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Local View: To keep our republic, insurrectionists must be punished

From the column: "Ben Franklin would be shocked by the Trump-fueled terror attack on our national transfer of power. ... If we cannot protect the Constitution and our federal institutions, we will see more domestic violence, interest in secession, and consideration of civil war."

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Monte Wolverton / Cagle Cartoons
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Leaving the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin was asked what type of government they had given the citizens. He tersely replied, “A republic, if you can keep it!” His phrase captured the risks now associated with the decay of the Republican Party at the hands of President Donald Trump.

After our recent commemoration of the lives lost and the terrorist attack on our republic by the Republicans-led insurrection, there is little doubt about Franklin’s concerns. We cannot sustain a diverse democracy if elected leaders do not honor their oath to serve and protect the Constitution. Many GOP officeholders have abandoned their oath and fealty to the USA.

After leaving office, Trump generated a narrative of deceit. The Washington Post tallied 30,000 false or misleading claims he made while in office. He was the only president impeached twice. What he generated with falsehoods was a following without collaboration or direction.

It is impossible to build public policy with lies and liars. This was why his press conferences and rallies were painful to hear. We cannot build hope or policy without a shared foundation of understanding. This was why the effort to deny Joe Biden the presidency, even after he won the election, was planned in private in a “war room” at the D.C. Willard Hotel.

After the failed coup, a House select committee is sorting charges for the deaths and property destruction from this first terrorist attack on the nation’s Capitol. Likely, civil and criminal charges will follow for sedition and treason.

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Republican Sen. Mitt Romney observed, “We ignore the lessons of Jan. 6 at our peril.” More than 700 citizens have been charged for the terrorist attack on the nation’s transition of power. This coup attempt seemed a first step toward another civil war by those who apparently feel no loyalty or duty to the U.S. The lack of truth by those who planned the national attack must be addressed by the Department of Justice, or we will witness a second civil war.

Threats confront our democracy.

A few Republicans with integrity regarding their oaths of national service are frightened about our national security and our role in global collaboration, as social media encourages sedition and treason at home.

The growth of economic inequality has caused wealth at the top to increase more than $2.1 trillion during the pandemic, as the number of billionaires grew from 614 in March 2020 to 745 in October, according to inequality.org, which cited as its sources the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness. Meanwhile, many families lost income in that period due to virus impacts on employment.

Another neglected public policy has been the effort to reduce voting with gerrymandering supported by state Republican leaders who want better government with less input.

And the GOP has seemed eager to use racist nationalism to attract more militia types with more faith in guns and less in diversity.

The most dramatic apparent GOP effort has been collaborating with fossil-fuel lobbying teams to mislead the public on growing climate risks. These groups are not interested in truth or collaboration, but they like power.

Climate data demand we act together to avoid a global catastrophe, including multiplied numbers of migrants and a destabilized economy. Climate change has begun.

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Ben Franklin would be shocked by the Trump-fueled terror attack on our national transfer of power. The deaths and data on destruction make it clear the country is still in danger.

We may not keep our republic if the leaders of the insurrection and its participants are not punished. If we cannot protect the Constitution and our federal institutions, we will see more domestic violence, interest in secession, and consideration of civil war.

Ben Franklin understood that our democracy can manage a crisis response, as we did in 1776. But we need elected officials who obey their oaths to the principles of our democracy. We cannot keep our republic with more lies.

Bill Mittlefehldt of Duluth taught civics and economics and has two ancestors who fought in the American Revolution.

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Bill Mittlefehldt

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