on.” – Congressman James Comer (R-KY)
And watch Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade use the same language:
Brian Kilmeade makes the right’s main argument against impeachment: “This country is ready to explode. You saw what… https://t.co/KEH9XN9m54
— Brian Stelter (@Brian Stelter)1610370795.0
I’m not sure where these talking points come from, but there’s clearly a deliberate message that we all just need to calm down and not do anything that might result in incensing a violent mob.
You know, like the one that already stormed the Capitol.
It feels a bit like these folks don’t really comprehend what is happening in their own country and haven’t digested the gravity of what just happened. So that we’re all clear on where we are, let’s take stock real quick:
Insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol last week while both houses of Congress were in session. They broke windows, doors, and furniture and left urine and feces in hallways and offices. They killed a police officer with a fire extinguisher, beat another with flag poles, and put more than a dozen Capitol officers in the hospital. They appeared ready to take lawmakers hostage with flex cuffs and chanted about hanging the vice president. They even constructed a gallows on Capitol grounds—and they did it all in the name of keeping Trump in power.
Trump has spent the two months since the presidential election claiming that the election was rigged, stolen, fraudulent, and/or unconstitutional. He has lobbed and relobbed baseless allegations that have repeatedly been debunked. He has encouraged his supporters to “stop the steal” and “save America” from the “Radical Leftist Democrats.” It’s been lie after lie, and when you mix those lies up with the quacko conspiracy theories pushed by QAnon—which the president has never denounced, only saying that its deranged adherents “love America”—you end up with a mob of people who think and that it’s their patriotic duty to attack the seat of democracy and embarrass the nation on the world stage as they act out their tyrannical government overthrow fever dreams.
The absurdity of the insurrection somewhat masked the seriousness of what we witnessed. But anyone with the slightest understanding of civics should know that a violent storming of the U.S. Capitol is not a sign that things are getting too hot. It’s a sign that we’re already on fire.
Imagine standing in front of a burning building and saying, “We just need to figure out how to lower the temperature.” Um, no. We need to put the fire out. Now. Quickly. By whatever means we have available to us.
The time for “lowering the temperature” was months ago. And the way to lower the temperature was to tell the American people the truth about the election results and to move forward with a peaceful, orderly transition. The reason the temperature got so high in the first place is because opportunistic politicians and right-wing media allowed fringe conspiracy kookiness into the mainstream when they realized how easily and eagerly their voters and viewers embraced it, and because we have a president who fans the flames of prejudice.
Calls for lowering the temperature and uniting the country fall flat when a significant portion of the country believes one candidate literally stole the presidency from the other, and when continued lies, misinformation, and impassioned rhetoric have already ignited the flame of insurrection. At this point, it’s too late to lower the temperature. We have to actually put out the fire now. What does that look like? How about telling the truth and uniting around the fact that the violent storming of the Capitol only happened because a dishonest president of the United States can’t admit defeat. That’s a good start.
What could be more unifying than a unanimous, bipartisan statement of the objective facts? Biden is the rightful winner of the election according to everyone who actually has the authority to determine that’s the case. On top of that, the U.S. does not unite with or negotiate with terrorists. The U.S. does not tolerate coup attempts. The U.S. does not abide by sedition and insurrection. This is why people who serve in our government and military take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Congress was literally in the middle of a constitutional duty when domestic enemies sent them into hiding. The storming of the Capitol was literally an attack on the Constitution.
Just because those who did it see themselves as patriots and not seditionists doesn’t make it true. Just because they believe they are “saving America” doesn’t mean that they actually are. Just because they say they support the Constitution doesn’t mean they know what that means. Just because they carry the flag doesn’t mean they’re actually defending what it stands for.
What we witnessed was a violent mob co-opting the symbols of our nation, mixing them with the language and symbols of white supremacy and those of their dear leader, and attempting to overthrow an entire branch of the federal government. If that’s not the most disgusting attack on democracy that we’ve seen in modern history, I don’t know what is. And they are still threatening more violence to keep Trump in power.
When a house is on fire, you don’t need to lower the temperature. You need to put out the fire, and you need to do it now.