It took them long enough.
Those of us desperate to preserve America as a country where facts, votes and character — the Big Three — still matter, have been tapping our watch faces, wondering when the president and vice president would get in the game. The canyon floor is racing up; in one year, it is expected, the Republicans will sweep back into power and try to cement the damage they have done to this country.
Kamala Harris and Joe Biden chose the first anniversary of Jan. 6, when the mob that Donald Trump called to Washington was set upon the seat of American democracy in his rolling clown coup.
“Certain dates echo throughout history,” Harris began, speaking from Statuary Hall in the Capitol, where rioters paraded one year ago. “Including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them where they were, and what they were doing, when our democracy came under assault. Dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory. Dec. 7, 1941, Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 6, 2021.”
As frightening as that was, even more so was the past year, when Republicans sought to minimize and lie away what they had done, and continue to do.
“What they were assaulting were the institutions, the values, the ideals that generations of Americans have marched, picketed and shed blood to establish and defend,” Harris said. “On Jan. 6 we all saw what our nation would look like if the forces that seek to dismantle our democracy are successful. The lawlessness. The violence. The chaos.”
She of course is not speaking to most Republicans, who embrace the Big Lie, and no longer process information that doesn’t flatter their fun-house mirror view of our country and reality.
I hear from them every day, a mash of screw-you malice and look-a-squirrel whataboutism.
“Far more damaging were the BLM and Antifa riots, encouraged and egged on by Democrats,” one commentator wrote on my blog Thursday, pooh-poohing the attack. “Oh and all those times Democrat mobs invaded and occupied government buildings obstructing the work of government? How about the times Democrats objected to certifying electoral votes?”
It hardly bears refutation. Comparing, what exactly? Activists sitting down in the lobby of the EPA with siccing a mob on Congress? The “you lost, get over it” folks decided, when it was their turn to lose, to become the biggest crybabies in American history.
Rather, Biden and Harris were speaking to Democrats and independents who can’t quite believe what happened and is happening. Biden laid it out in the clearest terms.
“To state the obvious: One year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked. Simply attacked,” the president said. “The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution, our Constitution, faced the gravest of threats.”
Biden didn’t mince words.
“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election: He tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed.”
Here, he is being optimistic. They failed then. They failed so far. But like the defeated Confederacy, they lost but did not quit, and continue pushing their toxic brand of American evil. Since then, the lie that Trump has spread, that he won and the election was snatched from him, has taken hold in the Republican Party.
The threat is not over.
“We must pass the voting rights bills that are now before the Senate,” said Harris. “We cannot sit on the sidelines. We must unite in the defense of our democracy.”
“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” said Biden, who couldn’t bring himself to utter the shameful name of his predecessor. “He has done so because he values power over principle. Because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest and America’s interest. And because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy and our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost.”
It isn’t complicated.
“Look folks. Now it’s up to all of us,” Biden said. “To ‘We the people,’ to stand for the rule of law. To preserve the flame of democracy. To keep the promise of America alive.”
Easier said than done.