The Great Wall of Washington

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According to President Joe Biden, Democrats were supposed to be building bridges—not walls! Tell that to his party’s leaders, who are actually considering a plan to add a permanent, razor wire fence around the Capitol complex.

Despite major pushback from both parties, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have told reporters that they’ll “defer to the experts” when it comes to securing America’s representatives—even if it means turning the People’s House into a supermax.

Reaction to the idea, which acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman rolled out last Thursday, has been fierce.

“It’s a mistake to turn the home of our democracy into a fortress,” Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., a retired Marine, fired back. On the GOP side, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., joined in their outcry, declaring that she was “adamantly opposed” to walling off the Capitol.

And what good would that do anyway, some said sarcastically, if Pelosi is telling people that “the enemy is within?”

Asked what she meant, the House speaker said, “It means that we have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.”

Members of her own party were appalled at her insinuation. Some, like former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, called that kind of talk “incredibly dangerous.”

“This kind of broad, inflammatory rhetoric is like throwing a match into the tinderbox,” she shook her head. Pelosi needs to apologize, Gabbard insisted. “If this is a [criminal threat], let law enforcement deal with it … [But] if there is no evidence of what she is talking about, it’s inciting further division and further harm potentially and further destroying the possibility of our country coming together.”

Meanwhile, the irony of what some Democrats are suggesting isn’t lost on Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who—like most Americans—watched the city of Washington, D.C., burn in the summer riots.

When former President Donald Trump gave his Republican National Committee acceptance speech, leaders like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., were physically attacked by the mobs outside the White House, and we never heard a peep from liberals like Pelosi. Apparently, they were too busy mocking the president for putting up a temporary fence.

Now, the same people who called Trump “bunker boy” want to turn their House into a gated community. The hypocrisy would be astounding if we weren’t so used to it.

“Optics matter,” Blunt insisted. “I think how people … look at the building matters. This is … truly the citadel of democracy [for the] whole world. And I do think we want to be very thoughtful here that we don’t overreact.”

He pointed back to the Oklahoma City bombing when former President Bill Clinton “temporarily” closed Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Lafayette Park. It never reopened. “We don’t want to see that happen again.”

Of all the seats of government in the world, he said, “Our capital, the Capitol building itself, has always been the most open, the most accessible.” In normal times, “thousands of people walk through [the hallways] every week … They become part of our work … So I think we want to be very careful that we don’t [partition] the Capitol away from the people.”

And frankly, that’s what the left is trying to do. It is using the despicable actions of Jan. 6 as an excuse to demand these extreme measures that would ultimately separate people from their government.

Some of this, Blunt insisted, “is just pure politics … Trying to take advantage of the moment [to] suggest that the radicals in America are all somehow on the right end of the spectrum.”

Suddenly, you don’t hear any discussion about the “weeks and months of federal buildings that were attacked in Seattle and Portland.” Weeks and months, statistics show, that resulted in the “largest single-year increase of homicides” in history.

But the way to stop all of this violence is not to build a barrier. It’s keeping the building as open as it can be, so that people get a sense that this is a country where people freely debate and work with each other.

And let’s face it, Blunt pointed out, there are a lot of ways to attack a building or a group of people that no fence will stop. Law enforcement is going to have to take a lot of other things into consideration, he said—including access for the public. Because at the end of the day, the real threat is surrendering the freedom our country stands for to stop an invasion that might never happen.

“The Capitol Hill riots ought to be condemned as an un-American spectacle,” National Review’s editors agreed, ” … but it would also be un-American, and a change with worrying symbolic power, if the locus of popular government were forever visibly separated from the people themselves.”

If Democrats want to lower the temperature, Blunt suggested, they need to stop dividing the country into “us vs. them” instead of “our ideas vs. their ideas.” The more we stray from debating the issues to degrading other people, the more dangerous America becomes.

Originally published in Tony Perkins’ “Washington Update,” which is written with the aid of Family Research Council senior writers.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation. 

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