FORT WAYNE – These last few weeks have been a particularly tumultuous political brawl in our democratic Republic. Wednesday it changed to sustained violence. Excuses must stop. It is well past time to stop defending and excusing incendiary rhetoric that resulted in such behavior. 

It is one thing to raise concerns about potential fraud in voting. There were policies implemented in an attempt to get around the dangers of COVID that were potentially vulnerable to large scale cheating. But “potentially” is not the same as actual fraud. 

Ballots in the challenged states were counted and recounted. There were 50 some court cases dismissed, without even being viewed as meritorious enough to have a trial. It became increasingly apparent, in legal terms, that the effort was not about proving fraud, but using the courts to convince supporters of President Trump that the election was stolen. No evidence, but because the courts dismissed the cases it was portrayed as de facto proof that the system was protecting itself from Trump. It was a cover-up.

Then the states certified the results. Every state. Whether governed by Republicans or Democrats, every single state verified the results. 

In 2012, Mitt Romney received 47.2% of the popular vote for President. In 2020, Trump received 46.9%. Trump claimed that was because of California, which of course has been part of the count since it became a state in 1850. It is, in fact, the most populous state by far. But it should be noted that election victory comes from winning the Electoral College. This brings us to last night.

The cause of the mob riot and attempt to seize our nation’s Capitol Building was the belief – falsely alleged again by Trump just before the riot – that the election was stolen. The constant attacks on the credibility of our government as a swamp, as untrustworthy in all respects, has fueled an anger that just boiled over. 

On my personal Facebook page yesterday, people who claimed to be concerned about America had been so deceived that they were posting just crazy things. A few praised the riots. One said they had just begun and we should see what is next. Another said that it was important to stop things now, before it was too late. I was incredulous. Here our nation was under internal attack, and there not only wasn’t sorrow, but more threats.

It has become a bipartisan common tactic to repeatedly refer to Washington as a crooked swamp. Candidates of both parties and both parties have used it at will. But this isn’t just about Trump, though he is the worst offender. What has become most sleazy about politics are the deceitful, lying methods used to gain and hold power. Here in Indiana, both parties and all our elected officials need to do some self-analysis as well. 

And for liberals. Do you think that allowing rioters to control whole areas of our major cities did not help fuel things? Do you think that blasting juries for not concluding what you wanted them too, did not help fuel a lack of respect for the law? Both sides argue that it is the other side that is wrong. It is all sides. You can’t support upholding the law just by those holding opposing views.

So today I grieve for our nation. I am saddened that this great nation has been humiliated in front of the world, in this case by Trump advocates who call themselves “conservative Republicans.” It was so awfully ironic that their hats, shirts and slogans said “Make American Great Again” as they trashed it verbally and then violently.

I grew up in small-town Indiana in a very conservative, evangelical Christian, small business family. My dad was a proud veteran. The way I was raised was to honor America literally including our government even when we intensely disagreed with liberal policies. In our furniture business, we sold Democrats and Republicans, including elected officials from both parties. I was taught to respect both.

When we went to California, among the highlights I wanted to see was the reproduction Independence Hall at Knott’s Berry Farm since I had never been to Philadelphia. In my office and today at our house, we have Independence Hall reproductions of various types all over – a larger one of the buildings and grounds at Independence Park, a large porcelain one, a smaller pewter one and many more. To me it symbolized the roots of our nation: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the first Congress, the first Supreme Court. 

Undergirding all this framework was a democratic Republic grounded in the balance of powers. As founders articulated, because the sinfulness of man no one could be trusted with sole power. No institution could in fact be trusted. Nor could mobs.

This foundation was built upon an assumption that people will resolve differences peacefully. As John Adams said, it requires a people with moral grounding. That was the foundation. Otherwise, what you get is what happened this week: Mobs that seek to impose their authoritarian will upon everyone else. 

I am sure that many of the people who participated in the Washington protests did not fully see the logical consequences of their participation. The failure of many Republican leaders to speak out against President Trump showed they did not understand the risk of how far this man would go or the dangers of someone unhinged from fundamental respect for anything except raw power for personal benefit.

The consequence of the failure to speak out earlier is that America has been undermined in the eyes of the world. His legacy will be the mob riots where his supporters smashed their way into the Capitol Building in an attempt to overturn an election so this man could stay in power.  

Conservatism, real conservatism, will survive. The Republican Party, if it purges itself, might survive too, but it will have a more difficult struggle. It certainly can never win again as Trump’s personal playground. 

Souder is a former Republican Indiana congressman.