Godspeed to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris

January 20, 2021

In March 2020, Congressman John Lewis stood upon the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and spoke these immortal words, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

There is a lot of trouble with the political situation in the United States today and none of it is good, nor redemptive. The date January 6, 2021 will be forever remembered for the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol provoked and encouraged by the President of the United States. It is almost too much to fathom: An American president unleashed a mob upon Congress after denouncing a free and fair election and the peaceful transition of power ordained by the Constitution.

The threat posed by the President is personal for me. My family has been involved in public service as part of this American ideal of democracy for over 100 years. The damage this President has inflicted on that idea is breathtaking. There’s little doubt that the mob intended to do harm to members of Congress and their staffs.

In the days since, threats have extended to all 50 state capitals and safety concerns are high among elected officeholders. There are now more American troops in our Nation’s capital than in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. The Trump-pardoned political attack hack Roger Stone has vowed to harass Senator Mitt Romney “anytime and anywhere he attempts to appear in public.” Why? Because Senator Romney told the truth about the election. Romney’s floor speech was eloquent: “We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning.”

For the first time in our nation’s history, the House of Representatives has impeached a President for a second time. The vote was bipartisan; 10 Republican House members voted “yes” to impeachment, making this the most bi-partisan impeachment in American history.

Representative Lynn Cheney, the third-highest ranking Republican in House leadership, voiced her support for the President’s removal saying: “Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. I will vote to impeach the President.” It remains to be seen when and how the Senate will handle the impeachment trial itself, but as I write this one big difference from the trial in January of last year is that this time Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell told senators their vote will be a “vote of conscience.” Just today Leader McConnell said, “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”

I believe we must hold the President accountable for what he caused.

At noon tomorrow, Tuesday, January 20, 2021, President-elect Biden, and Vice President-elect Harris will take their oaths of office and begin their mission to heal our divided country. Vice President Pence will be on hand as power is transferred. Afterward, the new President and Vice President will visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery along with former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and their spouses. That sacred ground represents the “soul of America,” to borrow again from the late John Lewis. As the resting place of heroes who gave their all in the name of our democracy, there is no better place for Joe Biden to join with his predecessors from both parties to begin a journey toward unity.

Godspeed to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and to all those whom we elect to serve our Constitution.

-Tom O’Neill



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