Jan. 6, 2021, is another date that will live in infamy.
The pro-Trump mob took over the halls of Congress that day. The rioters scaled marble walls; they smashed windows to gain entry. Four people died, one by gunshot and three from natural causes.
They carried the Confederate battle flag into the United States Capitol. The secessionist standard originated during the Civil War, but it never entered the Capitol during that time or since — until Jan. 6. The mob filched memorabilia of their occupation, including a carved wooden podium bearing the seal of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
That morning Trump urged his supporters to head to the Capitol, and with Congress in session rioters dutifully stormed the building.
Also that morning, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, one of the president’s de facto lawyers, spoke at a rally in support of Trump and added his kindling to the bonfire: “What we have in President Trump is a fighter. And I think that’s why we’re all here,” Paxton said to attendees that morning.
“We will not quit fighting. We’re Texans, we’re Americans, and the fight will go on.”
Four hours later the Capitol was breached.
Paxton’s moment was several days in the making. Two days before the mob broke through the Capitol’s barriers, Paxton advertised on his Twitter account that he was “confirmed” to attend a “March to Save America” and that “all patriots need to be present to stand with President Trump.”
The day before the riot, Paxton tweeted: “Someday they will say that on Jan. 6, 2021, ‘some people did a thing’ ... those people were patriots and what they did was save a nation.”
Over the past four years, Americans became accustomed to such charged rhetoric. We always let it go. After the events of Jan. 6 we can no longer ignore inciting language. The First Amendment protects all kinds of ill-mannered speech, but the Bill of Rights doesn’t preclude political repercussions for elected leaders who know better than to encourage rioting.
The Texas Legislature convenes on Tuesday, and the Texas House should immediately use its constitutional power of impeachment to suspend Paxton from office for his outrageous behavior, which includes encouraging violence at the United States Capitol, filing frivolous litigation in the United States Supreme Court weeks before the riot, firing his office’s whistleblowing leadership, exposing Texas taxpayers to millions in judgments and private attorneys fees, and his alleged activities in using his office to support his major political donor Nate Paul, the employer of Paxton’s former mistress.
But the worst of it was Paxton’s behavior the morning of Jan. 6. Instead of tending to his duties in Texas, Paxton knowingly aided Trump’s ambition to overturn a presidential election. Paxton is no longer to be trusted to perform the duties of the Office of the Texas Attorney General.
I acknowledge that Trump’s election and presidency voiced a serious complaint among the American electorate, a discontentment we as a people need to understand and resolve democratically and constitutionally. My problem with career politicians like Ken Paxton is that they are not trying to resolve the voters’ concerns; they are satisfied with capitalizing on their grievances for personal and political gain. Enough is enough.