The Journal Gazette
Monday, January 18, 2021 1:00 am

Accountability is in our hands

How will you respond to leaders who fail to uphold nation's democratic principles?

Chip Coldiron

When I accepted the results of the democratic election in Indiana's 3rd Congressional District this past fall, I didn't call it a result of fraud or tell my supporters to attack my opposition.

I did, however, make a promise to myself and my community that I wouldn't stay silent when our leaders failed us.

We recently saw the best and worst our nation has to offer.'

On Jan. 5, when the Rev. Raphael Warnock won his Senate runoff, our country watched the pastor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s former church, the son of a cotton-picker born a year after King's assassination, become the first black senator Georgia has ever elected. The next day, we watched in horror as pro-Donald Trump insurrectionists, conspiracy theorists and white supremacists stormed the U.S. Capitol, hell-bent on overturning an election and threatening the lives of the duly-elected members of Congress simply fulfilling their constitutional duty.

The day before the attacks, Rep. Jim Banks cheered them on, welcomed them and encouraged them not to “go back to normal.” From behind his Facebook account, he called those descending on our Capitol “patriots,” signaled his intention to object to the Electoral College results despite no evidence of fraud, and decried those protesting his effort to overturn an election as “terrorists.”

As our Capitol was assaulted and defaced by actual domestic terrorists, many, rightfully so, blamed President Trump for inciting this insurrection. But make no mistake, the actions of Rep. Banks and his colleagues who objected to the legitimate results of the election share blame for the historic violence in the hallowed halls of Congress.

You see, as it turns out, words have consequences. And for the past eight weeks, all we have heard from many elected officials on the far right, including Banks, is that Joe Biden did not win the presidential election, despite dozens of courts and countless officials ruling otherwise.

Like it or not, the words of elected officials carry weight. Many people still believe what their congressman says is true. So when hundreds of members of Congress repeat lies about voter fraud and claim an election was stolen, it shouldn't be a surprise that the most extreme believers are motivated to turn violent.

After the attack, and after his vote to overturn a democratic election, Banks tried to move on and act as if it never happened.

And when The Journal Gazette's editorial board criticized his role in perpetuating the conspiracies of fraud, Banks took to his social media accounts to personally attack the paper's editorial page editor, all just days after protesters scrawled “murder the media” on Capitol doors.

This behavior is not leadership, is not worthy of our trust and, I believe, is not how we want our district's congressional representative to act. Why should anyone who helped incite an insurrection be trusted to provide guidance and thoughtful advice on where the country should go next?

Why should someone unable to acknowledge his role in our nation's division be trusted to bring the temperature down?

Whether historians judge the violence of Jan. 6 as an attempted coup or an attempted revolution will be sorted out in time. In the meantime, if you don't know what to do about it all, the first steps are simple.

Instead of scrolling through Twitter, text some friends you know are scared and talk to them about how you'll organize your community for change. Instead of watching CNN, go register someone you know who didn't vote. Make sure you, yourself, are registered to vote and ready to cast your vote for leaders who believe in democracy, common decency and the rule of law, not the rule of intimidation and violence.

Above all, it is on each and every one of us to ensure there is accountability for elected officials at the ballot box, not with brute force.

Chip Coldiron, a Wells County resident, was the Democratic nominee for Indiana's 3rd District congressional seat in November.

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