More than two weeks have passed since the murderous insurrection at the United States Capitol, and, if anything, the events of Jan. 6 have grown more horrifying with the passage of time. Multiple investigations already show that the riot was planned well in advance and that online solicitations were taking in money from far-right sympathizers. Chilling video shows men and women roaming the Capitol, chanting that the vice president should be hanged while others tried to hunt down the majority leader. At least one video captures the moment when part of the crowd was only about 60 feet from the evacuating House members, about to break in the doors to the Speaker’s Lobby when one of the seething mass tried to get through a broken window and was fatally shot by a plainclothes officer.
This violence and what led to it is the frame in which Americans of good conscience must consider the actions of the members of Congress who encouraged the uprising by objecting to the results of the 2020 election, which Donald J. Trump lost. And it also must be the close-up lens through which Americans must examine the senators and representatives who persisted in challenging the vote certifications even after the invaders were driven from the Capitol.
Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, both thought to be seeking the presidency in 2024, carried on with their objections and are now thought to have torpedoed their political ambitions. In the House, Long Island’s own Representative Lee Zeldin also stood up and read a prepared objection statement late that evening. Mr. Zeldin was not entirely alone in this cynical effort; in all, 138 House Republicans voted against certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral outcome, and 121 of them voted against certifying Arizona’s electoral outcome. Where Mr. Zeldin stood apart was carrying on at the House podium, as did only a handful of other representatives, as several people lay dead or dying from the incidents of the day. Having been in the House when the attackers arrived, Mr. Zeldin had an opportunity to change his mind and step away from the abyss, but did not and sided with the mob.
It is doubtful that he seriously made the decision out of political strategy; New York’s First Congressional District leans Republican, but not always, suggesting being a moderate is the winning path. As a lawyer and four-term congressman, he must also have known that the claims of election fraud were lies. Aware of this, Mr. Zeldin nonetheless consciously sought to overturn a democratically elected United States president and vice president, as laid out in the U.S. Constitution. In this he violated his oath of office and broke trust with the people he was supposed to represent. For the good of the nation and to rebuild trust in its electoral processes, Mr. Zeldin and his seditious co-conspirators must be expelled from Congress.