By Earle I. Mack

Over two centuries ago, our fathers founded a new nation conceived in liberty. This week, for the first time since the Civil War, that liberty came under attack, not from without but from within. We watched in horror as the Capitol was seized by our fellow citizens, incited to commit sedition by a president who not only refuses to accept his own defeat but stands out in front of the White House to demand retribution. This will be a dark moment that forever tarnishes the history of this great country.

What occurred on Wednesday is worse than a bad dream. It is a nightmare I never believed I would see befall our country. America, a beacon of hope and democracy across the world, has now been reduced to a country like Venezuela, a banana republic ruled by mobs and a strongman.

Over the last four years, I harbored concerns that Donald Trump would overtake Republicans. This week, those concerns were not only realized but they were rolled over like a column under military tanks. His remarks at the White House galvanized his supporters and allies, fostering a new crisis which I fear has alienated an entire generation of voters.

Despite the false claims of the president, this was an election reviewed by those in his own party. Republican governors in contested states certified the results. Courts all around the country, many presided over by judges appointed by the president, have reviewed the evidence and concluded his claims were specious. Even the Supreme Court, with a conservative majority, refused to hear his case to overturn the election results.

We can look back to 2000 to see an election that was truly close. The race between George Bush and Al Gore was as slim as a hanging chad and was decided by just one vote with the Supreme Court. Gore had a much more legitimate reason to protest that outcome, but he acted with honor as he conceded to set the people ahead of the politics of the moment.

Yet everybody knew there would be trouble on Wednesday. What does it say that there was insufficient preparation to protect the Capitol? All the people responsible should be singled out for dereliction of duty to allow this cherished building to be smashed into and desecrated. Who let this shameful event happen while we watched from our homes, offices, and streets around the world? Those who perpetrated such violent acts have to be arrested and then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Such stakes today are higher than ever. We cannot let these acts become the new normal. We cannot continue to allow such alternate reality about this election to take root with voters. It is corrosive and destructive to our traditions, our institutions, and our collective faith in one another and in the promise of democracy for this country.

It is time for Trump to exit the arena. For all the policies he advanced for our nation, the assault on our democracy this week is beyond the pale. I call upon Congress to heal this terrible wound. As shocking as this event was, it was not an aberration. It was the sad and predictable result of four years of extremism in both parties and the media. We must stop allowing our divisions to cast us as enemies against each other and instead unite as one nation. This is the land of the free. Let us keep it that way.

Are we on the eve of destruction? We have to look in the mirror and take resolute action today or this will be the start of our decline. Republicans, Democrats, and the media must all come to their senses and realize the enormity of this attack. They must understand their roles that led to this dark moment. Our leaders must swiftly come together with Joe Biden to ensure that this kind of destructive anarchy never happens again.

Earle Mack is a partner with the Mack Company, a real estate development and investment firm, and is a former United States ambassador to Finland.

Read the full post from Earle I Mack on The Hill: https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/533292-are-we-on-the-eve-of-destruction