Like many Americans, I watched in disbelief Wednesday as an angry mob stormed our U.S. Capitol. As members of Congress gathered to certify the electoral votes of the presidential election, a band of criminals decided to take matters into their own hands.
As this horrible act is investigated, it will be determined exactly who they were, and they must be held accountable.
The consequences were tragic. Five people dead, others injured. Unanswered questions of how it happened. The democratic process and the peaceful transition of power, which makes American democracy the model for the world, thrown into chaos.
And yet, just hours later, I watched one of the most amazing things happen in the same building where the mob had roamed earlier in the day: I watched the durability of that American democracy.
There was Vice President Mike Pence, reprising his earlier role and calling to order the U.S. Senate as it considered an objection to Arizona’s electoral votes.
“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people’s house,” Pence said. “As we reconvene in this chamber, the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy. For even in the wake of unprecedented violence and vandalism at this Capitol, the elected representatives of the people of the United States have assembled again on the very same day to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
“So may God bless the lost, the injured and the heroes forged on this day,” he continued. “May God bless all who serve here and those who protect this place. And may God bless the United States of America. Let’s get back to work.”
There are few people I hold in higher regard than Mike Pence. A man of faith, principle and character, he took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. And that’s precisely what he did.
We as conservatives should not be willing to abandon the Constitution in order to maintain power for a preferred candidate. Defeat never comes easily, particularly for those of us who are fighters, but we can’t jettison this country’s foundational principles or undermine the Constitution and the rule of law – the very things that ensure America remains the free nation that it is.
While I understand the frustration that Americans feel about the many factors that affected the election outcome – including a biased media, Big Tech censorship, and attacks on election integrity – there are appropriate ways to petition government to redress their grievances. Storming our U.S. Capitol is not one of them. Violence should not be used as a tool to bring about change, and those who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
America will soon have a new president whose administration will challenge conservatives on a range of policy issues.
Our fight with the left is over the issues plaguing America, and fight we will. We will use all of the tools at our disposal, but we will always respect the rule of law. Ideas matter, and I am confident that in the battle of ideas, we can win the heart and soul of America. We must use the Constitution and the American way of life as our guideposts.
As President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20, more challenges lie ahead, including pushing back against an agenda of socialist policies and job-crushing laws and regulations; pushing back against those who tolerate violent unrest and attacks on law enforcement; and protecting the American people from those who threaten free speech, religious freedom, the right to life, the right to bear arms, and other fundamental American rights.
One of our biggest challenges is restoring trust in the American electoral system. That’s why The Heritage Foundation will redouble our efforts to educate Americans about attempts to subvert election integrity, to identify cases of voter fraud and to make policy recommendations to protect the integrity and accuracy of all elections.
The functioning of our republic depends on freedom-loving Americans who uphold the rule of law and defend the Constitution. We have our work cut out for us in the years ahead.
Heritage has fought for the interests of the American people for nearly 50 years and through 12 presidential elections, no matter who occupies the White House or who holds the majority in Congress.
We will continue to advocate for solutions that ensure America remains a land of unprecedented opportunity and the freest, most prosperous nation the world has ever known. I can assure the American people that Heritage will never stop fighting for America, but we will always do it adhering to the principles that made America the exceptional nation that it is.
Kay Coles James, the president of The Heritage Foundation, is a leader in government, academia and the conservative movement. This piece originally appeared in the Washington Times.