It was a dark day for America.
On Wednesday, as Congress gathered to formally certify the electoral college results of the November election and recognize former Vice President Joe Biden as president-elect, tens of thousands of President Donald Trump's supporters gathered outside.
Most were there to peacefully protest. That's their right.
But then, as the House and Senate began debating challenges to the results from a number of GOP lawmakers, chaos. A mob of the president's supporters rioted, breaking through police security lines and storming the nation's Capitol. They broke windows and destroyed property. They took over offices and roamed the halls taking selfies. One woman was shot. She later died. Fourteen law enforcement officers were injured. One died.
The Capitol had to be evacuated. So did other nearby buildings, including the Library of Congress.
Washington's mayor imposed a 6 p.m. curfew. Finally, the mob was cleared from the building and Congress got back to work, certifying Biden's win Thursday in the early morning hours.
There are some on social media calling these rioters "patriots." They are nothing of the kind. Patriots don't try to use force to undermine our democratic process just because their candidate lost. That's what happens in third-world banana republics where might rules over law. These people are the polar opposite of patriots. They are enemies of democracy.
Some are also trying to equate what happened on Capitol Hill to last year's Antifa and BLM protests that turned violent, with vandalism and looting.
Let's be clear: We condemn any such lawlessness on our streets. It's criminal and those involved should be prosecuted. But nothing that happened during those protests excuses Wednesday's outrage. And there is a difference between an illegal assault on private property and an deliberate attack on our system of government. An attack meant to disrupt Congress from carrying out its legal and constitutional obligations.
Just as bad, the president encouraged these shameful actions. They were the results of his weeks of baseless claims of massive election fraud — claims rejected by state officials, numerous courts and even his own attorney general. Early Thursday, the president pledged and orderly transition Jan. 20, but failed to condemn Wednesday's violence.
Too little, too late. Whatever good the president did in four years, whatever he accomplished, will pale in comparison. This has cemented his legacy for future generations.
Wednesday was an unprecedented assault on the Constitution and democracy in America. Those involved should be identified and face justice. But in the end, they failed. Our system held. Democracy won. We should be grateful. Because if a disgruntled mob ever succeeds in overturning an election by force, that's the end of the United States of America.