In Response to Senator Ingalls “No” Vote on Joint Resolution by Bobby Walls-Thumma

in Letter to the Editor

Wednesday, January 6th will be remembered as a day of infamy in the annals of American history. A day in which armed insurrectionists overtook the inner chambers of the United States Capitol Building as the Congress undertook a Constitutionally-mandated function of the federal government, that of ceremoniously recording the duly certified electoral votes of every state in our Union, thereby affirming the win of President-Elect Joe Biden.

There should be no mistaking the fact that President Trump is directly responsible for this attack. He has been noncommittal to the peaceful transfer of power since the presidential debates. He has also refused to concede to President-Elect Biden in the weeks following the election, even after the resolution of numerous state-level and Constitutional processes that have clearly demarcated Mr. Biden as the winner.

While our courts serve as arbiters of electoral disputes, Mr. Trump lost nearly every case he brought before them as judges found the cases, which focused upon unproven claims of fraud, to be lacking in standing and devoid of evidence.

By siding with white supremacists, reactionary militias, and domestic terrorists, Mr. Trump served as mouthpiece for a movement that sought to overturn an election via a coup d’état. His actions and words leading up to January 6th provided the incendiary devices; his actions, and those of his enablers in the rally beforehand, lit the fuse. As the Department of Justice noted, a “conspiracy of sedition” occurred on January 6th.

Mr. Trump was firmly at the helm of those actions.

In the aftermath of the attack, Governor Scott immediately and courageously was one of the first Republicans in the nation to call for the removal of this catalyst, forcefully demanding that President Trump resign or be removed from office via Constitutional mechanisms.

Many other Republicans, both locally and nationally, including the Vermont Republican Party, have since followed suit. Two days following Governor Scott’s message, the Vermont legislature voted nearly unanimously on a tripartisan joint resolution calling for the same solution that the governor recommended.

I was proud that our state government took a stand for democracy. I wish I could say the same for our elected representatives in Orleans County.

While nearly every single elected Republican in both houses of the legislature voted in support of the resolution, the single vote of dissent in the Senate came from Orleans County’s newly-minted Senator, Russell Ingalls.

Much to my dismay, and the dismay of many others in this county that I have spoken to that value the rule of law, the truth, and our democratic norms, Mr. Ingalls could not muster the courage to stand up for democratic governance, instead, writing in a fact-devoid Facebook post, and subsequent Letters to the Editor, that, “This Resolution was a political statement to cause as much harm as it possibly could to all Republicans and Trump specifically. It was a hate-filled, poorly written, vile document that was unworthy of anyone’s signature” [sic].

Notwithstanding the aforementioned tripartisan nature of the resolution, the fact that Mr. Ingalls could not bring it upon himself to stand up for democratic governance and condemn a president that habitually lied and fanned the flames of hate in a way that sparked an armed insurrection against the very heart of American democracy, our Capitol Building, is beyond disturbing.

Two Capitol police officers were killed in the attack, and law enforcement has since uncovered that some of the domestic terrorists that entered the building had designs on possibly executing the Vice President and other members of Congress. However, by Mr. Ingalls’ logic, we should not condemn those responsible because it could make President Trump, the ringleader behind the attack, and his fellow Republican enablers look bad.

In a similar vein, Mr. Ingalls makes a false equivalency between this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the armed insurrection at the Capitol, claiming in the same Facebook post that “I also would have wanted condemnation of all the rioters and their actions that have been occurring across this country through all of 2020 that is happening in mainly Democratic controlled cities that the Democrats refuse to acknowledge or condemn.”

While a quick Google search easily yields a plethora of examples of Democrats, including President-Elect Biden, condemning the summer riots, the larger issue is that these riots are in no way comparable to an armed insurrection against the U.S. Capitol at a time when a Constitutionally-mandated function of government was unfolding.

To say otherwise is at best an abdication of responsibility for an elected official, and at worst, an affirmation of the same lies that have led us into this state of crisis to begin with.

In his post, Mr. Ingalls goes on to say that another reason for his vote against the resolution was that the state legislature, in his view, was “playing the games that do nothing to help our constituents,” all the while making false and spurious claims about all of the amazing work being undertaken in our schools during a global pandemic. He espouses some policies that nearly all would agree on. Broadband to support our small businesses. Aid to our farmers. Help for those struggling to maintain during a global pandemic. Fair taxation policies.

While I agree that these are clear legislative priorities, I would also argue that an armed insurrection against our very way of life perhaps rises to import in the immediacy following an attack. In my opinion, taking a stand for democracy against those that wish to subvert it to their own will is far from a game, it is the most serious and sacred duty of every citizen, especially our elected officials. I am sorry that Mr. Ingalls feels otherwise.

While he makes grandiose claims about seeking to enhance the status of this county in the state legislature, I do not for a minute believe that alienating yourself from your own Republican caucus in one of your first major votes as state senator achieves anything close to that goal.

Politics is an art of compromise, and I wonder if Mr. Ingalls has already made himself a pariah in the eyes of his colleagues with this vote, something which, if true, will surely mute the concerns of his constituents instead of enhancing them.

As such, the fact that Mr. Ingalls could not bring himself to stand with his colleagues on all sides of the aisle and vote in favor of a resolution, supported by his own party, to condemn the most clear and present danger to our national domestic tranquility in a lifetime makes him, in my eyes, and in the eyes of many in this county, unfit and unworthy of the office that he holds.

Make no mistake, this was not a principled stand, it was an act of cowardice in deference to an individual and an ideology that is as inflammatory as it is dangerous.

Finally, and perhaps most disturbingly, it has been brought to my attention that constituents that commented on Mr. Ingalls Facebook post in order to voice their grievances and disapproval of his stance had their comments deleted, one would assume by Mr. Ingalls, in a clear attempt to stifle discussion and dissent on the topic.

Democratic governance requires elected officials to be responsive, not dismissive of the concerns of their constituency. If Mr. Ingalls truly believes in the position that he took, he should be courageous enough to defend it to those voters that do not agree, not avoid the subject by deleting the comments, and thus the voices of his own constituents.

I would remind Mr. Ingalls that he serves all of the voters of Orleans County, not just those that agree with his opinions.

As a career public servant, a proud citizen of Orleans County, an educator, a coach, and a former federal counterterrorism official that served my country in the wake of 9/11 a few short blocks from where Wednesday’s attack occurred, I cannot sit idly by while someone with such views serves as a representative of our community in Montpelier.

Vermont has always taken bold action as a state and has been on the right side of history as a result. In this moment, we need leaders willing to take a stand for what is right and just.

As such, I am planning on challenging Mr. Ingalls for his Senate seat during the next election cycle. I look forward to debating him on these issues and more in the weeks and months to come.

I can only hope that he can muster the courage to set aside extreme partisan views, respond to the concerns of his constituents, and stand up for democratic governance in the interim.

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