Third, there must be an immediate political response. Not only must the leaders and participants of the mob be prosecuted, but the politicians who incited them must be treated as pariahs. Legislators who have, in effect, supported the attempt to overturn a democratic election should be censured, sanctioned, or expelled. The political parties and the media should do everything possible to avoid giving them a platform or credibility in the future.
Trump should be immediately impeached or removed through application of the 25th Amendment; failing that, the political system must figure out a way to make him unacceptable, much as it did for Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Among Trump’s range of potential crimes, his attempts to subvert the election process in several states and to incite the violent attack on the Capitol need to be fully investigated and prosecuted. The experience with truth and reconciliation commissions in a number of other countries suggests that the failure to hold senior political leaders accountable threatens the viability of democratic institutions going forward.
As I have argued in the past: When the losers of elections allege fraud and attack the legitimacy of the election process, a country’s democracy is under threat. On dozens of occasions, I have crafted statements of concern about dangerous, extraconstitutional challenges to elections in other countries around the world and the resulting risk of violence. This time, such statements of concern are about the United States, and Americans should welcome them, especially when they come from the country’s friends and allies, and all those who still see the United States as a beacon for democracy. Whether the country can regain its role as such a beacon will depend on its efforts to begin rebuilding democratic norms.