Don't let it happen again
On the things that need to happen so that there isn't a "next time" to last January 6th
On January 6th of 2021, a group of people used violence at the United States Capitol in an attempt to obtain political results. That is the textbook definition of terrorism. Any clear-headed Commander-in-Chief would have responded to a terrorist attack against the seat of government without hesitation, according to the duties prescribed by the Constitution. The incumbent did not, and that revealed a grave problem for the country to face.
■ Aside from the War of 1812 and a handful of isolated incidents, the Capitol had never been compromised, even through world wars, a long Cold War, and a persistent threat from foreign terrorism. What took place in 2021 was a watershed incident, and it must be taken seriously -- not as something ready for commemoration, because it is not an incident belonging to the past. It is a live situation, and nobody should be satisfied that any of it is over yet.
■ The law has to have its way, but it doesn't move fast. It will take time for everyone responsible to face justice, and conscientious Americans must square their expectations with the process. It must be fair and it must be done right. Violations of the law can happen quickly, but we cannot jettison our expectations of the rule of fair and impartial justice, even if it moves much more slowly than the violations.
■ But as a practical matter of self-defense, you're only allowed to be taken by surprise the first time. It is not permissible to wait for the legal process to run its course entirely before the accountable parties take steps to prevent the next attack -- from whatever quarter it may come. The events of 2021 revealed a physical security system far too vulnerable to being overrun and compromised. It also revealed that the legal process underway inside the Capitol was altogether too easily endangered by fast-moving events -- nobody should have had to risk life and limb just to protect the paper ballots of the Electoral College. The flaws, both physical and legal, should be remedied post-haste.
■ A broader message should have been taken from that day, as well: Never assume powers you aren't willing to hand over to your political rivals. There is no excuse for delaying a long-overdue effort to clarify, appropriately limit, and bring back into Constitutional balance the powers of the Executive Branch.
■ Reform is urgently needed, so as to defuse the incentive to try to use extralegal means to seize election results in pursuit of power as a prize. Anyone who enters, aspires to, or is charged with checking and balancing the powers of the Article II branch of the Constitution should be unequivocal about how far those powers ought to reach. If any powers remain in the hands of a single person that are too great to be entrusted to the political candidate you most revile, then the problem is systemic in nature and the powers themselves need to be reformed -- regardless of how satisfying it may seem to see your own side use them.
■ It takes a lot of education and ongoing effort to maintain a peaceful, prosperous, and open society in which liberties are prized, rights are maintained, and the law protects all people. Along the way, everyone has to learn that the cost of getting many of the things we want is that we have to accept losing, too -- losing from time to time in the lawmaking process, in court cases, and in elections. But there can be no dithering about the common interest in repairing the evident shortcomings in our self-defense.