I was preparing to defend Wisconsin’s election results last week on the House floor during the certification of the Electoral College votes when the nation experienced an attack on our Capitol and democratic process.
The events of Jan. 6 were shameful. What should have been a day of celebration as we witnessed the peaceful transfer of power — something that makes America exceptional in the eyes of the world — was marred by a lawless assault on our democracy.
At this time in our nation’s history, our party divisions have never seemed smaller. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, the choice now is between constitutionalists and insurrectionists. Constitutionalists believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, due process, human rights and civil rights for all our citizens. Insurrectionists believe in conspiracy theories, an alternate reality, and putting a person or a party above the rule of law.
I can work with anyone who is a constitutionalist, regardless of which side of the aisle they’re on. But as a member of Congress, I swore an oath not to any one individual or one party, but to the Constitution, and I cannot work with anyone who is against it.
It’s important that in the coming weeks we bring those who perpetrated this violence to justice and hold them accountable. We also need to address those who contributed to the toxic climate that allowed this to happen and perpetuated the Big Lie: that this election was stolen by fraudulent votes.
Words and actions have consequences. For months now, members of Congress and the president have spread lies and unfounded accusations about the integrity of our election. In doing so, they unleashed dark forces in our society and even incited a violent mob that attacked the United States Capitol. Lives were lost as a result of this insurrection, including two U.S. Capitol Police Officers, Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood. My prayers are with these brave officers’ families as they mourn this devastating loss — their heroic actions in defense of our country will never be forgotten.
It’s time to stop perpetuating the dangerous lies that this election wasn’t legitimate — it was. It’s time to stop weaponizing calls for unity as an attempt to downplay a violent insurrection and avoid ramifications, as if healing can take place without accountability — it can’t. To not punish insurrection would be to encourage more of it.
For too long, too many have treated our democracy as if it’s a football, something to kick around without consequence. It’s not a football, it’s more like a fragile egg. If you break it, good luck trying to put it back together. Failing to seek accountability now would send a dangerous signal in the future — because the next time an authoritarian wannabe takes a run at our Constitution, all bets are off.
Like many Wisconsinites, I’m shocked, angry and saddened. But I also have faith in the resiliency of our democracy and the American people. It’s up to all of us to pledge allegiance to the Constitution and the rule of law, and to continue to work toward a more perfect union.