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After ousting Liz Cheney, Republicans prove they're a bigger threat than 9/11 hijackers


The Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump is like throwing gasoline on a fire. It guarantees further violence.

David Mastio   | USA TODAY
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The only person who clearly died from the violence on Jan. 6 was a Trump supporter, so how on earth is it reasonable to compare the Capitol insurrection to the 9/11 attacks, which killed 2,977 people?

USA TODAY contributor Kurt Bardella made the comparison on MSNBC this week and instantly faced backlash from Fox News and others on the right.

At first, I was inclined to agree. As a conservative, I have long chafed at the fact that any act of right-wing violence is used by the media to tar the whole of the right and blown up into some kind of national scandal, but when violence mars left-leaning causes, the standards change. Then the media is quick to draw a distinction between violent actors who might not really be down with the cause and the “mostly peaceful protesters.”

But the events of Jan. 6 are different.

Jan. 6 violence at Capitol

First, there’s little debate they were violent. You just have to watch the video. And hundreds participated in the violence.

Second, it is pretty clear that the violence was politically targeted. In other words, terrorism. The man Donald Trump appointed to head the FBI testified before Congress that it was “domestic terrorism.” 

Third, the Jan. 6 body count was low not because of the peaceful intentions of the insurrectionists, but rather because of the heroism and restraint of the Capital Police officers on the scene. If members of the House and Senate had not successfully fled the rioters, lawmakers might well have been held hostage or killed. There was no shortage of calls for violence among organizers and advocates for the insurrection.

Last, Republicans have had time to reflect and reconsider the Big Lie that was the ideological trigger for the violent acts of Jan. 6.

And this is not what has happened.

Purging Liz Cheney

Republicans, most recently, have doubled down, purging Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from their House leadership for refusing to countenance the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump.

This lie is like throwing gasoline on a fire. It guarantees further violence. The American people are unique. We do not passively accept our fate at the hands of tyrants. If our democracy is being stolen, we will rise up in arms. If I thought our democracy was being stolen, I’d have joined in support of the broader Jan. 6 protests, if not the violence.

Cheney's ouster: It should alarm all fact-based Americans who believe in our country

The fact that the majority of Republicans believe our election was stolen is a sure sign that more violence is to come.

After 9/11, the leaders, financiers and backers of the terrorists had had their one shot at tearing America down. Their only hope was to hide in caves and pray we wouldn’t find them. After Jan. 6, the leaders, financiers and backers of the insurrection feel no such fear. Trump is plotting his comeback in Mar-a-Lago. Fox News is busily rewriting the history of Jan. 6. The members of the House and Senate who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election are plotting to take over Congress so they can control the results next time.

As surely as the terrorists of 9/11 wanted to tear down American democracy in 2001, the terrorists of Jan. 6 want to tear down our democracy as well, even as they pose as its defenders. And unlike the Sept. 11 attackers, they are going to get another chance.

I hope there are some Trump supporters who can be shocked out of their destructive fealty to a man who would put his ego before American democracy even if his agenda costs people their lives. 

Yes, 9/11 cost many more lives than Jan. 6 has so far, but comparing the two attacks is reasonable because the Big Lie is more dangerous to our way of life than the 2001 terrorists’ medieval ideology ever was.

David Mastio is USA TODAY's deputy editorial page editor. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidMastio

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