Wednesday was a terrible day for our country, our democracy, and our example to the world. A violent mob incited by President Trump breached and ransacked the United States Capitol.
A day meant to affirm American democracy will now go down as one of the darkest in our history. As Capitol Police escorted me and my colleagues from the Senate floor, I couldn’t help but think we were living out our Founders’ worst fears.
Unlike us, the Founders knew our history and appreciated its lessons. When they wrote our Constitution, they understood what happened to the Roman Republic when armed gangs, doing the work of politicians, prevented citizens from casting their ballots.
These armed gangs ran through the streets of Rome, keeping elections from ever starting or ever being called. In the end, the spiral of dysfunction led the Roman Republic to fall and a dictator to rise in its place.
If we are to avoid this fate, every elected official must reject Wednesday’s lawlessness and denounce the lies and conspiracies that brought it to the Capitol.
We must also demand better than the stunts we saw from my colleagues Wednesday night on the Senate floor. There, Sen. Ted Cruz and others twisted the words of a 19th century statute that was meant to give states the power to settle their electoral disputes and limit the role of Congress except in very rare circumstances.
READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.
Senator Cruz turned this law on its head, essentially asking Congress to overturn the votes of 155 million Americans and the considered judgments of courts across America – many of which howled the president’s lawyers out of court after they failed to produce any evidence of widespread fraud.
To make matters worse, Senator Cruz justified his stunt on the flimsiest of pretexts, claiming that 39% of Americans believe the election was rigged and purporting to act in their name. As a former law clerk, he should know that just because 39% of Americans believe there is fraud does not, in fact, mean there is fraud.
As elected officials, we have a responsibility to tell Americans the truth and protect our institutions from politicians who will stop at nothing to hold onto power.
That includes President Trump, who has shown utter contempt for our laws, values, and constitutional form of government. Last year, I voted to remove President Trump from office for his crimes against our republic. Since then, his unconstitutional wrongdoing has only grown worse.
He should resign immediately, and if he does not, the vice president should invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office. Failing that, I will support any effort to impeach the president and uphold the rule of law – including steps beyond Jan. 20 if required.
This is a perilous moment for our republic, but as I told my daughters Wednesday night after they called me, worried about the attack on the Capitol, we will make it to the other side of this crisis. Then comes the task of ensuring that our republic emerges from this crisis stronger, not weaker.
We have seen where a politics of lies, dysfunction, and division has brought us. Instead, let us move forward with renewed commitment to truth, integrity, unity, and a commitment to our shared destiny as Americans.
This will be difficult after the last four years, and especially after this week, but we must find the courage to come together as Americans and restore our exercise in self-government and example to the world.
Michael Bennet is the senior U.S. senator from Colorado.