Assault on democracy in Washington, DC

Pro-Trump protesters storm into the U.S. Capitol during clashes with police, during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, Jan. 6, 2021.
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

“For nearly four decades, we have had the privilege to engage in the most important debates in Washington, DC and throughout the United States. The teams and directors of the Center for Education Reform have always been diverse and representative of all political parties. We have all worked for and with people of different ideologies. We have witnessed political fights that are often fierce. But they have never been of the tenor and rancor that we’ve seen in recent years.

In the past, we saw opponents from Tip O’Neill to Ronald Reagan, from President Bush to President Clinton, come together when needed, engage like champions, and move on when they won, or lost, to fight another day — democratically. In the end, the democratic process has always prevailed.

Yesterday was different. A riot engulfed our Capitol and our country. Those who sought to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power weren’t protestors. They were thugs, incited by the sitting president, Donald Trump. He has failed in every respect to govern this nation in its most trying times. He nearly toppled the checks and balances that are the hallmark of the United States; he has seeded distrust in the workings of this the best nation on earth. This is a terrible lesson for our children.

In the emotional and heated events of the day, as we all watched in horror, I did what many were doing — I reacted in real time on social media. I wrote:

‘The President needs to get to the Capitol and call them off or the Congress needs to vote to remove him immediately. Those are the only two options that fit into the rule of law in our Republic.’

I shared many other thoughts with others in solidarity against what was happening.

However, I also made a mistake. I took an uncorroborated photo of two thugs that was shared with me by a credible source and posted it, without fact checking. The photo indicated that two individuals representing the controversial group Antifa were part of the rioting. They were not, and I was summarily villified on Twitter.

I tried to explain. I apologized. I removed the picture. It was a mistake, and I admit it.

In my being chastised, however, the reputation and longstanding, well-respected work of the Center for Education Reform (CER) began to be attacked. My mistake upset many of our respected colleagues, but it also fueled the fire of the opponents of education opportunity — as if I or CER actually condones the immoral actions of yesterday or are sympathetic to that “cause.” Anyone who has known me, CER, and our work knows that nothing is further from the truth.

It’s regrettable that when our nation is so torn that some take pleasure in exploiting a mistake. I regret the posting and want the perpetrators of the Capitol identified and punished and our nation to reject their horrid beliefs. But this is not about me. What happened yesterday hurt our country, which is more important than any one person.

That’s the mistake Donald Trump has made continually and which has incited hatred. Most Americans are good, decent people. They may have different ideas, values, and approaches on how to make our country work for all and to deliver on the promise of the founding — the promise of a more perfect union. But disagreement should never devolve into rioting or looting.

As then-candidate Joe Biden said in August, in the wake of national unrest, violence is an affront to the tactics of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr.:

‘I want to be very clear about all of this: Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change, it will only bring destruction. It’s wrong in every way.’

We could not agree more with the President-elect, then or now.

That we the people can no longer debate or argue without personal animus is a byproduct of our recent political history. It’s within our power to restore civility and reasonable disagreement. That is the primary goal of education — to both inform and develop the mind, and the ability to process and advance knowledge. We are deeply committed to working alongside the Biden Administration on the education and unity that America so urgently needs.

We must today rise above the falsehoods, innuendo, attacks, and hatred that have dominated too many of our forums for too long. If we do, we can find a way together to eradicate inequity, inequality, and injustice. That’s the focus of CER’s commitment to advancing education opportunity. And we will unapologetically and forcefully continue to shout that from the rooftops and influence its adoption no matter what.

We will make mistakes. I will make mistakes. It’s part of life. So is forgiveness. Remember: Our children are watching. May God bless them all.”

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