A Crisis Of Faith: Why We Should Be Worried More About A Desecration Than An Insurrection

Below is my column in the Hill on the riot at Congress and its implications for our country.  As shown by the unfounded rush for a “snap impeachment,” we are experiencing a crisis of faith in this country — not only in our Constitution but ourselves.  Pushing for a snap vote (and snap judgment) on these issues will only exacerbate our divisions. This is a time for deliberative, not impulsive, action in Congress.

Here is the column:

All the images of protesters scaling the walls of the Capitol and briefly occupying Congress will remain seared in our collective memories for decades. Some called it a riot. Others called it an insurrection. Whatever you call it, it was a desecration. The rioters desecrated the most sacred moment of our constitutional system when the nation comes together to certify our next president. That is why it is too easy to treat this like an insurrection crisis. It is far more dangerous. It is a crisis of faith.

There were some truly dangerous people in this mix, such as the agitators who had pipe bombs and ropes. Groups like the Proud Boys and antifa have fulfilled these roles in violent riots on the left and the right for years. However, the vast majority of protesters on Wednesday were nonviolent. Indeed, if this was a real effort at insurrection, we can take great comfort that many of our homegrown revolutionaries have come across as more Groucho Marx than Karl Marx. Those in the Capitol were spread across the spectrum, from mocking to menacing. There were the various costumed characters but also men in camo with suspicious backpacks. Yet the guy taking a selfie with his feet on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed more interested in Instagram than insurrection.

The ease with which protesters entered the Capitol was shocking. Despite reports in advance of their plans to march there, Capitol Police seemed undermanned and unprepared. Once inside, protesters seemed to have the run of the building. Many of them seemed as shocked as the members of Congress fleeing the House and Senate chambers. This has happened before, although not to this extent. When I was a young page in Congress, a protest by truckers led to an ornate Capitol building door getting broken down, followed by a rampage through the halls of Congress.

The media portrayed the disgraceful rioters as unimaginable. Yet it was entirely all too imaginable. We have had four years of violent protests, including the attacks on federal buildings, members of Congress, and symbols of our democracy. Former Attorney General William Barr was heavily criticized for clearing Lafayette Square last year after protesters injured numerous law enforcement officers, were injured themselves, burned a historic building, caused property damage, and threatened to breach the White House grounds. There were violent riots during the inauguration of Donald Trump and a lethal assault on some Republican lawmakers playing softball. Indeed, this year started as last year ended, with attacks on federal buildings in Portland and other cities.

Several people viewed those violent protests against the police and the White House as sedition, including Barr. I criticized such labeling of Black Lives Matter or antifa riots as sedition or terrorism. I view those labels as undermining free speech. As with the Black Lives Matter movement, I do not believe most of the protesters this week were rioters, let alone part of an insurrection. As with the protests last year, some instigators pushed for confrontations. But most were at the Capitol to voice an opposition to the certification of votes in an election they believe was stolen. I do not share that view, but it is held by some 40 percent of Americans.

What are these people if they are not insurgents or terrorists? The answer is they are faithless. We face a crisis of faith rather than of revolution. Our Constitution is an article of faith. This republic was founded by a leap of faith taken together by people of different backgrounds and beliefs. Yet the Constitution, no matter how well crafted, is ineffectual if people lose faith in its system or, just as important, in each other.

Our system is designed to give everyone skin in the game. It is meant to bring factional interests to the surface. Unlike those that ignore them, our Constitution forces those out into the open in Congress, where they can be voiced and addressed. Systems that ignore all such divisions explode from within, like in the history of France. Our system is based on a type of implosion in which those pressures are directed into Congress, where factional interests are turned into majority compromises.

The violence this week is not what James Madison hoped for in noting the factional interests in Congress. It was a bit too direct for a system based on representative democracy. However, that is precisely the point. Such action taken reflects the same crisis of faith that was evident in Lafayette Park and on the streets of Portland. That is far more dangerous than a few agitators using a protest to commit mayhem. It is not anarchy but instead alienation that we should fear the most in our nation.

For years, the public has shown a lack of trust and faith in our political system. There also is a wide rejection of the media, which once was a shared resource for information. The media has destroyed its credibility with years of bias, including blackouts on stories viewed as harmful to Democrats. Without faith in our leaders or the media, more than half of this nation appears to be untethered from the political system. That detachment is perilous for a representative government.

We need to hold accountable all those who committed violence in the Capitol. However, after we determine who stormed Congress and how they succeeded in doing it, we have a far more difficult task to address. After all, an insurrection can simply be put down, but a desecration is much more insidious and dangerous for our democracy.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online @JonathanTurley.

402 thoughts on “A Crisis Of Faith: Why We Should Be Worried More About A Desecration Than An Insurrection”

  1. No border means no country.

    When millions can march in and go on the dole it is the same as sacking America.

    All complicit must pay the ultimate price.

    The joint chiefs will be an excellent place to start.

    Cigarette, blindfold, wall.

    Traitors !

    1. If your wife thinks,feels,knows something is very wrong due to some tweeker activity you pulled equivalent to counting votes after sending everyone home for the night and continue counting and magically in the morning after everyone finds the numbers inverted by more ballots than cold be counted legitimately, say you had to stay in a motel with a new sexy secretary that you ran to save at 2 am or something as shitty as that and all you do is dismiss her legitimate concerns, call her names attack her call her sub human and stupid then refuse to even allow her to have a feeling or thought that you do not allow,

      You are headed to divorce court!

      All that had to be done was disclose , reveal, provide access, disclose stop hiding shit and trying to look guilty as possible.

  2. No, impeach first and ask question later. We don’t need to sit down and “deliberate” before we have justice. (It wouldn’t hurt to hang a few of those terrorists from lamp posts either).

    1. The Republican-controlled Senate
      should expel Kamala Harris for providing encouragement and material support to the violent BLM insurrectionists who burned police stations,government buildings,and businesses from coast to coast throughout 2020.

      She raised bail for people burning down buildings and assaulting others.
      And all her followers who must also be complicit by merely liking her.
      Anyone who follows Kamala or who voted for her should be silenced on social media and lumped in with the people she was defending.

      That’s how this works, right?
      Twitter should suspend her account too.

  3. Michael Kaplan of CBS says that “The US Capitol Police has had to respond to “a couple of incidents” of officers threatening to harm themselves in the wake of the attack on Capitol Hill. This includes a female officer who turned in her own weapon for fear of what might happen. A source told @CBSNews the dept. is “demoralized”. “There’s tremendous moral injury, a sense of failure weighing them down. They went home to family and were asked how did this happen. And it’s very easy for those officers to interpret that as ‘how could you let this happen?’””

    1. Watch this video and listen to the analysis….and ask yourself about the conduct of each Officer you see in the video.

      Be fair, be objective, but ask the salient question….had those Officers the ones in the hallway with the protesters, the officer with the firearm that shot the young Woman, and the Officers down the far end of the hallway acted assertively and defended against that doorway being breached….would she be dead today? When she fell back…there four Officers, three in uniform and one plainclothesman, and a SWAT Team right with her within easy reach….could they have prevented her being shot had they done something other than just stand by as spectators?

      Note: I am a former City Police Officer and a former Federal Special Agent….so I have a basis to critique what I saw….and it is not favorable.


      1. The officer who shot Ashli was on the other side of those doors and the area he was protecting was the Speaker’s Lobby which is open to the House floor on the backside and moments before contained a bunch of suits – representatives and staff.. The police guarding the door on the mob side consisted of 2-3 who were then joined by the other armed cops just as the woman is shot leaping through the sidelight.

        The “analyst” makes several fact errors – the woman didn’t leap through the doors the 2 supposed antifa types were pounding on but the sidelight adjacent – and she was clearly not antifa and fully intent on breaching sacred ground. The guy who shot here was probably the equivalent of the armed suits seen in another photo guarding the House floor behind the big piece of furniture. They were not messing around

        1. Sacred ground? Congress? Surely you jest with all of the corruption and lying that goes on in those chambers!

          You plainly did not carefully view the video….as you cannot even get the count of the Officers present correct…..go back and try again.

          Plus….you overlooked the SWAT Team’s presence as well.

          1. Ralph, to those officers inside the capital, that was sacred ground not to be violated and any m’fer who breached it was going to get shot. Same goes for Secret Service officers and whoever they are protecting. PS As an atheist, firm believer in democracy, and lover of America, the Capital is sacred ground to me.

            The Swat team arrived just as Ashli leaped into eternity. I’ve seen the video 3 or 4 times now and the police did not have control of that situation until then and until Ashli was shot – that usually slows people down.

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