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Editorial: A sad day for this nation. This is not who we are.

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Electoral College Protests

Supporters of President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier Wednesday at the Capitol as Congress prepared to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Rioters eventually stormed the Capitol, forcing Congress to adjourn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

This is not who we are. This is not what we do. This is the stuff of banana republics, of third-world despots.

America is the nation that for nearly two and a half centuries has accepted the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next. We have not merely accepted this; we have embraced it, even when we were deeply disappointed, even when we were certain that our fellow Americans had made a bad choice. Our nation’s experiment in self-governance has survived longer than any other precisely because it has at its very core this peaceful transfer of power.

Every one of us should be horrified by what happened in our nation's capital on Wednesday, when a defeated president declared to his most radical supporters, "We will never concede," and those supporters not only marched on the U.S. Capitol, as he directly urged them to do, but stormed it. Transformed themselves from overzealous supporters to a lawless mob, pushed past flat-footed Capitol Police and made their way inside, forcing the shutdown of Congress at the moment that it was going through what has after every previous presidential election been a formality: certifying the results of the Electoral College count — a count that this year clearly showed that President Donald Trump had lost, and that Joe Biden will be our president beginning in two weeks.

As we write this, one person has been fatally shot. We pray the carnage inside our nation's Capitol — our most significant public building and the one that more than any other embodies our nation's extraordinary system of self-governance — ends there.

We recognize we all are only beginning to process the significance of what took place Wednesday and come to terms with how even a few thousand of our fellow Americans could reach the point where they considered it acceptable — patriotic even — to undertake such an assault on our democracy. It will take time to place it all in a constructive context — one that will help strengthen our nation and move it forward.

But it's not too soon for us to resolve never to let this happen again. Congress must finish its work certifying the election as soon as safely possible. Those senators and House members planning to voice baseless objections to the outcomes as determined by each of our 50 states should realize the fire they're playing with and douse it. Capitol Police and other security forces should be called out for why they weren't prepared for this. And all of us should engage in some self-reflection on how our nation got to such a divided point and what we must do now to save it.

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There's nothing wrong with being disappointed about the results of an election, as all of us have been at least once, probably many more times than that. It's even understandable — if also counterproductive and a sign of bad sportsmanship — to participate in post-election rallies expressing your disfavor, as many Democrats did four years ago.

But there's simply no justification for demanding that public officials do things that the law does not allow them to do — particularly now that court after court after court has rejected every legal election challenge. There is no way to justify inciting or participating in violent demonstrations. And frankly, there is no way to justify even quietly applauding such actions. 

This is not who we are.

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