“The mob,” Schwarzenegger said over dramatic music, “did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol. They shattered the ideas we took for granted. They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed American democracy. They trampled the very principles on which our country was founded.”
Schwarzenegger, who was born in Austria in 1947, said he “grew up in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy,” and was surrounded, he said, “by broken men drinking away their guilt over their participation in the most evil regime in history.”
The former pol described how his father, Gustav, who was part of the military police in Austria, would frequently come home drunk and scream and hit his family — as did Schwarzenegger’s neighbors — as a vestige of the scars from World War II.
Alluding to some of the pro-Trump protesters who participated in the rally that turned into a violent attack on the heart of the legislative branch, Schwarzenegger said that the Nazi sympathizers and enablers he lived around in Austria were not all “rabid anti-Semites and Nazis.” Instead, he said, “Many just went along, step by step, down the road. They were the people next door.”
“I’ve seen firsthand how things can spin out of control,” he said. “I know that there is a fear in this country and all over the world that something like this can happen right here. … I do believe that we must be aware of the dire consequences of selfishness and cynicism.”
Schwarzenegger, a Republican who served a governor of California from 2003 to 2011, argued that Trump “sought a coup by misleading people with lies” in his baseless attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election, won by former vice president Joe Biden. “My father and our neighbors were misled also with lies, and I knew where such lies lead,” he said, noting that the Holocaust “all started with lies, and lies, and lies and intolerance.”
“President Trump is a failed leader,” Schwarzenegger declared. “He will go down in history as the worst president ever. The good thing is that he soon will be as irrelevant as an old tweet.”
He accused his fellow Republicans of “spinelessness” and said that “they’re complicit with those who carried the flag of self-righteous insurrection into the Capitol.” But, he continued, “It did not work. Our democracy held firm.”
“America will come back from these dark days and shine our lights once again,” Schwarzenegger said. “I believe, as shaken as we are by the events of recent days, we will come out stronger out because we now understand what can be lost.”
In the video, Schwarzenegger brandished a sword from “Conan the Barbarian,” the 1982 film in which he starred, as a metaphor for American democracy, saying that “the more you temper a sword, the stronger it becomes.”
He encouraged Americans to rally behind the president-elect before directly addressing those involved in Wednesday’s attack, saying, “To those who think they can overturn the United States Constitution, know this: You will never win.”
The video missive from Schwarzenegger, a longtime Republican, quickly went viral on social media and attracted praise from across the Internet for encouraging a message of civility and unity.
“Thank you Arnold,” veteran television host Conan O’Brien wrote on Twitter. “This is the most powerful and uniquely personal statement I’ve heard from ANYONE on where we are right now as a country.” Comedy writer Ed Solomon also chimed in: “It took me four decades to become an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan. But boy did I just fall hard.”