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Port: Jan. 6 anniversary is a time for the GOP to reflect

Does your party belong to Donald Trump, that self-dealing huckster, or is it loyal to the principles of law and order and prudently limited government?

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in Washington
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump riot in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on January 6, 2021.
Leah Millis/REUTERS

MINOT — The Jan. 6 riot a year ago was a turning point for me.

The violence filled my screens, and I found myself overwhelmed. At one point I muted everything and sat at my desk, with no sound other than the rhythmic mechanical gasping of the oxygen machine I still needed at the time after my late-2020 bout with COVID-19, and felt rage.

There were 138 members of law enforcement who were injured during the riot which was perpetrated, ironically enough, by mobs waving pro-cop "thin blue line" flags .

Within seven months of assault on the Capitol, four of the responding officers had committed suicide .

But in Trump world, the real tragedy was how the rioters were being treated.

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“Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election,” Trump himself wrote in a September statement . “In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!”

The worst of it wasn't what was happening in Washington, D.C., where conspiracy-addled Trump loyalists, nominally a part of the conservative movement I've supported for the entirety of my adult life, were cavorting under the capitol rotunda.

The worst of it was watching how friends and family and acquaintances were reacting to the riot.

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A school official frustrated with a reporter's coverage was able to convince a law enforcement agent to launch an investigation that included seizing that reporter's phone so she could comb through all the personal and professional information on it. That shouldn't have happened, and it cannot happen again.

Some were as repulsed as I was, but not as many as I would have liked. Some tried to deny what was plainly true, that the president had egged his political base on to terrible action, and instead claimed it was all a left-wing plot.

It was a false-flag event staged by left-wing extremists with assistance from the left-leaning national news media, they claimed.

Others were plainly delighted by what they saw.

One long-time friend of my family's, someone who was an elder at my family's church, who had attended family events and holiday parties at our home while I was growing up, who sent me much praise for my work criticizing the violent left-wing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2015, responded to the news of violent insurrectionists attempting to block certification of our national election results with one word: "Good."

That was the moment when it dawned on me that the Jan. 6 riot wasn't a one-off problem.

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It wasn't merely overheated passions boiling over into something tragic.

It was a reflection of what an uncomfortably large faction of the American conservative movement has become.

That is the truth Republicans must confront on the one-year anniversary of Jan. 6.

Does your party belong to Donald Trump, that self-dealing huckster, or is it loyal to the principles of law and order and prudently limited government?

And when answering, try not to think about what might win you the next couple of elections, and instead think about what would be best for our country for the next 20 years.

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