America’s history is not without its share of shocking events at the nation’s capital.
The bugging of the Democratic National Headquarters inside the Watergate hotel in 1972, eventually resulting in the resignation of the late President Richard Nixon, comes to mind. So does the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton in 1998 for his involvement with 22-year-old intern Monica Lewinsky.
The burning of Washington in August 1814 can only be recalled from hand-drawn images, but written accounts of the 26-hour British occupation include terrifying reports of President James Madison, military officials and his government fleeing the city and fearing for their lives.
The events on Wednesday, Jan. 6, will be catalogued in American history as another “shocking” event, though less spectacular than the invasion by a foreign nation resulting in the complete destruction of the Capitol building and other landmarks.
Televised images of protestors breaking windows, invading the Capitol rotunda, marauding through congressional offices and committing acts of vandalism document the chaos that disrupted the historically routine process of affirming the election of our next president.
Every American, regardless of creed, color or conviction shares the sadness and embarrassment of this event. On the world stage our nation is being ridiculed by our enemies and questioned by our allies.
We have no doubt that legislators at the state and federal levels will seek a full investigation of our election process. Several in the Arizona Legislature have already prepared bills to change the policies and structure of elections in the state, capitalizing on the fever of alleged fraud to implement revisions aimed at further verifying the legitimacy of the process.
We also have little doubt that these initiatives will make little difference.
Preventing future mayhem when America conducts an election will require a recognition by our political leaders — incumbents and candidates — that sowing the seeds of discontent serves only one purpose. That purpose was demonstrated at the Capitol building on Wednesday.
Our journey to this event has had numerous warning signs. Campaigning that focuses on attack ads denigrating the character of candidates has the predictable consequence of eroding the trust electors put in those who hold office. Promoting an unproven belief that our election process is “rigged” has the predictable consequences of infuriating followers and weakening the integrity of a system that has proven successful for more than two centuries.
The onus to restore confidence in those whom we elect and the process by which we elect them falls squarely on politicians. Citizens will continue to have the responsibility of ferreting the character and qualifications of those who seek to lead.
To avoid future dark days comparable to what happened on Wednesday, those elected to serve the public interest must recognize their responsibility to uphold the confidence of citizens in the election process.
Failure to do so will destroy us.