Donald Trump came in the wake of that. And then, this week, Josh Hawley. As of Wednesday morning, Hawley was the model of what a Republican senator was going to look like in the post-Trump era. He cannily understood what the party faithful wanted. Publicity stunts. Owning the libs.

But there are dark specters running through our nation — beasts with shaggy manes and feral teeth. They have the stench of Know-Nothingism, the hot blood of the lynchers, and they ride the winds of nihilistic fury.

Read the history books. They have always been lurking in the shadows of our nation’s greatness. Hawley didn’t just own the libs, he gave permission to dark forces he is too childish, privileged and self-absorbed to understand. Hawley sold his soul to all that is ugly for the sake of his own personal celebrity.

Human beings exist at moral dimensions both too lofty and more savage than the contemporary American mind normally considers. The mob that invaded that building Wednesday exposed the abyss. This week wasn’t just an atrocity, it was a glimpse into an atavistic nativism that always threatens to grip the American soul. And it wasn’t just the mob that exposed this. The rampage reminded us that if Black people had done this, the hallways would be red with their blood.

We are a flawed and humiliated nation, but when well led, we can be more self-sacrificial than we have any right to expect. I despised the sight of the Confederate flags being paraded through Capitol halls, but I loved everything Mitt Romney said and did on Wednesday. Romney showed what moral leadership looks like, and how just a few voices can shift a herd.

Leadership matters. Character matters. The thousands of people who work in the Capitol complex were chased from their chambers or barricaded in their offices by the furies that are ravaging this nation. The shock of this atrocity is bound to have a sobering effect.

I’m among those who think this is an inflection point, a step back from madness. We’re a divided nation, but we don’t need to be a nation engulfed in lies, lawlessness and demagogic incitement.

We look to you, our 535 representatives, to simply do the people’s business, to cut deals so people can stock their pantries and school their kids, and so that a 14-year-old, or a 59-year-old, can enter your building with eyes of wonder, awe and devotion.

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