A crowd presses into the Capitol Building’s eastern entrance on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Roughly 8,000 Americans are estimated to have taken part in the insurrection that directly killed five and panicked national lawmakers. (photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)
A crowd presses into the Capitol Building’s eastern entrance on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Roughly 8,000 Americans are estimated to have taken part in the insurrection that directly killed five and panicked national lawmakers. (photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)
PUTNAM COUNTY — Last week’s attack on the Capitol Building, widely viewed throughout the world as the seat of Democracy, came as a shock to most.

An estimated 8,000 insurrectionists took part in the storming of the building, an act resulting in five deaths, including four attackers — one of whom was shot in the melee, while three others died of unknown medical issues — and one Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick. Sicknick was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher, and later collapsed after returning to his command center, never to recover. A second Capitol police officer, Howard Liebengood, took his own life on Saturday.

While not the first time violence has erupted on Capitol Hill — as recently as 1983, explosives were detonated just outside the Senate Chamber — it was the first time citizens attempted to overturn a presidential election, disrupt Congress in the seating of a new president, and eliminate the peaceful and orderly transition of power within the United States from one president to another.

“When I came home and saw that on the news and, as an example, I saw Trump flags and Confederate flags flying above or replacing the American flag, I’ve got to say it was probably one of the most emotional evenings I’ve ever had in my life,” Putnam County Democratic Party Chair and Leipsic Mayor Tony Wobler said. “They’ve taken this thing too far. They’re actually encouraging hatred. These kinds of people are radicals. They want to destroy our country.”

“It’s abhorrent,” said Tony Schroeder, chair of the Putnam County Republican Party, and one of two Republican representatives on the county’s board of elections. “Violence of any kind is completely unnecessary, and particularly when it’s related to political issues. That’s not how our system’s supposed to work.”

Schroeder said he’s given a lot of thought to how such an event could come to pass, spoken with a number of like-minded individuals.

“I think it was more an awareness, or at least a feeling like they weren’t getting an adequate hearing,” Schroeder said, speaking to claims of voter fraud largely discredited by election officials of both parties, and nonpartisan research groups investigating such claims.

Of the dozens of cases brought before various courts in several states on the subject, nearly all were rejected, most for lack of evidence. Sixty-two cases were filed in states where President Trump lost his election bid. Sixty-one failed.

“There was no fraud,” Wobler said. “Our election system is a very fair election system.”

Schroeder, however, remains unswayed, citing a number of affidavits reporting voting irregularities, particularly in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and, ironically, the individual courts’ refusals to hear the cases.

“Part of it’s the compression of the electoral process,” Schroeder said, rationalizing the courts’ decisions. “Once the election’s over, the timeline moves very very quickly.

“Given that, at least the impression I get from talking to people, they felt like the court’s never gave adequate interest to the allegations being made regarding voter fraud. They feel like the president didn’t get a fair shake as regards his allegations and what I think are solid claims of issues associated with voting, at least with Pennsylvania and Michigan.”

With that said, Schroeder acknowledged the president’s bid for re-election was likely a failed effort.

“Assuming both Pennsylvania and Michigan were overturned, that’s still not enough to elect (President Trump). I think, in certain areas, he had weakness as compared to what he had in 2016, and he may not have wound up winning those states,” Schroeder said, adding, “The thing is, I don’t think we’re ever going to know what the truth of it is.”

As for moving forward, both Schroeder and Wobler said a Biden presidency is the reality.

“It’s a fait accompli. (Joe Biden) will be the President of the United States,” he said. “The way that I think that we should approach this as a political party is to support him in things that are good and oppose him in things that are bad, and do our best to retake the Congress in 2022 to limit what his authority is. We can only have one president at a time, and I think that’s an important thing for people to accept. But then we have to stand by what we believe in. It is what it is, and we go forward.”

While a Biden presidency is a political reality, acceptance of such a reality remains in question for many. Trump campaign signs remain in place locally in fields and front yards. Trump flags still fly from flagpoles, are tacked to building facades, and hang in windows.

“Even in Leipsic some of our merchants have Trump signs out with lights on them,” Wobler said. “They’ve got to get over this. He lost the election.”

And, alarmingly, threats of further uprisings — though none are known to originate from within the county’s borders — are a staple of predominantly far right social media platforms.

Though only time will tell just how far extremists are willing to go, Schroeder said that very thing, time, is key.

“I think people’s feelings about how this whole thing went down will modify with time,” Schroeder said. “Time heals all wounds. Not that they’re going to give up on the ideas associated with what people are starting to call Trumpism, but I think that impulse will start to fade.”

Fade, Schroeder said, but not disappear.

“The people who have the signs and still show the support are going to be the ones to push within the Republican Party to turn the party into the kind of party going forward that is going to be successful,” he said.

Editor’s Note: President Trump was widely condemned by Democratic lawmakers, as well as a handful of Republicans, for comments made shortly before insurrectionists stormed the Capitol Building. On Tuesday, House members called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the nation’s 25th Amendment, a Constitutional safeguard permitting the removal of a sitting president should that individual prove, or be deemed, unfit or unable to perform the duties of the presidency. Should that effort fail, plans for an impeachment vote are in place for Wednesday. If that vote comes to pass, President Trump will be the first in U.S. history to face two articles of impeachment.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence declined requests to invoke the 25th Amendment. On Wednesday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including 10 Republicans, approved one article of impeachment of President Donald J. Trump for "incitement of insurrection."